WASHINGTON — Democrats are counting on their New England friends to help them pick up Republican-held Senate seats on Nov. 6 and construct a barrier against losses in Nebraska and elsewhere that could erase their majority.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has stopped spending money in Maine, where former Gov. Angus King, an independent, leads in the polls and is seen as likely to side with Democrats if he wins. In Massachusetts, Republican Sen. Scott Brown is suddenly considered the underdog against Elizabeth Warren as the state is poised to easily back President Barack Obama over former Gov. Mitt Romney.
"She's closing the argument by linking Brown with national Republicans, who are about as popular around here as the New York Yankees," said Mike Shea, a Democratic strategist in Boston.
Republican hopes of swiping the seat in Connecticut are fading. Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy has steadied his campaign against former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, who spent $50 million on an unsuccessful bid in 2010 and $42.6 million and counting this year. McMahon's less-than-stellar debate performances and the state's Democratic tilt have undercut the GOP candidate's prospects.
"If New England could tip the Senate's balance to the Republicans, it would be fairly earth-shattering," said Rob Gray, a veteran GOP consultant in Massachusetts. "The real question is whether these races will be close-but-no-cigar for Republicans."
In Senate math, the loss of two seats in New England complicates the GOP calculation for majority control. Republicans would have to gain a net of six seats while holding suddenly uncertain Indiana, or a net of five seats if Romney wins the presidency. Democrats currently have the edge 53-47, including two independents who caucus with the party.
On the Election Day ballot are 23 Democratic seats and 10 Republican.