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House and Senate races a fight to the finish


While the importance of the upcoming Presidential election is lost on no one, the House and Senate races are not getting the attention they deserve too. These races will determine who controls the Congress—whether Democrats retain control of the Senate, and Republicans of the House.

The Senate consists of 100 members, 52 of which are currently Democrats and 48 are Republican. On November 6, 33 seats will be contested. An analysis by ‘Real Clear Politics’, a political news and polling data aggregator based in Chicago, projects 48 seats for Democrats, 43 for Republicans, and 9 toss ups. Which means the Senate control can go either way.


The House of Representatives has 435 seats, all of which will get contested on November 6. The Republican party has control over the House currently, 241 to 194 Democrats. ‘Real Clear Politics’ is projecting 229 for the GOP, 183 for Democrats and 23 toss ups. Clearly, Republicans have no cause for worry unless a wave prevails for the rival party.


Below are 10 key and close races –five for Senate and five for the House—as they are shaping up:



Senate Races



· Massachusetts: Scott Brown vs. Warren

Mitt Romney may be a liability in his home state. That could spell doom for first-term Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who has slipped behind Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren in recent polls. Brown’s biggest advantages are his popularity, a relatively moderate record that appeals to blue-collar independents, and occasional mistakes by Warren, an ex-Harvard professor and consumer advocate.


· Ohio: Sherrod Brown vs. Mandel

Republicans were confident that they could pick off the populist liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown in this year’s Ohio Senate race. But Brown, a scrappy first-termer, has taken the offensive and has remained in the lead. Mitt Romney’s Ohio woes make it even tougher for 34-year-old Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, whose campaign assertions have been repeatedly declared false by independent fact-checking organizations.


· Virginia: Allen vs. Kaine

Romney’s rapid decline in Virginia seems to have hurt Republican George Allen’s Senate prospects. Democrat Tim Kaine has led in the recent polls. Both of these former governors (Allen also has served as a senator and House member) were popular when the race began, although repeated waves of negative commercials have made Virginia voters allergic to both candidates.


· Florida: Nelson vs. Mack

Republicans are convinced that veteran Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson should be vulnerable in an anti-Washington, anti-incumbent climate. But the GOP nominee, Congressman Connie Mack, has been hampered by campaign snafus and attacks alleging a hard-partying lifestyle. Mack is a celebrity of sorts: the son of a senator, great-grandson of a baseball legend and husband of the widow of entertainer-congressman Sonny Bono. Nelson is steady, he’s well-known and he hasn’t made any major mistakes this year.



· Montana: Tester vs. Rehberg

Republicans have targeted Democrat Jon Tester from the day he narrowly ousted GOP Sen. Conrad Burns six years ago. Conservatives are hoping to remove Tester by tying him to President Obama. Republican Mitt Romney is likely to carry Montana. Republican Senate nominee Denny Rehberg, the state’s lone Congressman, is popular and well-known, so the Senate race is likely to remain tight to the very end.



House Races


· New York’s 19th District: Gibson vs. Schreibman

This year, Chris Gibson, a decorated Army veteran, faces former federal prosecutor Julian Schreibman. More than half of the district’s voters are new to Gibson. And the district is less Republican than Gibson’s old 20th District. Unlike many of the GOP freshman, Gibson has shown a streak of moderation and bipartisanship. He’ll need to attract independent support to win a second term. Republicans expect to hold this seat, but a Schreibman victory would be a sign of a Democratic wave that could return Nancy Pelosi to again become Speaker.


· New York’s 21st District: Owens vs. Doheny

Democrat Bill Owens became the first Democrat in a century to represent the old 23rd District when a divided Republican Party allowed him to win a 2009 special election with 49 percent of the vote. With the opposition once again divided in 2010, he won a full term with 47.5 percent of the vote. This time, redistricting has united the Adirondack region and most of the North Country in the redrawn 21st District, and the Plattsburgh Democrat is once again facing the Republican he defeated two years ago, Watertown businessman Matt Doheny. This time, however, Republicans are not divided.


· Texas’ 23rd District: Canseco vs. Gallego

Freshman Francisco “Quico” Canseco is the only Mexican-American Republican to represent a majority Latino district, and Democrats are hoping to reclaim this swing district two years after Canseco ousted veteran Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. Democrats are touting a poll showing their nominee, Pete Gallego, with a narrow lead. Democrats can’t afford to lose races like this if they are to have any chance to win control of the House.


· Pennsylvania’s 12th District: Critz vs. Rothfus

Another must-win for Democrats is the southwestern Pennsylvania district currently represented by Mark Critz, who won the seat after longtime incumbent Jack Murtha died in office. Republicans have nominated Keith Rothfus, who narrowly lost in 2010 in a district that was less Republican than this gerrymandered creation of the Republican-dominated Pennsylvania legislature. The new 12th District, which wraps around Pittsburgh, favored John McCain in 2008 by 54 percent to 45 percent.


· California’s 52nd District: Bilbray vs. Peters


San Diego Republican Brian Bilbray, a six-term incumbent and tough-on-immigration conservative, is trying to hold off Democrat Scott Peters in a newly designed district that is almost evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Bilbray, a skilled fundraiser with a moderate streak on social issues, has a money edge. Peters, a port commissioner and former San Diego city council president, has plenty of money of his own. This is a high-cost, high-risk district for both parties.