With only two short weeks away until the 2014 Midterm Elections, Democrats are desperately trying to cling to their Senate majority while Republicans try to strike at the electoral jugular. While liberals and conservatives don’t historically get along, this cycle has just enough epic throw-downs to keep things interesting. Here are 10 midterm races actually worth paying attention to:
1. Texas’s Greg Abbott Is Defending the Law that Made Wendy Davis Famous
As a state senator, Davis entered the national spotlight last June when she embarked on a 13-hour filibuster to prevent a bill that would greatly restrict access to abortions in the Lone Star State. As Texas Attorney General, Abbott defended a version of that law in court. These two are waging a vicious battle for the Governor’s seat at a time when experts say Texas is transitioning from a solidly red state to more of a purple one. Just how vicious, exactly? The Davis campaign’s latest ad invokes the accident that left Abbott paralyzed in a wheelchair, accusing him of not caring for victims other than himself.
2. Alaska’s Mark Begich Is Taking Some Ugly Swings at Republican Dan Sullivan
Republican Dan Sullivan leads Democratic Senator Mark Begich by 6 points in the polls, who is now scrambling to lock down a second term in Alaska. That stress shows in Begich’s recent ad, featuring an elderly couple being beaten to death by a man whom Sullivan released from prison during his term as attorney general. (Begich has since pulled the ad after the family claimed it exploited the victims.
3. Illinois’ Pat Quinn is One of the Most Hated Governors, but challenger Bruce Rauner’s No Better
This race could be classified as a case where voters lose no matter what. Quinn has one of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in America, and yet is somehow leading in the polls. He took the governor’s seat in 2009 after Rod Blagojevich was removed from office for corruption charges, but he’s done nothing to fix the state’s budget problems. Meanwhile Rauner’s been accused of using his power and influence for personal gain. Reports emerged that he’s used off-shore tax havens, used his relationship with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to get his daughter into a high school and it recently came out that his staff threatened a newspaper to discredit a reporter. So this fall Illinois voters can choose between a rich thug and a boob. Democracy in action.
4. Louisiana’s Senator Mary Landrieu Battles it out in a Too-Close-to-Call Senate Race
The Senate race is so tight in Louisiana, that just about everyone in the state knows that none of the nine candidates, including Mary Landrieu, will cross the 50 percent threshold needed to win on election night, meaning there will a Dec. 6 rematch. Control of the upper chamber could honestly come down to what happens in the runoffs in both Louisiana and Georgia. Landrieu has been pressing her main opponent, Republican Bill Cassidy, for several more public debates, confusing many in a deeply Republican State. She hasn’t been making many friends, including opponent Elbert Guillory, who slams her for living in a $2.5 million mansion and not helping the state’s poor black communities (but come on, what successful Senator doesn’t live in a mansion?)
5. Wisconsin’s Mary Burke Could Topple Scott Walker’s Presidential Ambitions
Gov. Walker is one of many Republicans expected to run for President in 2016. His infamous standoff with the state’s public sector unions launched him into stardom. His victory in 2012 recall election showed his ability to win even the most contentious of campaigns. Well, his Oval Office ambitions will take a hit if Burke manages to beat him, which recent polls show could be the reality. And she’s winning even though she plagiarized her entire economic platform. If Walker can’t defeat a dishonest politician in Wisconsin, there’s no way he can win the GOP Presidential Primaries.
6. Michigan’s Terri Lynn Land Says She “Obviously Knows More About Being a Woman” Than Male Opponent
The Michigan Senate race is getting a bit ugly, pitting Democrat Gary Peters against Republican Terri Lynn Land, the former Michigan Secretary of State. When Peters suggested that her policies were actually kind of anti-woman (abortions only when the mother was in danger; no plan B), Land responded with an ad strange enough that some experts say it might have actually hurt her campaign. In this bizarre video, Land asks viewers if they “really believed she was waging a war on women.” Then, cue the awkward game show music and Land checking her watch… That’s the whole ad. As of this week, Peters is leading in the polls, which shows that voters actually do care if you waste 40 seconds of their time with meaningless advertisements.
7. Kentucky’s Alison Grimes Cannot Overcome Her Links to Obama (and McConnell Can’t Overcome Comparisons to a Turtle)
McConnell is the Senate Minority Leader, so if Republicans take back the Senate (which many experts, including Nate Silver, are predicting), he’ll become the chamber’s most powerful person. There’s only one problem: Grimes is giving him the fight of his life. McConnell only leads by three points according to a recent poll. He’s unpopular amongst Kentuckians because he represents the Washington establishment and because he also kinda looks like a turtle (which led to The Daily Show’s popular #McConnelling meme last spring.)
Grimes, on the other hand, struggles to overcome her ties to President Obama after serving as a delegate for him during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
8. Arkansas’ Mark Pryor Has an Entire Web Page Devoted to Calling Tom Cotton Weird Nicknames
Politicians call each other rude names? No way! Well, Senator Mark Pryor stuck to tradition and dug really deep: he has an entire page on his website devoted to describing Cotton as out of touch and superior, hence the nicknames “Superior Tom,” and “Reckless Tom.” With deep worries that the Democrats are heading to extinction in the South, whoever wins this race could answer that extinction question indefinitely. And as a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Cotton looks pretty good to a lot of Americans, especially to the GOP and the Tea Party (not to mention, he has a nice couple of Harvard degrees hanging on his wall). That explains why he’s currently leading Pryor by 8 points in the polls.
9. North Carolina’s Kay Hagan Is Another Obama, Says Thom Tillis
The North Carolina Senate race will be a tough one for voters—State Representative Thom Tillis has to answer for gridlock in Raleigh, where Republicans fought about the budget all summer, whereas the Democratic incumbent Hagan has been lambasted for her loyalty to an unpopular president. (It’s pretty much the same issue facing Democrats everywhere, like Georgia Democrat Michelle Nun, who is running for Senate.
10. New York’s Michael Grimm’s Facing a Criminal Indictment, But He’s Facing a Moron
New York’s 11th Congressional District Race is straight up crazy. Grimm’s a two-term Republican congressman who’s been indicted on 20 corruption charges. And he’s winning in the polls! How is that possible? Well, his opponent Domenic Recchia may be the most incompetent candidate running for Congress this year. When asked about his foreign policy credentials, Recchia talked about his involvement in a Japanese student exchange program, apparently confusing “foreign policy experience” with “Have you ever met someone not from America?” He also ended an interview after being asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he clearly knew nothing about, then he went back to the same reporter to discuss the TPP. (Hint: He still didn’t know what it was.) Check out this clip from The Daily Show to see the ridiculousness that this electoral race has become.