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Important Races to Watch on Election Day 2012

by Terri Harel, published
election 2012, election, races to watch

It's been a long, long road, but the big day has finally arrived: Election 2012. It has been a media frenzy to a near apocalyptic end, with so many important races to watch, but they warrant the attention. This election's lofty implications and expectations are a test of our heralded theory of governance, a test of democracy in America. Importantly, a declaration of independence by so many voters has indicated a distinct and special shift in the status quo, giving this election an undeniable air that the next four years are heavy with promise. As people head to the polls to determine the next four years of their lives, of a whole nation of lives, many citizens will make their decisions without blind partisanship, and instead seek out those that have promised to deliver a four-year vision with which they identify.

These are the states and Congressional races IVN will be paying particular attention to throughout the day as contests that could constitute a significant impact on that four-year vision.

Battleground States

A swing state hallmark, Florida is one of the most important and most contested races in every election, with 29 electoral votes. Currently, Mitt Romney and President Obama are virtually tied in the state, with Public Policy Polling pinning Obama with a one point lead over Romney at 50 to 49 percent. Other polls show Romney with a 5 point lead, making it clear that the race in this state will truly be a toss up.


Ohio could be the most critical swing state this election as the state holds 18 electoral votes and candidates have polled within the margin of error for most of the election cycle. Ohio is especially important because its voters have decided the winner of the election all but once since 1944.


Current polls have the President and challenger Mitt Romney in statistical tie, 48 to 47 in the race for Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Virginians voted 53 to 47 for Obama in the 2008 election over John McCain but Obama has lead Romney in polls since his campaign started. To win Romney will need a come from behind victory to secure the critical swing state.


In 2008, Obama carried the state, 56 to 42 percent, but current polls show only a slight lead for the President, qualifying Wisconsin as a swing state. Also relevant, Wisconsin is home to Vice Presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, who enjoys considerable support among Wisconsin voters. If Romney wins, he will be be the first Republican to pick up the state since 1984. A victory for Obama would follow the trend of the state to vote Democratic in the presidential election.


President Obama won this historically Republican state in the 2008 election 54-45 percent, and projections appear similar this time around. One poll shows the state split rather evenly, 47 to 45 in favor of Obama, while another shows 52 to 46, Obama. Importantly, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is polling at around 4 precent, enough to potentially upset the mainstream parties' projections in the state.


King v Summers v Dill (Maine)

Three main candidates are running for the open Senate seat in Maine. Former governor Angus King, Republican Charlie Summers, and Democrat Cynthia Dill. The race could prove extremely important because King currently maintains a strong lead, despite being an independent candidate. King is polling at 49 percent, followed by Summers at 33 percent, and Dill at 11 percent.

Warren v Brown (Massachusetts)

Incumbent Senator Scott Brown (R) is facing a tough challenge to win re-election against Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren. The fact that Brown, considered a moderate Republican, currently holds the seat previously held by the late Ted Kennedy still confounds political analysts because Massachusetts is a Democratic stronghold. This is the state Barack Obama carried with sixty-two percent of the popular vote in 2008. Even though the race is currently considered a “toss up,” Elizabeth Warren has gained significant ground on Sen. Brown over the last couple of months and is currently ahead in most major statewide polls. The Real Clear Politics average shows Warren up 3.5 percentage points going into Election Day.

Flake v Carmona (Arizona)

Republican Jon Kyl will be retiring from his seat after 18 years representing Arizona in the Senate. President Obama recruited Richard Carmona, a former independent and the Surgeon General under the George H.W. Bush administration, to run on the Democratic ticket. Jeff Flake, the Republican challenger has served as 6th District representative since 2001. Public Policy Polling currently has Flake in the lead, 51 to 46 percent. However, this could be a big year for Democrats in Arizona, a state in which a growing Latino population could tilt Republican tendencies in the opposite direction.

McMahon v Murphy (Connecticut)

Independent Joe Lieberman announced his retirement from the Senate in January 2011. Both parties look to pick up the important Senate seat held by the “independent Democrat” who was unaffiliated, but caucused with the Democrats and was a former member of the Democratic Party. The race has become extremely expensive after the Republican candidate and the Democratic Party have bought extensive airtime in the state. Current polls vary in exact numbers, but all are pointing to Murphy as the leader, although by small margins.

Baldwin v Thompson (Wisconsin)

In Wisconsin, Democratic Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson are competing for the Senate seat left vacant by retiring Senator Herbert Kohl. The race is a dead heat, but the latest polls are giving Ms. Baldwin a 3 point lead. On November 3, Tammy Baldwin polled at 51 percent, against 48 percent for Tommy Thompson, thanks to a 51/41 percent advantage among independents.

House of Representatives 
Love v Matheson (Utah)

Utah’s newly created 4th Congressional District favors Republican Mia Love as its new representative, according to every poll, except Matheson’s own. Utah is about as red as it gets, but active independent voters rival Republicans nearly 1 to 1, with roughly half the electorate registered as unaffiliated. Until early October, Democrat Jim Matheson wooed moderate Republicans and independent constituents with his conservative fiscal policies. Love has passed him in the polls with her positions on limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. If she wins, Love is set to the be the first Republican black female in the Senate.

Barber v. McSally (Arizona)

Arizona's 2nd Congressional Districts is one of the most competitive and prolific. The district has a slight Republican registration advantage, and about a third of the voters are registered independent or other. The district contains much of the former 8th Congressional district, represented by Democrat incumbent Ron Barber. Barber's name became nationally known when he won a special election to replace his former boss, Gabby Giffords, just months ago. Republican challenger Martha McSally is a retired United Air Force Coronell who has stressed her "independent spirit" and desire to move past divisive politics.

Coffman v Miklosi (Colorado)

The district is a traditional GOP stronghold, formerly belonging to Tom Tancredo, but because of redistricting, it’s now almost evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. The DNC and RNC have picked up on the new alignment and have poured millions of dollars into this race. The campaign has focused heavily on the Aurora theatre shooting and issues of gun control and public safety. Miklosi has said that he would work to reinstate the federal automatic assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Coffman has focused heavily on cutting defense spending as a measure of addressing the national deficit.

Amash v Pestka (Michigan)

Republican incumbent Justin Amash is in a tight race with Democrat Steve Pestka for Michigan's 3rd Congressional District. The two latest polls are showing different trends. In one poll conducted on Oct. 17-18, Steve Pestka leads by one point with 34.9 percent. In another poll commissioned by the Amash campaign, he leads by 14 points with 50 percent of the vote in his favor, against 36 percent for Pestka. Although Michigan's 3rd is traditionally a Republican stronghold, Real Clear Politics claims that Amash might be too conservative, even for this region.

West v. Murphy (Florida)

The race between US Rep Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphey in Florida's 18th Congressional District has become one of the costliest and ugliest races this election cycle. Categorized as a "toss up" by Real Clear Politics, the race has cost a combined total of $23.6 million, with incumbent West out-spending his opponent 5-to-1.


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