Rating the Senate – Overview

By Jim Ellis

April 13, 2020 — Taking advantage of the lull in active campaign time because the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in effect around the country yields a relatively stable political picture, we have developed early ratings for this year’s 35 US Senate races. Of course, this comes with the understanding that great unknowns associated with the virus after-effects on the US and world economies will certainly alter the political climate.

As we know, 33 in-cycle Senate races are on the board for November along with two special elections, one in Arizona and the other in Georgia. In this cycle, Republicans must defend 23 of the states hosting Senate races as compared to just 12 for the Democrats. This is almost a complete reversal of the 2018 political map when Democrats were forced to defend 26 of 35 electoral contests.

To review, appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) must run in November to attempt to secure the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. In the Peach State, appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) will be on the ballot in hopes of winning her first election, which would yield her two more years of service in replacing resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson (R).

Looking at the entire Senate picture after reviewing all 35 races, it appears that 18 of the 35 campaigns can be considered safe for the incumbent party (10R; 8D). The GOP has five “Likely Republican” races and six more that lean their way today. The Democrats have two “Likely Dem” contests and three more that currently tilt in their direction. We consider only one race a toss-up at this point in the election cycle.

Already in this cycle, we project three conversion situations landing in the “Lean” category for the challenger party, two R to Ds, and one D to R. And, we will take a closer and more expansive look at these “Toss-up” and “Lean”-rated situations in an update tomorrow.

Safe Republican (10)

• Dan Sullivan (AK)
• Tom Cotton (AR)
• Jim Risch (ID)
• Bill Cassidy (LA)
• Ben Sasse (NE)
• Jim Inhofe (OK)
• Mike Rounds (SD)
• Open Tennessee seat (Sen. Lamar Alexander retiring)
• Shelley Moore Capito (WV)
• Open Wyoming seat (Sen. Mike Enzi retiring)

Safe Democratic (8)

• Chris Coons (DE)
• Dick Durbin (IL)
• Massachusetts seat (Sen. Ed Markey in primary campaign with Rep. Joe Kennedy III)
• Cory Booker (NJ)
• Open New Mexico seat (Sen. Tom Udall retiring)
• Jeff Merkley (OR)
• Jack Reed (RI)
• Mark Warner (VA)

Likely Republican (5)

• David Perdue (GA) – Georgia becoming more politically competitive
• Mitch McConnell (KY) – Polling shows race close; McConnell can expect record spending against him
• Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS) – Expect a similar 54-46% result as occurred in her 2018 race
• Lindsey Graham (SC) – Graham opponent had already raised $7.6 million at the end of 2019 and begun major media advertising
• John Cornyn (TX) – Texas becoming more competitive, but Democrats engaged in runoff campaign until July 14

Likely Democratic (2)

• Tina Smith (MN) – Minnesota becoming more competitive, so expect a similar 53-42% result as seen in 2018 campaign
• Jeanne Shaheen (NH) – New Hampshire has been the most defined swing state in the country since the turn of the century

Toss-Up (1)

• Thom Tillis (NC) – North Carolina has defeated more senators than any state in the modern political era.

Lean Republican (6)

• Doug Jones (AL) – Republicans in July 14th runoff election
• Kelly Loeffler (GA) – Rep. Doug Collins (R) is the early candidate to beat
• Joni Ernst (IA) – Democrats looking to spend heavily
• Kansas Open Seat (Sen. Pat Roberts retiring) – Aug 4th primary is key
• Susan Collins (ME) – one of the top races in the nation
• Steve Daines (MT) – now competitive with Gov. Steve Bullock (D) in race

Lean Democratic (3)

• Martha McSally (AZ) – Democrats fielding strong candidate in astronaut Mark Kelly
• Cory Gardner (CO) – State becoming decidedly Democratic
• Gary Peters (MI) – Already a single-digit race with Republican John James

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *