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2020 Senate Races: Who Ends up With Control?

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The U.S. Senate has for the last 6 years been in the hands of Republicans, with Cocaine Mitch McConnell at the helm.  The Senate under Trump has confirmed scores of judges, 3 Supreme Court Justices, and has kept Pelosi in check in the House by limiting what bills make it to the floor.  In 2020, there are 35 seats up for election, two more than during a normal cycle because of special elections in Arizona and Georgia.  This year, more “safe” seats are in the hands of Republicans, with 16 returning to the GOP and only 10 in the “keeps” column for Democrats.

There are two seats in the pick-up column, one for Democrats, and one for Republicans.  Republicans will pick up the Senate seat in Alabama, with Tommy Tuberville defeating Doug Jones.  We knew that Jones was going to be a single term guy in Alabama, having won the seat during a drama-filled special election against Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual misconduct.  Tuberville, the former football coach at Auburn is extremely popular in the state and is expected to pick this state up easily.

In Colorado, First Term Republican Cory Gardner looks as if he is going to be shown the door by Democrat John Hickenlooper.  Gardner has struggled to keep a balance between supporting Trump and maintaining support from voters in the light blue state.  Hickenlooper is the former Governor and Mayor of Denver, having been in politics since 2003.  Currently, Gardner trails Hickenlooper by 8 in the polls and has little he can do in a week to catch up with the former Governor.  I put this in the Dem Pick-up column.

In Georgia, the current unknown and potential pickup is in the special election currently being battled out between Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins (Each at about 22 points), and Raphael Warnock, at about 33 points.  While this seat likely ends up in Republicans’ hands eventually, a special election will come in January 2021, when the victor between Loeffler and Collins faces off against Warnock (barring Warnock dropping below Loeffler and Collins in the polls).  It is possible that Democrats could focus efforts greatly on this seat to pick it up in the Run-off, considering the Senate may be headed for a tie.

That leaves us with 6 Toss-up seats, which obviously could leave us with Republicans maintaining the majority with as many as 53 (potentially 54 in January after the run-off in GA) seats, or losing the majority with as few as 47. The Toss-up races are in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, and North Carolina.  If we went straight off of current polling, 3 of the 6 would end up in the Republican column, with the other three going to the Democrats.  That would give us 50 to 49 in favor of Republicans, with the Georgia run-off outstanding.

In Arizona, Former Astronaut Mark Kelly currently leads current Senator Martha McSally in the polls.  While McSally has closed the gap in recent weeks, Kelly still enjoys a roughly 4 point lead over McSally.  Kelly, who also is married to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, has a lot of support from the Dems nationally and has painted himself as a moderate in the purple state.  McSally, a former fighter pilot, has been vocal in her support for Trump, which could end up hurting her in Arizona as the state has shifted left in recent registrations.  While I believe Kelly still pulls this off, if there’s anyone that could pull off an upset in the state, it is McSally.  McSally’s chances rest largely on Trump winning Arizona as well.  McSally doesn’t win without a Trump win in the state. Too close to call.

In Georgia, incumbent Congressman David Perdue faces perennial-millennial candidate Jon Ossoff, who unsuccessfully ran for a Congressional seat in Georgia in 2013.  Perdue has tied his horse to Trump, and I think it serves him well in Georgia to do so. Trump won Georgia by 5 points in 2016 and despite the media’s best efforts, is probably not going to lose this state.  Think of all the iterations of loss we have been told were coming.  Ossoff, Abrahms, Clinton.  Things aren’t shifting by that much, and registration data backs that up: Trump-won counties in Georgia have added nearly 100,000 more voters than Clinton-won counties. Prediction: Perdue wins.

In Iowa, Incumbent Senator Joni Ernst is in a battle for her seat with Theresa Greenfield.  This analysis is pretty easy in my book.  Ernst supports Trump and Trump won Iowa by 9 in 2016.  While Democrats have out-registered Republicans in the state since 2016, their registration activities, have not made up for anywhere near the difference they must make up.  Current polling has Ernst up by 1 point, but I think she ends up holding it by more than 3. Prediction: Ernst wins.

Maine is a tough call.  Incumbent Republican Susan Collins trails Democrat Sarah Gideon in the polls by 4, however, none of those polls were taken after Collins’s refusal to vote for the confirmation of ACB.  Collins has been critical of Trump when she has needed to but remained sane enough to work with the Republicans when she can.  Maine and their proportional distribution of Electoral Votes may lead to an influx of Trump support in the state to carry her to victory.  I still think she falls short.  Prediction:  Gideon wins.

In Minnesota, Democrat Incumbent Tina Smith is up against Republican Jason Lewis.  Lewis in his own right won’t be able to defeat the incumbent in the state, though polling has him down by 1 point.  The potential that exists for Lewis is a Trump victory in the state that carries him.  Recent polling for Trump has him down 3, but that 3 points is smaller than the polling margin that Clinton led by going into 2016 and she only won by 1.5 points.  With Kanye West on the ballot and drawing 3 points of the vote, the potential exists that Trump wins that state but doesn’t carry Lewis to victory.  With more paths leading to Lewis’s loss than victory I think Minnesota’s seat stays blue.  Prediction: Smith wins.

In North Carolina, Thom Tillis has locked horns with Cal Cunningham for the Senate seat there.  Cunningham led in the state until numerous affairs of his were revealed, which probably doesn’t blow over too easily in the Southern state.  Tillis, riding his recent confirmation of ACB, is likely to do well, as current polling shows Tillis trailing by 1.  Trump won the state in 2016, and since then Democrats have lost…. read that again… LOST… 161,000 voters, while Republicans have added 70k voters to their ranks.  Tillis, though down now, will come back for the shocker.  Prediction: Tillis wins.

Ultimately, I think that the GOP holds onto control of the Senate.  Considering they have to only win 3 of the 6 battleground seats to reach 50, and they also look good to win the Georgia run-off, they will likely end up with at least 51 seats, potentially 52 in a McSally shocker.  Trump’s election day performance is key to a lot of these races doing well, and since DOE voting will fall heavily in Trump’s column, it will be interesting to see what happens.  My final prediction count?  Republicans 51- Democrats 49.