Despite the 2020 General Election being over 16 months away, the democratic race for president is in full force following two debates last week. While the Presidential Election saps up most of the attention, down ticket races are just as important. The Senate will be the key for Democrats if they can find the right candidate and beat President Trump. If they can not capture a majority there, they will be in a deadlock on all major legislation, budget proposals, and judicial
nominations with “Cocaine Mitch” McConnell at the helm.
At first glance, the Democrats face an uphill battle to flip at least 3 Republican seats. They’ll also have to hold on to Alabama in order to even capture a simple senate majority. Despite polls favoring several democratic candidates in last year’s mid-terms, the GOP was still able to flip four seats with a net gain of two. So far, 2020 is shaping up to be a similar election in which the Democrats will be relying on turn-out. If the Democrats do manage to capture a majority in the senate, it will be the first time they have done so since 2014.
Here are five senators who will be facing tough re-election campaigns in 2020.
Doug Jones (D), Alabama
Despite being a Democrat running in deep red Alabama, Doug Jones was able to pull enough swing and moderately conservative voters away from Roy Moore to win the Alabama Special Election in December 2017. Moore was in the midst of sexual assault allegations from nearly 40 years ago, in which multiple women accused him of molesting them in their teen years. This was said to have occurred when Moore was over the age of 30. Following the allegations, Moore lost support across party lines and his campaign ultimately collapsed.
Moore was ultimately a dream come true for the DNC. He first won a primary run-off that pitted four candidates against each-other. Enough votes were divided between incumbent Luther Strange and Mo Brooks that ultimately allowed Moore to squeeze out a narrow edge over Brooks, who had the backing of Ann Coulter, Mark Levin and others. Since this was at the height of Steve Bannon’s anti-GOPe insurgency, those looking for an anti establishment candidate reluctantly gravitated towards Moore. However, enthusiasm was low for Moore in the general and turn-out was even lower.
In short, Moore was unpopular even before the allegations. Yet despite all this, Moore has still declared himself a candidate in the primary to defeat Jones. Thankfully for America, Moore has no chance and the Alabama senate race can get back to normal. For that reason, the chances of Doug Jones being elected to a full term are highly unlikely.
Cory Gardner (R), Colarado
Since 2006, Gardner is the only Republican to win statewide office in Colorado. He ran a strong campaign in 2014, supporting decriminalization of marijuana and taking a fiscally conservative but socially moderate approach that had widespread appeal. That said, Colorado is a state that has been trending farther left for years and is beginning to resemble a safe blue domain. Gardner could have some luck on his side, however, as the Democrats currently have no clear candidate. If he runs against someone with a low name recognition, you could see Gardner find a way to hold on to his seat.
A name to watch in this race is Colorado’s former governor John Hickenlooper. While Hickenlooper is currently running for president, he could easily drop out in time to run for the senate seat. After all, most presidential candidates are out for book deals, future appointments and cable news contributor positions, so why not?
Gardner’s approval rating as of April was 35% according to Morning Consult. On the other hand, his disapproval was identical. A possible takeaway is that a large chunk of voters are simply indifferent. Whatever the case may be, Gardner’s re-election bid will hinge on the popularity of President Trump. The president could help his support if supporters are extra motivated to vote in a presidential election or an anchor in a deep blue state like Colorado. We’ll have to wait and see, but as of right now, this race is a true toss-up.
Gary Peters (D), Michigan
This race has moved into third on my list after John James announced that he would be taking another run at the seat. James did extremely well challenging a very popular, three-term incumbent in Debbie Stabenow. Though a defeat by over 6 points may seem rather abysmal, the loss certainly outperformed pre-election polling. The margin was also lower than Stabenow’s previous re-election campaigns, where she won by over 15 points.
At the time, James was not very well known. His star has since risen, however, so having another shot in a presidential year could push him across the finish line. Another boost will come from the fact that Michigan’s other Senator, Gary Peters, is the least known senator in the country. 43% of Michigan voters stated they had never heard of him despite being elected in 2014. This will be an interesting race to watch, that’s for sure.
Susan Collins (R), Maine
A RINO from New England? Who would’ve thought. Susan Collins is the GOP’s dream come true and worst nightmare rolled in one. She proved to
be the key vote in the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh last fall after giving a speech on the senate floor in which she declared she would support his confirmation.
But Collins is exactly the kind of Republican you get out of state’s like Maine, someone who is socially moderate but fiscally conservative. Despite seeing a popularity drop since her vote to confirm Kavanaugh, I think it’s unlikely she gets voted out unless there’s a strong candidate that can pull away moderate voters. Name recognition matters in politics, especially senate races.
Martha McSally (R), Arizona
McSally is coming off of a hard fought 2018 campaign where she narrowly lost to Krysten Sinema. Luckily for McSally, she was picked to fill the late John McCain’s seat until 2020 anyways. Outside of it being a democratic wave year, it’s likely McSally would have won the election. Her approval-disapproval rating is at an even 35-35% but she is expected to face a strong challenge from astronaut Mark
Kelly. He is also the husband of former Arizona Rep Gabby Giffords.
Giffords has been a vocal supporter of gun control after she survived an assassination attempt in January 2011. Arizona is trending like Texas towards the left due to the mass flow of immigration across the border. That said, Trump could still carry McSally over the top. Sinema has thrown several bones to Republicans which shows just how contested the state is. If that continues, a balance of each parties in the senate is likely what Arizona will go for.