The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call on Tuesday ranked Missouri Democrat Jason Kander as the top candidate likely to change control of the U.S. Senate.
Kander, 35, is looking to upset incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt, a 66-year-old Republican who has served nearly two decades in Congress. The race is closer than expected, with internal polling reportedly showing Kander with a slight edge over Blunt.
“Operatives from both parties say the young secretary of state likely holds a small lead over the longtime politician Blunt, a remarkable development for a race that most analysts considered a second-tier contest when the summer began,” the Roll Call report said.
Roll Call said the tight race is “mostly thanks to the strength of Kander, the rare post-Obama Democrat whose military background and familiarity with guns has appeal to culturally conservative voters.”
Many consider a recent Kander ad, showing him assembling an AR-15 blindfolded while calling for background checks, “the best TV ad of the election cycle,” the newspaper noted.
Kander served in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer in the Army National Guard.
His campaign has tried to cast Blunt, a longtime lawmaker, as an out-of-touch Washington insider.
“Even Republicans admit it’s hard to build a strong case against (Kander), pointing to ads that do little more than call him an ally of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama,” according to Roll Call. “That kind of generic argument might not go far enough with voters.”
Other candidates who made Roll Call’s top-ten list include Democrat Deborah Ross of North Carolina, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Sen. Richard M. Burr, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is running againstRepublican Sen. Mark S. Kirk and Republican Rep. Joe Heck of Nevada, who is battling Democratic nominee Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s seat.