US midterm elections: The 5 key states in the Senate race

The control of the Senate and the ability for President Joe Biden to press on with his legislative agenda is on a knife edge with the midterm election due to take place.

People visit a booth set up by Fulton County to recruit new poll workers at the Alpharetta Farmers Market on Sept. 10, 2022, in Alpharetta, Ga. Lies about the integrity of the 2020 presidential contest by former President Donald Trump and his allies are spurring new interest in working the polls in Georgia and elsewhere in the nation for the upcoming midterm elections. (AP Photo/Sudhin Thanawala)
People visit a booth set up by Fulton County to recruit new poll workers at the Alpharetta Farmers Market on Sept. 10, 2022, in Alpharetta, Ga. Lies about the integrity of the 2020 presidential contest by former President Donald Trump and his allies are spurring new interest in working the polls in Georgia and elsewhere in the nation for the upcoming midterm elections. (AP Photo/Sudhin Thanawala)

The midterms take place on November 8 with the Senate currently locked in at 50 seats each, with the Republicans and Democrats vying for control.

With the Democrats currently controlling the agenda thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote, we look at some of the key states that both parties will be aiming to win that could help determine the outcome.

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Democrats are deeply concerned about their narrow majorities in the House and Senate amid voters’ concerns about surging inflation, crime and the overall direction of the country. History suggests that Democrats, as the party in power, will suffer significant losses in the midterms. President Biden was dealing with a fresh political mess after upsetting some in his party for promoting plans to shut down fossil fuel plants in favour of green energy.

Here’s a look at some of “toss-up” states, the background of the candidates and who could define the Senate race.

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Georgia

Once again, Georgia is expected to be a close race. In 2020, Biden won Georgia by less than 12,000 votes, becoming the first Democratic nominee to triumph in the southern state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

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Despite its historical Republican voting history, the state is very much ‘purple’ or a swing state.

Democratic senator Raphael Warnock, who gave President Biden control of the Senate with a shock win in 2021’s Special Election is up against Republican Herschel Walker. The ex-NFL player has been backed by former president Donald Trump.

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Warnock is pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church – “the same post once held by Dr Martin Luther King Jr” – will be hoping that the polls tipping for for a narrow win come true – however the contest “remains close”.

The Republican hopeful Walker has been hampered by a series of scandals, including allegations of domestic violence and allegedly lying about how many children he has fathered.

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Pennsylvania

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Recent polls suggest that the GOP may lose Pennsylvania, the proverbial swing state and a seat currently held by the Republicans.

Recent polls have Democrat John Fetterman, with a 3 per cent lead over Republican hopeful, and controversial television doctor, Mehmet Oz, also known as Dr Oz. Even though his Democrat opponent, John Fetterman, suffered a stroke “that kept him off the campaign trail for months”, Oz has been unable to effectively “pierce Fetterman’s brand”, with Oz at times scoring own goals himself.

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He experienced viral fame after releasing a video in which he mispronounced the name of the store while shopping for a “crudite”.

While Fetterman reiterates his working class background, he has made few public appearances since suffering a stroke in May and is often quizzed on his health.

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The race for Governor in the state could be an indication, with polls putting Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro ahead by double digits. Shapiro came in at 52 per cent, over Republican Doug Mastriano at 37 per cent.

Arizona

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Much like the US Presidential Election, a significant amount of effort from both parties is going into trying to secure Arizona, with Democrats once again hoping to turn the former Republican stronghold blue following their shock win in 2020.

With a mere 0.3 per cent majority however it is unsurprising that Arizona is once again too close to call.

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Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, is facing Republican Blake Masters.

Masters has sought to distance himself from controversial comments suggesting Social Security should be privatized and he deleted portions of his campaign website where he advocated for a total abortion ban.

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Polls suggest that the state is shifting towards Kelly however – with Kelly being the subject of a bomb threat and his office cleared during the campaign.

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Nevada

Nevada closely mirrors other states in the pattern of play across much of the country. Abortion rights and the cost of living crisis are being seen as the main issues in the state, with Democrats putting emphasis on the former, and the Republicans raising concerns over rising prices.

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While President Joe Biden managed to win the state in the 2020 election, Nevada weighed in around 2 per cent more Republican than the nation overall –and campaigners for the GOP are keen to try and once again bring out that vote.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt is standing as the Republican candidate and he played a major role in attempting to overturn Biden’s victory in the state following claims from Donald Trump.

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Catherine Cortez Masto, the first Latina to serve in the Senate will be hoping for a significant turn out in her favour of the 30% Latino population in the state, however the race seems too close to call with former Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe calling it “a dead heat important Senate race” While some states elsewhere have a unpopular candidate for one or indeed both parties, many experts are calling Navada the truest bellweather state.

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Wisconsin

Abortion rights, Roe V Wade, and elections are the main talking points in the Wisconsin race. This year the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted to adopt new GOP-drawn maps which could see the state change hands. The state, which was won by Joe Biden by less than 1% has seen the 2020 election live long in the memory, with more than $1 million spent on investigating voter fraud following claims by Donald Trump.

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Indeed, Republican Senator Ron Johnson is an advocate for such claims and also released false statements about the Covid-19 vaccines. Despite his rogue claims, many are hinting that with the map reforms, Johnson could be in with a chance of a victory, although according to some state he is one of the most vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection. In contrast, Democrat Mandela Barnes appears to be relatively radical for the state. Barnes, who would be the state's first Black senator and her support for progressive policies like Medicare for All have been brought up throughout the race, as well as a 2018 photo in which he is holding a shirt that reads "Abolish ICE," an immigration enforcement agency.