Election Day is around the corner, and both parties are anticipating a nail-biting finish in the race for control of the Senate.
Momentum is solidly behind the GOP, but it must still net six seats to put Democrats in the Senate minority.
We know that races in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Georgia, Kentucky and Kansas will decide who the outcome.
But there are a number of questions that can’t be answered until the results roll in.
Will the Democratic ground game deliver?
Democrats say they have a secret weapon in their turnout operation.
They argue the ground game could save them in places like Alaska and Iowa, where polls suggest their candidates could be in trouble. Fewer people vote in midterm elections compared to presidential years — so every canvasser can make a difference.
Democrats will need to be at the top of their ground game to pull out a victory. They had one good sign this week that their strategy may be working: numbers compiled by the New York Times indicates that people who voted early this year, but not in 2010, are likely to swing toward Democratic candidates.
Will last-minute surrogates do any good?
Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAmerica tensions with Russia won’t end after Putin’s gone Hannity attacks NY Times after report says he advises Trump Clinton to science demonstrators: 'March on!' MORE was back in Iowa this past week to stump for Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce BraleyTen years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer Criminal sentencing bill tests McConnell-Grassley relationship MORE (D-Iowa), who is in a close race with Republican Joni Ernst.
Clinton’s husband is also on the road this weekend, and many other top surrogates in both parties are making appearances. On the Republican side, many possible 2016 presidential candidates have also hit the trail — including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sens. Ted CruzTed CruzWarren builds her brand with 2020 down the road Trump wall faces skepticism on border No Congress members along Mexico border support funding Trump's wall MORE (Texas) and Rand PaulRand PaulWe can put America first by preventing public health disasters Conservative activists want action from Trump McConnell: 'Big challenge' to pass ObamaCare repeal in Senate MORE (Ky.).
Can any of the big names pull out a victory for an underdog in their party? And will they get credit?
Did the number-crunchers get it right?
The last year has seen the emergence of several new models for aggregating polls and predicting who will hold the Senate majority next year.
Their predictions have made headlines, with campaigns occasionally pushing back against predictions that don’t go their way.
But the people behind the models have disagreed at times — Five Thirty Eight’s Nate Silver and Princeton’s Sam Wang have argued over the minutiae of their models, which have offered differing predictions — and on election night, their reputations may hang in the balance. And those who prove themselves to be smart predictors of Tuesday’s results will likely be back in 2016, offering state-by-state guesses for the presidential election.
Will the super PAC to end super PACs get its money worth?
With outside money flowing into big races at a record clip, Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday PAC has been one of this cycle’s curiosities. Its stated aim: To elect candidates who will limit big money in politics by spending big money on politics.
Much of its funding came from a crowd-funding campaign, and it has backed a handful of candidates from both parties.
While the group has been successful in drawing attention to its unconventional mission and to some of its races, Tuesday will give political observers the first hint of whether the group's pro-reform message has legs. Mayday’s candidates include independent Greg Orman in Kansas and Democrat Rick Weiland in South Dakota, both of whom are in tight races — but, win or lose, the group has already pledged to compete in 2016.
Did oppo make a difference?
This election cycle has been marked by a boomlet of opposition research — or oppo, in campaign parlance.
In particular, national groups and the media have been notably aggressive in digging into the backgrounds of candidates to find something, anything they can use in attack ads.
Perhaps the biggest research coup of the year was when the National Republican Senatorial Committee leaked evidence that Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) had plagiarized his masters thesis. Walsh dropped out of the race soon after.
But not all research dumps have had such drastic effects — a leaked strategy memo from Michelle Nunn’s campaign in Georgia has largely faded from view. So it remains to be seen whether some of the other news-making research will have any effect on Tuesday’s outcome.
Will the midterms actually end on Election Day?
Two important Senate races — in Louisiana and Georgia — look like they could be headed for runoffs if no candidate crosses a fifty percent vote threshold Tuesday night. That means it’s possible that the Senate majority could shift after congress is sworn in: Georgia would hold its runoff on January 6.
Thit story was updated at 9:34 a.m.