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5 must-watch Senate races

Democrats are pulling ahead in five closely watched and tight Senate races with just a few days left until the Nov. 6 election.
Democrat Elizabeth Warren (Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Democrat Elizabeth Warren

Democrats are pulling ahead in five closely watched and tight Senate races with just a few days left until the Nov. 6 election. While the Republican establishment hoped to gain seats in the Senate, some of its fringe candidates combined with tough Democratic challengers in other regions, could cost the GOP that dream. Nate Silver's forecast puts the Senate balance of power in the hands of the Democrats with 52 seats, and in a round up of Real Clear Politics polls of key races, the GOP's uphill battle to gain control of the Senate is getting steeper.

MASSACHUSETTS: Elizabeth Warren (D): 50.5% vs. Scott Brown (R): 46%Progressive icon Elizabeth Warren is gaining in the polls in what has been a neck-and-neck race with incumbent Republican Scott Brown, who won in a special election for the seat of the late Ted Kennedy. The high-profile race captured national attention—not to mention campaign dollars—in Warren's bid to once again swing the state's U.S. Senate preference blue. Together the candidates alone have spent almost $68 million on the race.

Though the Real Clear Politics average has Warren just ahead in polls, surpassing the 50% mark, the latest round of polling conducted by The Boston Globe shows the two candidates locked into a tie, adding to the drama expected come election night. The candidates were slated to meet in a final debate Tuesday, but the two pulled out from the final match-up in the wake of Hurricane Sandy's destruction.

CONNECTICUT: Chris Murphy (D): 47.8% vs. Linda McMahon (R): 43.8%Former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon is in a bitter battle against Democrat Rep. Chris Murphy as both vie for retiring independent Sen. Joe Lieberman’s seat.

This is McMahon's second bid for U.S. Senate. In 2010 she lost in a landslide after spending $50 million of her own money. McMahon has made up significant ground since her 12-point loss to Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal during the wave of Republican victories that year, but has struggled to garner support from female voters. Much of her 2010 loss was in the 20-point disadvantage with women voters, and even with attempts to recast her image to appeal to female voters, McMahon remains behind. Quinnipiac projects Murphy ahead 52% to 38% with women voters, and Real Clear Politics has him up in the statewide race by four points.

INDIANA: Joe Donnelly (D): 47% vs. Richard Mourdock (R): 36%Democrat Rep. Joe Donnelly was largely an under-the-radar candidate for U.S. Senate in the Republican-leaning state of Indiana, but that was before his opponent, Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock, said this during a televised debate:

“I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have, to have an abortion, is in that case of the life of the mother. I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Prior to his comments, a Rasmussen poll put Mourdock at a comfortable five-point lead. Now, according to a Howey/DePauw survey, the backlash to Mourdock’s comments have set him back to an 11-point disadvantage.

MISSOURI: Claire McCaskill (D): 47.2% vs. Todd Akin (R): 42.8%Republican Congressman Todd Akin revved up a reputation for gaffes this election cycle, from his now infamous remarks on "legitimate rape," to comparing his opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill to a dog. And despite initial pressure from his own party to drop out of the race, Akin is still at it. On Thursday, he tackled women's issues head on by releasing an ad featuring an endorsement from a rape survivor. Akin appears to be getting a last-ditch advertising boost from Tea Party backed super PACs and perhaps even national GOP leadership.

Real Clear Politics' average has McCaskill leading since August, now five points up from Akin.

WISCONSIN: Tammy Baldwin (D): 48% vs. Tommy Thompson (R): 47%Democratic veteran of Congress Tammy Baldwin is battling in an air-tight race against Tommy Thompson, the Republican former Wisconsin governor and secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush,and if elected, she could become the first openly gay lawmaker in the Senate. After a significant bounce in polls following her appearance at the Democratic National Convention, it looked like  Baldwin had a chance of making Rep. Paul Ryan's home state of Wisconsin a Democratic stronghold for the U.S. Senate. But Baldwin's jump in polls has since faded, leaving the Badger State in the anything-could-happen realm of Election Day outcomes.

Even after a video of Thompson surfaced from a Tea Party rally when he said who better than him to "do away with Medicaid and Medicare," Baldwin received just a small blip in added support. Currently, NBC News/The Wall Street Journal/Marist have Baldwin ahead in a statistical tie against Thompson with just four days left until Election Day.