Five key Senate races too close to call, says new polling

Five key Senate races are too close to call, according to new Marist-NBC News surveys released Sunday.

In North Carolina, Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, and Republican Thom Tillis are tied at 43 percent. In Arkansas, Rep. Tom Cotton, a Republican, is up by 2 over Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat. Republican Rep. Cory Gardner leads Sen. Mark Udall by 1 in Colorado, and Republican Joni Ernst tops Rep. Bruce Braley, a Democrat, by 3 in Iowa.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win control of the Senate, and one of their biggest problems could involve Kansas. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, trails Independent Greg Orman by 1.

The polls of likely voters illustrated how hard it will be to predict the outcomes of any of these contest. In Colorado, Gardner is up by 12 in early voting. But Udall is backed by 48 percent of likely voters who have not yet voted, compared with 41 percent for Gardner.

And, a Marist analysis found, “The race has tightened among independent voters likely to cast a ballot. While Udall was up by 15 points among these voters in September, only 3 points separate Udall, 44 percent, and Gardner, 41 percent, now.”

“To seal up the potential crack in the Democratic firewall for the U.S. Senate, Udall needs a big ground game,” said Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in a statement.

Iowa offers a different spin.

“The campaigns have taken a toll on both senate candidates who have unusually high negatives for non-incumbents,” Miringoff said.

Braley has a five point edge over Ernst in early voting. But, Marist found, “Ernst offsets Braley’s lead with greater support among voters still expected to cast a ballot, 50 percent to 43 percent.”