By Jim Ellis
Jan. 24, 2020 — The second in our three-part series about the in-cycle Senate races covers the 13 contests with June and early August primary dates:
Iowa: Sen. Joni Ernst (R) stands for a second term and will likely face Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield (D) in the general election. Greenfield, who aborted a congressional run in 2018 when her campaign effort didn’t collect the requisite number of legal petition signatures, enjoys at least unofficial backing from the Democratic establishment and party leadership. The leaders’ first choice to run, freshman Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Des Moines), decided to seek her first re-election instead of jumping into a statewide battle.
Sen. Ernst is favored for re-election but some of her approval ratings have been low. Much will depend upon the national political trend, particularly at the presidential level. Iowa is typically a swing state that has been moving right in most recent elections, though the Democrats did gain two congressional seats in the last election.
Montana: Sen. Steve Daines (R) stands for a second term, and with the Democrats unable to convince outgoing governor and former presidential candidate Steve Bullock to run for the Senate, most of the political attention has shifted to the open governor’s race and at-large US House contest. With Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) again running for governor, both the governor’s office and the state’s lone House seat are open for the coming election.
In fact, when looking at the entire statewide ticket, mostly due to term limits and statewide officials running for other offices, five of the seven statewide races are open contests in 2020. Therefore, the lack of attention and concentration on the Senate race certainly helps Sen. Daines. At this point, with the March 9 candidate filing deadline less than a month away, the type of candidate who could give the senator a serious run has not yet emerged.
New Jersey: Sen. Cory Booker (D) backed away from the presidential contest in order to concentrate on his re-election campaign. While state law was changed to allow candidates to run for offices simultaneously, Sen. Booker decided the time to exit the presidential race was upon him before embarrassing losses in Democratic primary states encouraged stronger primary competition for his re-election back home. Now concentrating on New Jersey full-time, Sen. Booker looks safe for re-election.