The 2020 Election is just two months away and the battleground races are heating up nationwide. President Trump and Joe Biden have tightened up the presidential race with the betting odds neck and neck. There are several key Senate races this cycle as well. For the Democrats to take control of the Senate, they must either flip three net seats to go along with a Biden victory or four net seats with a Trump re-election.
It’s tough to say if the Dems can re-take the Senate majority but they will have all the opportunities to do so. There are several notable republicans up for re-election in blue and trending blue states. However, they will have to overcome the defeat by Doug Jones who is expected to easily lose his bid for a full six year term to former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville.
There are several cases this cycle where the Senate races are expected to be much closer than the presidential outcome. The most obvious example is in Montana. President Trump won the state by 20 points and incumbent Senator John Tester (D) narrowly won re-election in the 2018 midterms. This cycle, the incumbent Senator Steve Daines (R) faces off against the incumbent Governor Steve Bullock (D). Daines is the favorite but with Bullock’s popularity, he could pull off the upset.
Whichever party takes control of the Senate in January will come down to the Presidential results. If Trump is able to win again, it’s likely he carries many weak GOP incumbents over the top. But if Biden pulls off a victory, it’s likely the control could come down to the outcomes in only one or two races with a thin majority for either party. Anyways, let’s get into the five most competitive Senate races in 2020.
5. Iowa- Ernst (R) vs. Greenfield (D)
Ernst is the incumbent junior senator from Iowa. She won in 2014 by over 8 points but polls currently have the race as a near tie. Greenfield is challenging despite never having held any political office. Iowa is a state that has trended heavily republican since President Obama first won it in 2008 (nearly 20 points). President Trump won the state by nearly 10 points in 2016 and the GOP did strongly there when they held onto the Governor seat in the midterms. Ernst is at some risk but with Trump on the ballot in a state he’s favored to win, he should help her get another term.
PREDICTION: Ernst wins by 4-5 points
4. Colorado- Gardner (R) vs. Hickenlooper (D)
Former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper was able to hold off his progressive opponent in the Democratic primary and is poised to face one-term incumbent Cory Gardner. Gardner is in a difficult situation as a Republican in Colorado. He is the only Republican to win statewide office there since George W. Bush won the state in 2004. Colorado is all but considered a blue state today and in a presidential year, it could not get more difficult for Gardner to win this senate race. There has been no major polling yet for the race but Hickenlooper is expected to be the favorite. He was a popular two-term governor with tons of name recognition. Gardner will probably get more votes than Trump does in CO but, it’s unlikely to be enough for a second term.
PREDICTION: Hickenlooper wins by 4 points
3. Michigan- Peters (D) vs. James (R)
The race in Michigan has tightened quickly in the past weeks. An August poll from Trafalgar — the only pollster that correctly predicted President Trump to sweep the Rust Belt in 2016 — has James leading by a point. Peters is still the incumbent but has struggled historically with name recognition. In 2019, 36% of his constituents did not know who he was. James has some name recognition after his Senate run in 2018. Many gave him no chance against a longstanding incumbent in a blue wave year but he ended up losing the race by only 6 points. The Republican challenger has also come out more supportive of the President this cycle compared to his previous run. If Trump is able to pull off another victory in Michigan, he could carry the former combat veteran over the top.
PREDICTION: James wins by under 1 point
2. North Carolina- Tillis (R) vs. Cunningham (D)
The second most competitive Senate race will come in the Tar Heel State. Incumbent Thom Tillis has recovered but is still trailing in polls to Cal Cunningham. Cunningham is running as an outsider who is not taking any money from super-PACs and crediting his military experience. Tillis is the former Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives and is seeking to hold onto a second term. His popularity has slipped in recent years because of disagreements with the Trump administration on several issues including trade and immigration. Tillis supports amnesty for DACA recipients and was critical of efforts to replace NAFTA. The race could go either way and it’s yet another case of how well will Donald Trump perform in that state. If the President wins North Carolina once again by 3-4 points it’s likely he helps hold the Senate seat.
PREDICTION: Tillis wins by 1 point
1. Maine- Collins (R) vs. Gideon (D)
Susan Collins is facing her toughest re-election to date. Sara Gideon is the Speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives and is well funded. She has raised nearly $24M for this race and has seen her lead grow in the polls. Collins was once a very popular senator who won her previous senate races with ease because of her independent appeal. But she has lost support because of her closeness to President Trump on key votes such as approving the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. However, she has refused to endorse either presidential candidate and is campaigning on her own. This might come around in her favor to get back the independent support she needs to win a fifth term.
PREDICTION: Collins wins by 1-2 points