This election year was always going to be a struggle for Republicans in the Senate, who currently control the chamber with a 53-47 majority.
In 2018, the Senate election map favored Republicans, with 26 of the 35 Senate seats on the ballot held by Democrats, meaning just nine Republicans were up for reelection. Even worse for Democrats, just one Republican Senate seat was in a state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, while 10 Democrat-held seats were in states that President Donald Trump won.
Two years later, now in 2020, and the map is almost flipped, with Democrats having the advantage.
Fox News reported that in this election cycle, Republicans are defending 23 of the 35 Senate seats up for re-election in November. Further, at least half a dozen GOP-held seats are listed as battlegrounds, while just a few Democrat-held seats are listed the same. And, as Fox reported, two developments this month have increased Democrat chances for re-taking the upper chamber.
The first is that former Vice President Joe Biden became the de facto Democratic presidential nominee after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) suspended his earlier this month. “Biden’s victory over populist firebrand Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – who suspended his bid and backed Biden this month – was a big sigh of relief for some Senate Democrats worried that a liberal standard-bearer like Sanders would have put moderate states out of reach,” Fox reported.
With Biden as the nominee, Senate Democrats now think they could pick up seats in Georgia, Kansas, and maybe even North Carolina.
“I think Biden becoming the presumptive nominee spared them having to run with Bernie Sanders on the ticket in a place that in places could have hurt them,” said Jessica Taylor, an analyst at the non-partisan Cook Report. “Republicans – for better or for worse – their Senate fortunes are going to be tied a lot to what happens in the White House. A lot of these states that are critical to the presidential race are also Senate battlegrounds.”
The Cook Report, Fox reported, “currently lists GOP-held seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Colorado as toss-ups, with Republican-held seats in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana — and Democratic seats in Alabama and Michigan — as very competitive.”
The other development favorable to Democrats is that challengers to Republicans in battleground elections have raised more cash than the incumbents. Those states include Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee tweeted Sunday that the “momentum is on our side.”
With few exceptions, however, control of the upper chamber tends to change during mid-term elections, not during presidential elections. Republicans took control of the Senate during the 2014 election, President Barack Obama’s second mid-term. Before that, Democrats took control of the Senate in the 2006 election, President George W. Bush’s second mid-term.
Thus, control of the Senate likely depends on who wins the presidency. Americans tend not to jump ship after one presidential term, so Democrats already have an uphill battle to defeat Trump, even if the media claims he is unpopular. If Trump wins re-election, it is likely Republicans may lose some Senate seats, but not enough to flip the upper chamber for Democrats.
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