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When Fox News First readers started playing Pick Six back in January what might they have guessed about Republican chances for control of the Senate if they knew how things would stand today? Congress just left town for the last time until the election having avoided any pre-election shutdowns or other cliff diving. President Obama’s approval rating is in the tank amid grave worries about his foreign policy. Republicans have nominated electable, non-Akinite candidates in every contested Senate race. We might have called it Pick Eight. But the name of the game for us, as it is for both parties is figuring out the path of least resistance for Republicans to flip six seats from blue to red. For Democrats it’s about stopping the elephant charge at five seats while Republicans are focused on keeping open as many paths to majority as possible. Today, as the campaign season hits full swing, we take stock of your votes and we look ahead.
Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.
What the Pros say - Democratic digital guru Joe Trippi and GOPAC President David Avella see the latest polls this week out of Iowa giving Republican Joni Ernst a lead, making the Hawkeye state a more likely pick-up for the red team. What about North Carolina? Do the pros think Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., can hold on in the Tar Heel State? Watch “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt” to find out the pros think.
THE BEST DEFENSE
The magic number for Republicans is six only if the red team can defend all 15 Republican-held seats up for election this year. Twelve of those races look like no contest and the two races that Democrats have long hoped to turn into against-the-grain victories, Kentucky and Georgia, are trending the right way for the GOP. In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell leads Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes by 5 points in the Real Clear Politics average. In Georgia, GOP nominee David Perdue holds a 3-point lead in the RCP average for his race against Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn. Recent polling suggests a trend toward the GOP there, as well. But a stray dog has come into the pack for Democrats after the party succeeded in ditching its nominee in Republican-held Kansas in order to embrace, Greg Orman, a wealthy former Democrat running as an independent.
[“As far as I’m concerned, this election is for the Republicans to lose. Especially for Mitch McConnell. He’d better light a fire under his butt if he intends to be Senate Majority leader come January.” –Fox News First Reader David Wolf of Carmichael, Calif.]
Mr. Roberts - Kansas Democrats may yet be forced on the grounds of voter disenfranchisement to field an official candidate rather than just backing the independent. (After all, wouldn’t leaders in both parties like the idea of being able to dump nominated candidates in favor of those who never faced primary voters?) But the determinative factors in Kansas look to be less about ballot gimmicks and more about two major concerns, both related to incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. First, can Roberts’ campaign successfully define Orman as unreliable? The best attack on Orman seems to be that he is a liberal dilettante who won’t tell voters where he stands. Second, can Roberts heal the wounds from a bitter primary fight? While struggling Republican incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback is a conservative trying hard to win back moderate Republicans to rebuild his coalition, Roberts is part of the state’s moderate GOP establishment who needs to convince conservatives to stick with him. Defining Orman as a liberal would help that effort, but the incumbent will have to enhance outreach to the right following a scorched-earth effort in the primary.
[“I think that Pat Roberts, US Senator, will win over Greg Orman and keep his Senate seat. It’ll be a tight race, no doubt. But my personal opinion of this Orman guy is that he reminds me of a used car salesman who keeps saying, ‘Buy this car, buy this car’ and then when you do, the vehicle dies as you’re driving it down the street.” – Fox News First Reader Janet Bahl, Wichita, Kan.]
#MediaBuzz: Bob Cusack, editor in chief of The Hill, and Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for Washington Examiner, will dissect media coverage of midterm races. Plus, a top-notch panel on the escalating war in Iraq and Syria. Watch “#mediabuzz” Sunday at 11 a.m. ET, with a second airing at 5 p.m.
-- 46 days until Nov. 4 --
YOUR SIX, PICKED
The consensus among readers: Arkansas (13.7%), Montana (13.0%), West Virginia (12.1%), Louisiana (11.7%), South Dakota (9.9%) and North Carolina (9.6%)
Arkansas - Cotton gets some help from Huckabee kin - Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has hired the daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., as a campaign adviser. Sarah Huckabee Sanders helped deliver a 2008 Iowa caucus win for her father and served as campaign manager for Sen. John Boozman’s, R-Ark., highly successful 2010 race. “Sarah Huckabee Sanders brings a wealth of experience and talents to our team, and we are excited to announce that she has joined our campaign. Her experience will help us achieve our ultimate goal — to retire [Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark.] and elect Tom Cotton as a new, conservative leader for Arkansas,” Cotton campaign manager Justin Brasell said in a statement. Sanders is expected to focus on fundraising and coalition-building as the campaign heads into November.
[The latest RCP average has Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., leading Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., by 2.5 points.]
Food fight - Rep. Tom Cotton’s latest ad defends his opposition to the farm bill claiming President Obama hijacked it to turn it into a food stamp bill.
[“Republicans have to get their ground game to work. They need to message themselves as pro-freedom, pro-liberty, and pro-America with real solutions to the failed policies of the past 5 year. They have the upper hand, because they have the argument. They just have to be disciplined enough to get it.”—Fox News First Reader Daniel Seiler.]
Montana - State Rep. Amanda Curtis became the Democratic pick to replace Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., who was forced to drop out the race over a plagiarism scandal. She’s appears to be no match for Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who holds a commanding 19 point advantage in the RCP average.
Curtis and Daines set to debate - The Missoulian: “Montana’s U.S. Senate candidates have agreed to a debate next month in Billings. The one-hour debate between Democrat Amanda Curtis and Republican Steve Daines will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20 at Montana State University Billings' Petro Theater.”
West Virginia - Democrat Secretary of State Natalie Tennant faces the hurdle of overcoming President Obama’s 25 percent approval in a coal-rich state where his energy policies are unpopular. The most recent West Virginia poll from the Charleston Daily Mail finds 54 percent of likely voters would support Republican Shelley Moore Capito, while 37 percent would support Tennant. According to the RCP average Capito leads by 19 points.
Louisiana - Recent Fox News polling shows Sen. Mary Landrieu , D-La., would not fare well against Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., especially if the state’s 50 percent election day threshold forces a December runoff. In a two-way runoff, Cassidy tops Landrieu 51 percent to 38 percent. Landrieu is staying competitive though, despite the poor marks President Obama receives in the Republican leaning state. According to the latest Fox News poll the president’s job approval rating sits at 34 percent. Six in 10 Louisiana voters say ObamaCare “went too far.” The RCP average has Cassidy besting Landrieu by 5.6 points.
South Dakota - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had written off his party’s nominee, Rick Weiland, from the outset. A recent SurveyUSA poll reveals independent Larry Pressler’s presence is a boost to former Gov. Mike Rounds, R-S.D. In a two-man matchup Weiland and Rounds would be nearly tied. The RCP average for the race gives Rounds a 13 point edge. But that doesn’t mean Dems are giving up entirely. A new political action committee has popped up in South Dakota to amplify attacks from Weiland’s campaign, and with cheap media rates it won’t cost national Democrats to keep a toe in South Dakota.
[“How anyone can put Louisiana ahead of South Dakota for top 6 is beyond me.” –Fox News First reader Sharon Tomalavage.]
North Carolina - Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., continues to walk a fine line in the state that offered President Obama his party’s nomination in 2008. Hagan did not appear with the president during his most recent visit to the Tar Heel State and in her first debate sought to put distance between herself and the administration over its handling of foreign policy and veteran affairs. The latest Fox News poll finds Hagan leading Republican Thom Tillis 41 percent to 36 percent with the RCP average giving the incumbent Democrat nearly a four point lead.
[“I do think [Republican Senate nominee] Thom Tillis will win in NC, but it will be closer than Iowa.”—Fox News First Reader Jerry James]
Tuning up for turn out - Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has launched a radio ad targeting African-American voters attacking Republicans over voter I.D. measures and Thom Tillis’ record on education.
CAN DEEP POCKETS SAVE DEMS?
Democrats and their big money donors have been pouring heavily into this year’s midterm campaigns in hopes of saving their Senate majority. A recent report from the Wesleyan Media Project finds Democrats are hitting the airwaves more aggressively in nine of 10 most competitive Senate races. Will the deluge of dollars and airtime help keep the blue team in the majority? See what political pros Joe Trippi and GOPAC President David Avella have to say by watching “Power play with Chris Stirewalt”
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE...
The Scots said “nay, laddie” to the proposed split with the United Kingdom Thursday, evoking memories of several attempts by the Francophone province of Quebec to secede from Canada and the resulting “non” votes. The closest approach for le Québécois came on June 12, 1995 when the split was defeated by a single percentage point, in what has been called “The night Canada stood still.” Canadian historians believe the critical moment came a bit earlier. “With the lead favouring the Yes side, two weeks before the vote, the Federalist swung into action and held rallies and Prime Minister [Jean Chretien] made several speeches in support of Canada. Then the single biggest event of the campaign took place on October 27th, just a few days before the vote, when about 100,000 Canadians from all across the country gather in Montreal for a massive Unity Rally which appealed to French Canadians to vote for Canada. The crowd was addressed by Prime Minister Chretien, the leaders of the Federal opposition, Jean Charest, and the leader of the Provincial opposition, Daniel Johnson.”
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval: Approve – 41.2 percent//Disapprove – 53.8 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 26.6 percent//Wrong Track – 65 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot: Democrats – 42.7 percent// Republicans – 46.2 percent
FOUR ON THE BUBBLE
The four Senate races closest to nosing in to the Pick Six top tier picks by Fox News First readers are Alaska at 8.4 percent, Iowa at 5.4 percent and a tie for ninth place between Colorado and Michigan at 3.8 percent.
Alaska - This race has bedeviled handicappers. It’s a heavily Republican state in which President Obama is massively unpopular and incumbent freshman Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, barely squeaked into office six years ago thanks to a scandal for the GOP incumbent. But the RCP average still only shows Republican nominee Dan Sullivan with an advantage of just above 1 point. What gives? Begich had run a solid campaign until recent blunders with gross-out ads using a grisly rape and murder. But the biggest factor here is Alaska’s very late primary, which didn’t take place until August and kept Sullivan from filleting the incumbent as he is now. Watch for Alaska to break through to the top tier soon.
Iowa - Republicans have been high on their Iowa nominee, Joni Ernst, for good reason. She has the right resume and represents the new breed of conservative candidate who party moderates can gladly support. But the real story in this race has been the stumbles of the Democratic nominee, Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who has squandered an early advantage with a series of mistakes. The RCP average is already a tie and, given the GOP blowout brewing in the governor’s contest and overall blue team malaise in Iowa, one would have to see Ernst as the favorite now.
Colorado - Republican nominee Rep. Cory Gardner has survived a long hot summer of very ugly attack ads on social issues and that means trouble for incumbent Sen. Mark Udall D-Colo. Udall’s lead is down to less than 1 point in the RCP average and Republicans and pro-GOP groups are getting ready to start evening up the spending score. Udall isn’t a very adroit politician and Gardner has lots of skill on the stump. Dems are going to be on defense here for the duration.
Michigan - Republican nominee Terri Lynn Land is still in the fight against Democratic Rep. Gary Peters in the bid to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin, but Land needs a momentum shift. Peters has opened up a 5-point lead in the RCP average. Land has so far declined to debate her with her rival and just this week opened the door to a televised debate. Peters is facing new scrutiny over his past votes and hypocritical-seeming investments, but with union eager to elect Peters and also beat Republican Gov. Rick Snyder who signed right-to-work legislation, Land is going to have to get on the hustle.
ONE YOU SHOULD BE WATCHING
New Hampshire - Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., still leads Republican Scott Brown in the RCP average for the Granite State contest by 5 points, but just a month ago, she was up by 10 points. Brown has clearly surpassed the plausibility hurdle and the issues on the front burner of late, particularly immigration and national security, have been very helpful to Brown.
[“Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” welcomes Reps.Pete King, R-N.Y., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to discuss the growing threat and plans to thwart the Islamic terror group ISIS. The show airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel. Check local listings for air times in your area. ]
SO DON’T JUST SIT THERE!
Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt.
HEY, THE FIRST PLAN WAS FOR STALIN’S BORSCHT BOWL
Yum! Brands, which owns fast food brands KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, is experimenting with a plan for “fast-casual” Vietnamese restaurants, but the rollout hit a big bump with its Bahn Shop brand this week. The test location in Dallas infuriated many of the area’s Vietnamese refugees: a five-pointed red star like the one used by the North Vietnamese Communists who drove them from their homeland in the 1970s. Thang Cung, a Vietnamese refugee, former South Vietnamese soldier and prisoner of war, spoke to local reporters about the anguish the sign was causing in the community. Yum!, eager to eliminate any distraction from introducing America to delicious bahn mi sandwiches, was quick to reverse course. KWCH: “Jonathan Blum, who heads public affairs and nutrition for Yum! Brands, reached out to and apologized to Cung earlier [Thursday]. The old logo will come off the store and website by the end of the day and a new logo will be up soon, he said. The old logo was designed externally, and he said the same shop would likely handle the redesign – with Cung’s input.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.