The 2020 elections are set to flip the script in the battle for the Senate, as Republicans must defend at least 20 seats, teeing up a series of potentially competitive races that could alter the political map.
Republicans have so far expanded their Senate majority going into 2019 to 52 seats. They could pick up one more if Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) emerges victorious in her runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and agriculture secretary.
But Democrats have already put a number of Senate seats in their sights as they look to recapture a majority in the chamber in 2020. Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to win back the Alabama seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D).
Here are five Senate races that are shaping up to be among the most competitive in 2020.
Jones eked out a win in his 2017 special election bid against a Republican candidate shrouded in scandal and controversy. But as he prepares to run for his first full term in 2020, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to hold on in deep-red Alabama.
Alabama is the only solidly Republican state where a Democrat will face reelection in 2020, and while Jones doesn’t yet have a top-tier challenger, the GOP is already eyeing his seat as its best pick-up opportunity in the next election.
What’s more, Republicans are likely to go after Jones on his record in the Senate thus far, such as his vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGOP senators urge Trump to back off Murkowski threat Judd Gregg: A government in free fall The 7 most anticipated Supreme Court decisions MORE.
The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.), hit the Alabama Democrat in a press release last week over his vote to reelect Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Health Care: US showing signs of retreat in battle against COVID-19 | Regeneron begins clinical trials of potential coronavirus antibody treatment | CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents’ stimulus checks Schumer requests briefing with White House coronavirus task force as cases rise Schumer on Trump’s tweet about 75-year-old protester: He ‘should go back to hiding in the bunker’ MORE (D-N.Y.) as minority leader.
Democrats are bullish about their chances of ousting Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRepublicans prepare to punt on next COVID-19 relief bill Trump tweets spark fresh headache for Republicans Trump’s tweet on protester sparks GOP backlash MORE (R) in 2020.
Democrat Janet Mills easily won her bid to succeed retiring Republican Gov. Paul LePage this year, leaving Collins as the last remaining GOP statewide elected official. And with the defeat of Rep. Bruce PoliquinBruce Lee PoliquinHouse Democrats make initial ad buys in battleground states The 5 most vulnerable senators in 2020 Maine Democrat announces he’ll vote for only one article of impeachment against Trump MORE (R-Maine) in Maine’s 2nd District, both of the state’s House members will be Democrats.
What’s more, the state has gone blue in every presidential election since 1988.
Collins incensed liberals last month when she voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, prompting warnings of an aggressive push to boot her from office. Already, one prominent Democrat, former national security adviser Susan Rice, has floated the idea of challenging the four-term senator in 2020.
But Collins has a history of winning outsize reelection victories. In 2008, a bad year for Republicans, she crushed former Rep. Tom Allen (D) by a whopping 23 points. She won reelection once again in 2014 by a 37-point margin.
Republicans have held both of Arizona’s Senate seats for well over two decades. But as evidenced by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s victory in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Kelly holds double-digit lead over McSally in Arizona: poll Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE (R) this month, the state’s hue is becoming more purple.
The 2020 Senate election in Arizona is set to determine who will fill the seat once occupied by the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Bad polling data is piling up for Trump Cindy McCain ‘disappointed’ McGrath used image of John McCain in ad attacking McConnell Report that Bush won’t support Trump reelection ‘completely made up,’ spokesman says MORE (R), a political giant who passed away earlier this year from brain cancer.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Jon Kyl, a former Republican senator, to fill the seat after McCain’s death. But Kyl has said he does not intend to seek election in 2020, setting up the possibility of a highly competitive primary and making the seat a prime target for Democrats.
But Republicans are unlikely to cede the state without an aggressive fight. Kyl is considering leaving the Senate seat ahead of 2020, and speculation has swirled that Ducey could name outgoing Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police No evidence of unauthorized data transfers by top Chinese drone manufacturer: study Senate Democratic campaign arm launches online hub ahead of November MORE (R), who lost her Senate bid to Sinema, as Kyl’s replacement.
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If that happens, it could give McSally a second shot at the Senate seat and give Republicans an experienced candidate with an already high profile.
Colorado has long been considered among the nation’s perennial battleground states. But that reputation appears to be waning, setting up a potentially tough reelection environment for Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior faces legal scrutiny for keeping controversial acting leaders in office | White House faces suit on order lifting endangered species protections | Lawmakers seek investigation of Park Police after clearing of protesters The Hill’s Campaign Report: Republicans go on attack over calls to ‘defund the police’ MORE (R) in 2020.
Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE beat Trump in Colorado by roughly 5 points in 2016. And earlier this month, Democrat Jason CrowJason CrowGun control group rolls out House endorsements Bipartisan House bill seeks to improve pandemic preparedness Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary MORE ousted Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R).
In the race for governor, Democrat Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisState leaders urge protesters to get tested for coronavirus amid fears of new outbreaks The Hill’s Morning Report – Protesters’ defiance met with calls to listen Overnight Health Care: White House shifts focus from coronavirus | House Democrats seek information on coronavirus vaccine contracts | Governors detail frustrations with Trump over COVID-19 supplies MORE notched a comfortable win over Republican Walker Stapleton. Perhaps more notable is that the 2018 midterms gave Democrats control of every statewide office in Colorado, as well as majorities in both the state House and Senate.
All told, that sets the stage for a potentially fierce Senate battle in 2020. Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has proven to be an adept campaigner. But his Senate seat is high on Democrats’ wish list as they seek to flip the last remaining Republican-held statewide office in their favor.
Iowa may have handed Trump a nearly 10-point win in 2016, but the Hawkeye State holds a reputation as a perennial battleground, setting the stage for a fiercely competitive Senate race in 2020 when Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGeorge Conway group hits Ernst in new ad GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police The Hill’s Campaign Report: Republicans go on attack over calls to ‘defund the police’ MORE (R-Iowa) is expected to seek a second term.
Democrats managed to flip two of Iowa’s Republican-held House seats earlier this month, meaning that the state’s congressional delegation will be evenly split between the two parties next year.
Former President Obama also carried the state in his 2008 and 2012 White House bids.
But there’s a silver lining for the GOP. The state’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds won a second term this month and her party held their majorities in the state House and Senate, maintaining the GOP’s trifecta in Des Moines.
Just missing the cut: North Carolina
North Carolina’s political future is in flux. The state has seen a surge in new residents in recent years, particularly in suburban areas and cities, such as Charlotte, that could create a more Democratic-friendly electorate.
At the same time, Democrats chipped away at the GOP’s supermajority in the state General Assembly this month. Still, Democrats didn’t see the same kind of success in U.S. House races in the state in 2018.