In the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, there are now at least eight critical contests in which polling shows essentially a dead heat, encouraging Republicans' hopes that they may yet snag the chamber, which very recently seemed beyond their reach.
Some of the GOP boost is coming from the top of the ticket in the form of Mitt Romney, whose recent surge in the polls seems to be helping Republican candidates across the country.
Democrats still have an edge in their effort to keep control of the Senate, and they may have been helped Tuesday when Republican candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana suggested that pregnancies resulting from rape are God's will, possibly damaging his chances to succeed Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R).
But both parties agree that many of the most important races have become more competitive in recent days, and their outcomes harder to predict.
Senate contests in the presidential battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Virginia, where Democrats had leads in polls a few weeks ago, are now essentially even and could be especially influenced if Romney performs well in those states. Polls show Democratic incumbents in Ohio and Florida still ahead, but those races have tightened as Romney has gained ground in the states. And the Senate races in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, long thought to be safe wins for Democrats, have become real contests.
Unfortunately, control of the Senate will probably come down to 3 races: GOP Massachusetts incumbent Scott Brown's race against Elizabeth Warren, Missouri's Todd Akin against Dem incumbent Claire McCaskill, and Indiana's Mourdock against Democrat Joe Donnelly. Mourdock and Akin have shot themselves in the foot repeatedly, although both remain close. Brown is bucking a blue tide in MA, but may yet pull out a victory.
The point being, all the good work done in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut to get underdog GOP challengers competitive may go for naught - largely through self inflicted wounds. The best opportunity for a GOP takeover in years is still an uphill fight, but some surprises may yet give Republicans the upper chamber.