By Lisa Hagen - 02-11-16 06:00 AM EST
The Race for the Senate is heating up, with Democrats looking to net five seats and win back a majority.
Republicans are defending seats in six states won by President Obama, creating a strong playing field for Democrats.
But in a presidential year, the top of the ticket could decide who wins the majority.
Here’s a rundown of what’s happening in some of the most competitive races:
Illinois Democratic primary
Rep. Tammy Duckworth is the prohibitive favorite for the nomination and has enjoyed a number of high-profile endorsements, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin. In the final fundraising quarter of 2015, she outraised her primary rivals, as well as incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R).
But not everyone has flocked to her candidacy, and her Democratic rival, former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp, has been picking up some steam, landing support from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is an influential player in Illinois politics, and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.).
Illinois state Sen. Napoleon Harris is also running for the Democratic nomination. The primary is on March 15.
Ohio Democratic primary
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is the Democratic establishment favorite to take on GOP Sen. Rob Portman. But Strickland’s March 15 primary opponent, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, refuses to back down and is pushing him to defend his gun record and past A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association.
Still, Strickland has nabbed major endorsements, including from the Ohio Democratic Party and DSCC, and outpaced his Democratic rival in 2015 fundraising. Sittenfeld has a super-PAC, New Leadership of Ohio, that raised $735,000, but an Associated Press report found that half of the contributions were from the city councilman’s father and the deputy campaign manager’s family.
Strickland is also taking fire from Portman, who has $12 million in the bank.
Sen. John McCain escaped the prospects of a bruising Republican primary after Reps. Matt Salmon and David Schweikert opted against challenging the five-term senator. But McCain still faces a primary challenge from state Sen. Kelli Ward and will be forced to spend some of his money leading up to the Aug. 30 primary election.
While the seat favors the GOP, a recent Behavior Research Center poll found McCain and likely Democratic nominee Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in a statistical dead heat.
Still, Kirkpatrick raised $1.8 million in 2015 and has $856,000 on hand, while McCain ended the year with $5.1 million in his campaign coffers.
New Hampshire general
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) will likely challenge Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) in what is expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive Senate races. Both have raised $2 million for their bids, though Ayotte has a cash advantage. Early 2016 polling shows Ayotte ahead.
National security has become a premier issue in the race as Ayotte hits Hassan over the release of Guantanamo Bay detainees and support for the Iran nuclear deal. Ayotte’s campaign has called out Hassan for remaining silent on foreign policy issues.
But Hassan was the only Democratic governor to support halting Syrian refugees from resettling in the United States, creating party backlash
Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is seeking a rematch against incumbent GOP Sen. Ron Johnson. The two have nearly the same amount in the bank despite Feingold’s fundraising edge, and a recent survey found that the former senator maintains a double-digit lead over Johnson.
Veterans’ issues have recently taken center stage in the race after outside groups launched attack ads accusing both of neglecting a scandal over excessive painkiller prescriptions at the state’s Tomah VA facility.
Johnson and Feingold also came under fire for their Senate attendance. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, missed 60 percent of committee hearings between 2011 and 2014. While serving in the Senate, Feingold missed 50 percent of Foreign Relations Committee hearings from 2005 to 2010.
Florida Republican primary
Republicans are trying to hold on to the seat Sen. Marco Rubio vacated to pursue a presidential run. A crowded field has shaped up, and all three leading candidates have super-PACs, which are expected to play an outsize role.
Rep. Ron DeSantis, who launched his bid in May, is backed by the conservative Club for Growth. Both his campaign and super-PAC have strong fundraising numbers.
Lt. Gov. Carlos López -Cantera, who entered the race in July, posted lower numbers. But his aligned super-PAC, which has been raising money since April, has kept pace with the group supporting DeSantis.
Rep. David Jolly, who also jumped in July, has raised more than López -Cantera, but his super-PAC is severely less funded than his two primary rivals.
In mid-January, Jolly introduced a bill that would ban lawmakers from personally soliciting campaign donations so they can spend more time on their legislative duties. He said he plans to abide by his legislation during his Senate bid and shift those priorities to his staff.
One businessman is also running, and another may get into the race.
The primary is Aug. 30.
Florida Democratic primary
The Democratic establishment has rallied around Rep. Patrick Murphy, a former Republican, and tried to push out liberal firebrand Rep. Alan Grayson to avoid a bruising primary.
Republicans have capitalized on Grayson’s candidacy, hoping he moves Murphy’s political positions to the left and hurts Democrats’ chances in November.
But Grayson’s personal life has been a distraction. He met with an ethics investigator in October over accusations about his hedge funds, and three top advisers departed from his campaign.
Despite all the buzz surrounding Grayson, he recently nabbed a high-profile endorsement from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of former Sen. Bobby Kennedy (D-N.Y.). The primary is Aug. 30.
Pennsylvania Democratic primary
Democrat Katie McGinty, former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, and former Rep. Joe Sestak are in a competitive race.
Sestak, who riled party leaders by running and successfully winning against then-Sen. Arlen Specter (D), jumped into the race early. But the party sought an alternative and recruited McGinty, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2014.
While McGinty outraised her Democratic rivals in the final fundraising quarter of 2015, her poll numbers still lag behind Sestak, who lost to incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R) in 2010.
A third candidate trails both.
The winner of the Democratic primary, which will be held on April 26, will face an uphill battle in the general election. Toomey has a substantial fundraising advantage, and polls show him defeating all of the Democratic candidates in head-to-head match-ups.
Indiana Republican primary
Republicans scrambled to jump into the race for retiring Sen. Dan Coats’s safe GOP seat.
The Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund threw their support behind Rep. Marlin Stutzman as he competes for the nomination against Rep. Todd Young. On Monday, Eric Holcomb, a former state GOP chairman, dropped out of the race after raising little money.
Even with outside groups behind Stutzman, Young has continued to outpace him. And Holcomb’s departure from the race could be a boon for Young as he seeks to consolidate GOP establishment support.
Democrats are challenging whether Young qualified for the May 3 ballot.
The only Democrat running is former Rep. Baron Hill.
Rep. Joe Heck (R) will likely square off against Catherine Cortez Masto (D) for retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D) seat.
Reid endorsed Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, and he and his political machine will likely play a significant role as Democrats seek to hold on to his seat and regain control of the upper chamber.
Both candidates will need to court Hispanic voters, who could play an integral role. If elected, Cortez Masto would be the first Hispanic in the U.S. Senate.