WATCH | With so much focus on Tuesday's presidential election, it may have slipped your mind: Other candidates are on the ballot, too. Here's why you should also be thinking about the Senate, and the key races that could determine which party controls the chamber in 2017.
The Senate is in play
Two people who certainly haven't forgotten about the Senate this election: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Their own battle has been quietly raging in the background.
In October, Ryan warned a group of college students that they had to vote in Wisconsin's Senate race, too -- or else.
“If we lose the Senate, do you know who becomes chair of the Senate Budget Committee?” asked Ryan. “A guy named Bernie Sanders. You ever heard of him?”
Sanders used those remarks to help raise $2.4 million for Senate candidates he's backing.
The 'Trump effect'
Ryan is right to worry. After six years of Republican control, Democrats actually have a chance to take back the Senate. Most attribute this to the "Trump effect" -- distaste for the GOP nominee has pushed some Republican voters away.
Both Ryan and Sanders clearly realize the stakes of winning the Senate. Even if their party's presidential candidate wins, they need at least one friendly chamber of Congress to have even the slightest chance of achieving most of their policy goals.
GOP majority is vulnerable
Republicans hold a 54-46 majority in the Senate (the 46 number includes the two independents who caucus with the Democrats).
On Tuesday, Republicans have to defend 24 seats, while Democrats only have to protect 10. Six of the vulnerable GOP seats are in states that President Obama won in 2008 and 2012.
But only a few states have Senate races that are so close that they’ll likely decide the fate of the Senate. Here are some of them:
Nevada: The race for Harry Reid's seat
With Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) retiring after this term, his seat is up for grabs -- and the race is in a dead heat.
The contest pits Republican Rep. Joe Heck against Democratic former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.
Masto who would be the first-ever Latina senator if she wins.
Florida: Marco Rubio's seat
Missouri: A Trump state that could flip
While most pollsters agree Missouri is likely to favor Donald Trump by double digits in the presidential race, the Senate race is weirdly competitive: Missouri’s secretary of state Jason Kander is trailing behind sitting Sen. Roy Blunt by only 1.5 points.
Other states to watch
At least three other states have close Senate races:
- In New Hampshire, incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte is up 6 points against the current state Gov. Maggie Hassan.
- In North Carolina, incumbent Sen. Richard Burr is up 6 points against Deborah Ross, a former executive director of the North Carolina ACLU.
- In Indiana, where there's no incumbent, GOP Rep. Todd Young and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh are tied.
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