Thursday, September 17, 2020

Flippable Senate seats

The Senate seats most likely to flip in November.


Republicans have a slim, three-seat majority in the Senate that they’re trying to hold on to in November. And they are in for a battle to do it: There are 13 chances on this list for Democrats to flip Senate seats and just two for Republicans.

But Republican strategists say they’re seeing evidence that Republican-leaning voters turned off by President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus are starting to come home to the party in the final stretch, and they think it might be enough for some of these vulnerable Republican senators to hang on and deny Democrats the majority.

Democrats’ path to the majority is to net at least four Senate seats or net three and win the White House to get the majority, but that requires going through some Republican-leaning states.

Because so many of the races could go either way — while others are more of a stretch — we divided them in three categories: More likely to flip than not, toss-ups, and could flip under the right conditions.

I’ve nominated three that I think have a chance of flipping from R to D.

More likely to flip than not: Alabama, Colorado and Arizona

Colorado (Republican-held): Sen. Cory Gardner (R) is trying to pull away from Trump in this purple-blue state by talking about an outdoors conservation bill he wrote, rather than how he voted to acquit the president on impeachment. His opponent, former governor John Hickenlooper (D), hasn’t seen an ethics scandal hit his polling in a significant way. A new AARP poll of all likely voters shows Hickenlooper leading 51 percent to Gardner’s 46 percent. Gardner will need Trump to perform better than expected here to keep this seat. Said one Republican strategist: “If the president is really struggling in Colorado, that makes the math difficult for Cory.”

Arizona (Republican-held): Former astronaut and gun-control activist Mark Kelly is one of the Democrats’ strongest candidates of 2020. He has outraised Sen. Martha McSally (R) the entire race and is leading in recent major polls. Republicans are hopeful this could become more of a toss-up race, because Arizona is a Republican-leaning state. It hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president in decades, and Kelly would also be just the second Democratic senator from this state in 25 years. (Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema beat McSally in 2018.) A new CBS/YouGov poll in Arizona finds Kelly leading by seven percentage points.

Toss-ups: North Carolina, Maine, Iowa, Georgia, Montana

Maine (Republican-held): One Democratic strategist predicted the battle for the majority could come down to these next two races. Maine and Iowa are going to be down to the wire, but as the home stretch to the election begins, Republicans say they feel good about where they are in both.

In Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R) is trying to lean on her expertise and history representing the state for more than 20 years to overcome Democratic attacks, led by her opponent, Maine’s House Speaker Sara Gideon (D), that she is no longer independent from Trump. (Maine is not a state Trump is expected to win.) Collins was also a co-author of the small-business loan program when the coronavirus shut down the economy, which Republicans say can help buoy her. A new Quinnipiac University poll that was released after this story published has Gideon leading Collins 54 percent to 42 percent — and Collins more disliked than liked by voters in her state. As another Democratic strategist put it: “It takes a perfect storm to unseat someone like Collins, but that storm is happening.”

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