OP-ED: Can We Flip the US Senate in 2020?WashCo Dems op-ed article

By John McDonald, WashCo Dems Budget Chair

Much of the voter attention has been on the 2020 Presidential race, which now appears to be a contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the two presumptive nominees from the major parties.  While this race is incredibly important, we must not forget other races that will also be decided in November.

It is arguable who has done more damage to America and our democracy during the last 3 years – Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell.  If Democrats can gain control of the U.S. Senate, then much of the Trump damage can be reversed.

The United States Senate is currently split with 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.  If Biden wins the presidency, then we need to pick up 3 seats to control the Senate.  This would provide a 50 – 50 split, with the Democratic Vice President able to cast a tie-breaking vote.  If, God forbid, Trump should be re-elected, then the Democrats need to pick up 4 seats in order to control the Senate 51 to 49.

So how do we get control of the Senate?  There are currently 12 Democrats and 23 Republicans up for election in 2020.  Most commentators view 12 of the Republican and 7 of the Democrat held seats as “safe” for the incumbent party.  So that leaves 5 Democrat-held seats and 11 Republican-held seats as potentially competitive in 2020.

If you have the ability to support the Democratic candidate in any of these contested races that may help tip the scales. Below is a summary of all the races that may be the key to determining control of the Senate.


Likely to Flip

The following 5 races are ones that are most likely to result in a change in the party holding the seat.


Democrat Doug Jones is running for re-election.  270towin.com rates this race as leaning Republican.  Doug was elected in a special election two years ago when Jeff Sessions moved over to the White House.  Doug’s opponent then was an accused child molester (Republicans can field some God-awful candidates…) and Doug won.  This time around he will be facing either Jeff Sessions or Tommy Tuberville who will face each other in a Republican primary runoff election, originally scheduled for March 31st.  That election has been postponed until July.  Doug could use our help.  You can donate to Doug through ActBlue.  If we lose this race, it means we have to pick up another seat somewhere.


Republican Susan Collins has struggled recently and now has significant negative polling in Maine.  270towin.com rates this race as a tossup.  Her votes to approve Kavanaugh and to acquit Trump have not helped her polling.  The Democrats have not yet held their primary (early June), but the presumptive Democrat candidate is Sara Gideon, the Maine House Speaker.  In recent polling, Gideon had 47%, Collins 43% and 10% undecided.  Sara could use our help.  You can donate to Sara through ActBlue.


Incumbent Republican Martha McSally trails her Democrat challenger Mark Kelly (husband of Gabby Giffords) by 5 points at 47% to 42% with 12% undecided.  270towin.com rates this race as a tossup.  McSally has a fairly large negative polling rating on her job performance at 37% approving and 46% disapproving.  McSally was appointed to fill the Senate seat of John McCain, so she has limited time as the incumbent.  If the Hispanic vote turns out, Mark stands a pretty good chance of unseating her.  Mark could use our help.  You can donate to Mark through ActBlue.


Incumbent Republican Cory Gardner is arguably the most vulnerable Republican seeking reelection this fall.  270towin.com rates this race as a tossup.  The Democrats will have their primary June 30th to pick the candidate to contest him.  The presumptive Democrat nominee is John Hickenlooper, who was governor of Colorado for 8 years and left office January 1, 2019, so we know that he is electable in Colorado.  In polling, Hickenlooper leads 51% to 38% over Gardner.  John could use our help.  You can donate to John through ActBlue.

North Carolina

Incumbent Republican Thom Tillis is facing Democrat challenger Cal Cunningham.  270towin.com rates this race as a tossup.  When Tillis won in 2014, he won by only 1.5% or 46,000 votes.  Tillis is a full-on Trump backer.  Cal could use our help.  You can donate to Cal through ActBlue.


Needing Support

The following races are not rated as “tossups” by 270towin.com, but are races that the Democrat challenger has a reasonable chance of unseating the Republican incumbent. I believe that we need to support Democrat candidates in these races as well as the 5 races above, because the margin for success or failure with just those 5 races in play is too close for comfort.


A number of Democrats have filed to challenge incumbent Republican Steve Daines.  The leading Democrat and presumptive candidate is Governor Steve Bullock (he is also a former presidential candidate).  The Democrats will have their primary on June 2nd.  Bullock is popular in Montana and has been elected a couple of times in Montana statewide races.  Polling shows the race a tie at 47% to 47%.  Steve could use our help.  You can donate to Steve through ActBlue.  270towin.com rates this race as leaning Republican.


Incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell is running.  His presumptive Democrat challenger is Amy McGrath, a former Marine combat pilot.  The primary is May 19th, so until then Amy is only the presumptive Democrat challenger.  She narrowly lost the 2018 U.S. House campaign by a few percentage points.  Polls show her as very close to even with McConnell.  I think that if she can get significant dollar support she has a chance, particularly if McConnell’s handling of Senate business over the next several months is viewed negatively by the electorate.  McConnell’s current Approval/Disapproval ratio is significantly negative.  Plus, it would feel good to stick it to McConnell by supporting Amy.  You can donate to Amy through ActBlue.

Georgia – Two Senate seats are up for grabs, as Republican Johnny Isakson resigned at the end of 2019.  Kelly Loeffler, a Republican mega-donor, was appointed to fill his seat.  She faces a strong Republican challenge in the primary on May 19th from Doug Collins, currently a U.S. House member.  There is significant Republican opposition to Doug Collins.  Regardless of who the Republicans end up choosing, this race could be one that will end up as a contest.  The Democrats will have their primary in early June and the challenger will become clear.  The other race features Republican David Perdue, who is unlikely to face any real challenges.


Races to Watch

Several other races may become competitive, depending on how the next several months play out.


Republican Joni Ernst is almost as unpopular as Mitch McConnell.


Republican Dan Sullivan faces an Independent in Al Gross (endorsed by the Alaska Democrats).  Pebble Mine could be the deciding factor in this race, as Al Gross is opposed to the mine, and Dan Sullivan has not directly objected to the proposed mine.  There is significant opposition to the mine in the Alaska fishing and indigenous communities, as well as by environmental groups the world over.


I hope this brief synopsis helps you better understand the races that are in play, and provides some incentive for you to guide your volunteer, and/or financial efforts on national races.


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