How Does the 2020 Election Impact Control of the Senate?

Every two years within the United States, a time-honored tradition, which has been going on uninterrupted since 1788, perpetuates itself. That tradition consists of the many United States elections, to either the House, Senate, or presidency. Even in these chaotic times of a pandemic, social turmoil, and economic uncertainty, we will still go on with our democratic system of elections. In 2020, the presidency is up for grabs, and the nation will have to decide if they want four more years of Donald Trump and his agenda, or if they want to choose a different path and elect Joe Biden as president. However, the White House is not the only office Americans will vote on in November; control of the US Senate will be decided in these elections.

There are 33 Senate seats up for regularly-scheduled elections, as well as two special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Currently, the Republican Party holds 23 of the seats, and has 20 senators running for reelection. The Democrats hold twelve of the seats, and eleven are running for re-election. Although at first glance it may appear that the Republican party holds the advantage in maintaining Senate control due to their larger seat advantage; this claim is not exactly true if we delve deeper into the map. The Cook Political Report gives both parties ten safe seats to start with, meaning that Republicans are most likely guaranteed 40 seats, and Democrats are most likely guaranteed 45 seats. While considering the races believed to lean toward each party, the Republicans will hold Alaska, the Georgia special election, Kansas, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Texas.The Republican party is also expected to defeat Democrat Senator Doug Jones in Alabama. On the Democrat side, they are expected to hold Michigan while defeating incumbent Republicans in Arizona and Colorado.

With safe seats and likely seats taken into account, Democrats have a small advantage, overcoming Republicans 48 seats to 47 seats. However, Democrats and Republicans are hoping to do well in races currently favoring the opposing party to tilt the balance of power in the Senate to their side. Although Republicans are largely expected to pick up this seat, Doug Jones is running a strong and determined campaign for re-election in a state which voted for Donald Trump by 62 percent. Gary Peters in Michigan is the other Democratic senator running for re-election in a Trump state, albeit a narrow one. In Michigan, Peters is running against a rising star in the GOP, businessman and veteran John James, who ran a close race against Michigan’s other senator, Debbie Stabenow, in 2018. In the Centennial State of Colorado, Senator Cory Gardner, the sole remaining statewide Republican, is underwater in a tough fight against the popular former governor, John Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper is boosted by the unpopularity of Donald Trump and the general Democrat tilt within the state. In Arizona, former astronaut Mark Kelly is leading in a strong fight against incumbent Senator Martha McSally, who lost election to the other Senate seat in 2018. The Georgia Special Election is expected to be close, with an intraparty battle with Congressman Doug Collins attempting to take down incumbent Senator, and fellow Republican, Kelly Loeffler. Democratic candidates Matt Lieberman and Raphael Warnock are also competing in this special election.

The Democratic Party also has several long-shot hopes for 2020, located in traditionally strong Republican states. In the Lone Star State of Texas, Democrats are hoping to strike lightning in a bottle for a second time and make Texas competitive. However, incumbent Senator John Cornyn leads Democrat challenger M.J. Hegar in current polling and it appears unlikely to flip. In Kentucky, Democrats are hoping that the unpopularity of Senate leader Mitch McConnell can overcome the partisan lean of the state and McGrath’s prolific fundraising can bring home a favorable result. Jaime Harrison, a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, is hoping to unseat incumbent Lindsey Graham, and has put up a strong fight. These three races currently favor Republicans in polling, although they may narrow down and prove to be wildcard races in November. Over in Kansas, Democratic hopes are pinned on controversial politician Kris Kobach emerging victorious in the Republican primary. Kobach is not very well-approved in Kansas, and polling shows a poor performance in the general election.

However, control of the Senate is really up to the five key races which have all been projected as toss-ups. Four of these races pit vulnerable Republican incumbents running for re-election in states that voted for Donald Trump against Democratic challengers. The other key race is in the largely Democratic state of Maine, where four-term incumbent Republican Senator Susan Collins is in one of the toughest fights of her career against Sara Gideon, the Speaker of the House in Maine. In Iowa, a state that voted handily for Donald Trump, incumbent Senator Joni Ernst is running against political newcomer Theresa Greenfield, who has put up a fight in recent polls. The regularly scheduled Senate election in Georgia pits incumbent David Perdue against a young rising star, Jon Ossoff. Over in North Carolina, incumbent Thom Tillis is seeking re-election against State Senator Cal Cunningham in a seat that has not re-elected a US senator since Jesse Helms in 1996. Montana was originally expected to re-elect incumbent Steve Daines, but the race has become more dynamic following the entrance of popular Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

With the general competitiveness of the overall Senate map and the volatility of the current political climate, the 2020 elections will be crucial in deciding the balance of power within the United States Senate. These elections will decide if we get two more years of Republican control in the Senate, or if the Democratic Party will seize control and hand the party both houses of Congress. Remember that your vote will help impact the results and make a difference for whatever you choose. So in the three months leading up to election day, stay informed, stay up to date, and go vote in November!



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