With less than a week until Election Day, here is a final look at the most crucial elections happening in the Senate. This term, Democrats are only defending 12 seats while Republicans are defending 23. As Republicans currently hold a three-seat majority, Democrats will need a four-seat gain or a three-seat gain if the party also wins the Presidency.
Just like the previous general election, the 2020 campaign trail has been as divisive as ever, as the campaigns of opposing candidates could not be more different. Democratic candidates have committed to deliver more support during the pandemic, move towards public health insurance options, and remove the influence of wealthy donors. On the other side of the aisle, Republican candidates have remained steadfast in their support of President Donald Trump, rolling out platforms that have largely in line with his personal and political goals.
Below are the most important Senate races to follow, many of them with the potential of flipping.
Incumbent Democrat Doug Jones will be up against Republican Tommy Tuberville, a former college football head coach entering his first bid into politics. Consensus polls largely favour Tuberville to win the election.
In the deep-red state of Alabama, the election of Doug Jones in 2017 was a welcome surprise to Democrats, as the party was represented in the Senate for the first time since 1997. Even then, it took extensive campaigning for Jones to win against then-candidate Roy Moore, who had a history of sexual misconduct allegations and ties to white supremacist organisations. Now against a Republican candidate with fewer political albatrosses, many from Jones’ camp have seen his reelection bid as a lost cause.
Tommy Tuberville has been one of the Trump’s most ardent supporters on the campaign trail so far, with the President heartily endorsing him as well. As expected, his campaign has been focused on invoking Trumpian talking points such as stoking fears over immigrants and socialism, while touting his leadership experience as football coach being a quality fit for office.
Incumbent Martha McSally, who gained her current Senate seat without winning an election, will be challenged by former astronaut Mark Kelly. Consensus polls list Kelly as a clear favourite to win election.
McSally was the losing candidate during the 2018 Midterm Senate elections, conceding to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. However, when senior Senator Jon Kyl resigned after being appointed to replace the seat of late Senator John McCain, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed McSally to replace him. As Senator, McSally has firmly entrenched herself in Trump’s platform, posting one of the most consistent voting records in line with his policies.
Following his career as an astronaut, Mark Kelly has been actively involved in activism for gun control after his wife, then-Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was nearly killed in the 2011 Tucson Shooting. With gun control again being a pivotal facet of his platform, Kelly has also focused on supporting public health insurance on the campaign trail.
One-term Republican Senator Cory Gardner will defend his Senate seat against former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Consensus polls currently show Hickenlooper holding a substantial lead.
Through his legislative record and rhetoric, Gardner appears more as a bipartisan politician. When campaigning began last year, he had touted his progressive stance on environmental and conservation policy. However, Gardner has always backed the Trump administration’s most critical and contested decisions, including the recent vote to confirm a Supreme Court Judge in an election year. Due to his track record, he has become a poster child who only backs the President for further political gain.
Before running for the Senate, Hickenlooper had launched a bid for President early last year, but backed out due to a lack of name recognition in a crowded Democratic field. The momentum from high Democratic support in Colorado has given Hickenlooper a comfortable cushion in this election, even though statewide enthusiasm for his Senate bid has been lukewarm as well.
First-term Republican David Perdue will be running for reelection against Jon Ossoff, a media executive who has been best known for his failed 2017 House bid, which had been one of the most expensive congressional elections ever held. Consensus polls currently list this race as a tossup.
Perdue is a close Trump ally, as only two other Republican senators have posted voting records more in line with the President. Earlier this year, he also has been accused of purchasing stock from a firm producing PPEs shortly after receiving a classified briefing on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Ossoff has mounted a stiff challenge for Perdue’s seat, where he criticised the Senator for neglecting concerns around the pandemic and pointed out his allegations of insider trading. In a recent debate filled with bitter exchanges and personal attacks, Perdue said afterwards he would not attend the final debate.
Kelly Loeffler, another midterm Republican appointee, will seek reelection against several candidates in an open primary. Consensus polls currently give Democrat challenger Raphael Warnock a slight lead over all current candidates.
Appointed by Governor Brian Kemp to replace resigning Senator Johnny Isakson, Loeffler is currently deeply unpopular in her home state. As the co-owner of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, she attracted heavy backlash when she refused to support the WNBA’s plans of honouring Black Lives Matter in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in the summer. Like fellow Senator David Perdue, she also faced allegations of insider trading when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
Now Loeffler not only faces a strong challenger in Democrat Raphael Warnock, an Atlanta pastor, but also within her own party in the form of Georgia Congressman Doug Collins. An outspoken figure on criminal justice reform, Warnock has been endorsed by past presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter. Concurrently, Collins, who is a vocal Trump ally, has faced opposition from Republicans for potentially taking votes away from Loeffler. If no one manages to win 50 percent of the votes on Tuesday’s election, another runoff election will take place next January.
First-term Republican Senator Joni Ernst will seek reelection this year against Democratic candidate Theresa Greenfield, a real-estate executive and urban planner. Recent consensus polls indicate this race a tossup.
Known for her willingness to produce bipartisan solutions, Ernst has focused mainly on tackling issues affecting veterans and women. However, as one of Trump’s most notable allies, Ernst generated substantial pushback when she argued that figures related to Covid-19 cases and deaths were being inflated.
Among the Democratic hopefuls to flip a Republican seat, Greenfield has campaigned by focusing on healthcare and improving job opportunities in her home state. With the Iowa elections set to be one of the closest in the nation, many Democratic supporters have backed Greenfield in order to win a majority in the Senate.
Already the longest-tenured Senate Republican in history, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will be seeking his seventh consecutive term this election. He will be challenged by Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and a newcomer to politics. Consensus polls list the election safe for McConnell.
Largely seen as the leading figure of Republican obstructionism in the past decade, as well as an enabler of the power abuses and cronyism within the Trump administration, Democratic supporters have mounted immense fundraising efforts for McConnell to be voted out of office. But remains one of the most popular Republicans due to his political achievements during the Trump presidency, including a major tax cut, the acquittal of the President in his impeachment trial, and three appointments to the Supreme Court.
The outpouring of Democratic support for Amy McGrath has led her to outraise much more money than McConnell, but due to Republican pull in Kentucky, the exodus of campaign funds have only generated national media coverage instead of better election odds. While she has spent a majority of her campaign taking aim at ‘the Swamp’ that McConnell belongs to, she has not been able to unite Democrats in the state due to her moderate platform, as evidenced by a tough primary challenge from State Representative Charles Booker.
Republican Susan Collins will face a tough challenge for her fifth consecutive term from Democratic hopeful Sara Gideon, the current Speaker for the Maine House of Representatives. Consensus polls currently slightly favour Gideon.
Along with Alaska’s senior Senator Lisa Murkowski, Collins is considered one of the most progressive Republicans in the Senate, as she has broken party lines in various voting decisions, the most notable being her vote against repealing Obamacare. However, she drew the ire of her constituents after she voted to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial after deliberating for days. Collins is a savvy politician and may still attract voters by citing her past work in keeping Maine’s notion of being politically independent, but the upcoming election will still be the most difficult in her career.
Like McGrath, Gideon has also outraised her veteran opponent, and has even climbed steadily in the polls unlike her counterpart in Kentucky. She has prioritised to rid the influence of wealthy donors in DC, but has also capitalised on the recent anger towards Collins throughout her campaign.
First-term Senator Steve Daines will seek reelection against Democratic challenger Steve Bullock, the current Governor of Montana. Consensus polls currently give Daines a comfortable lead.
A frequent ally of Trump, Daines has posted a voting record largely consistent with the President’s policy goals. He has also been criticised for backing Trump’s most controversial decisions, including his church photo-op during the George Floyd protests in DC, as well as his tweet calling on four Democratic Congresswomen to leave the country.
Like fellow candidate John Hickenlooper, Bullock had his sights on the White House early last year but later dropped out. Campaigning on a platform focused on healthcare, Bullock has not only remained popular as Governor in a Republican state, but also outraised Daines. However, his successes on the campaign trail so far has not translated on the polls.
First-term Republican Thom Tillis will defend his seat this year against Democrat Cal Cunningham, a former military officer and lawyer. Consensus polls currently give Cunningham a slight edge.
A staunch Trump supporter, Tilis holds a voting record almost in line with the President. Recently, he has invoked conspiracy theories suggesting the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic was exaggerated, and has also frequently threatened internet archival projects with copyright strikes.
Focusing on reforming healthcare as his main priority, Cunningham has taken the lead in polls throughout most of the campaign trail. Even when a far-right publication uncovered a sexting scandal early last month, his popularity did not waver at all.
Veteran Republican Lindsey Graham will seek his fourth term in office this year. He will be challenged by Democrat Jaime Harrison, who previously served as the chair of the South Carolina Democrats. Consensus polls have shown Graham sliding in his lead, but he remains the favourite.
As Graham was a presidential candidate in 2016, he had firmly opposed Trump both during his campaign and after he had exited the race. Now one of the President’s most fervent supporters, Graham has been a favourite target of media ridicule for his hypocrisy, especially his recent comments in favour of nominating a new Supreme Court Justice in an election year.
Challenging Graham’s seat is Jaime Harrison, who has campaigned with a focus on growing the middle class and called Graham ‘a 1950s relic.’ Like many of the Democratic races to unseat a high-profile Republican, Harrison has also raised substantial amounts despite little progress to narrow the polls.
Additional Dark Horses
These races have not generated as much attention based on the relative competition, but may still surprise on Election Night.
Incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan will be seeking a second term and he will be challenged by Independent Al Gross, a candidate supported by Democrats. The scales are currently tilted towards a victory for Sullivan, but due to inconsistent polling so far, many question marks still remain ahead of the election.
With four-term Republican Pat Roberts retiring this cycle, the open seat in Kansas is now contested between Democrat Barbara Bollier and Republican George Marshall. Polls suggest that this will be a safe election for Marshall but there have been spikes in support for Bollier throughout the campaign trail.
Incumbent Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn will be seeking his fourth consecutive term and leads comfortably in consensus polls. However, the possibility of Democrats carrying Texas this year is enough to give his opponent, MJ Hegar, a fighting chance.
Above Featured Photo: The Oculus, New York City (Renan Kamikoga/Unsplash)