Race for the Senate: The Key Battlegrounds

US Presidential Election

As this election cycle enters the final stretch, the battle for the upper chamber will become increasingly prominent. No matter who resides in the White House come 2021, the success or failure of their term will largely rest on the Senate’s shoulders.

Here, we will take each of the competitive races in turn, and seek to give an indication of what to expect on election night. As it stands, the Democrats are likely to retain 45 seats and Republicans 44, with 11 key races deciding the balance of power.

Georgia 1: Perdue vs Ossoff

  • The incumbent Republican is currently 2.3% ahead, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages
  • FiveThirtyEight gives Perdue a 72% chance of re-election
  • Ossoff set a Georgia record for the month of August, raising $4.7 million
  • Overall, whilst it is likely to be far closer than FiveThirtyEight appears to suggest, given a recent tightening of poll numbers, the Republicans have the edge in this race

Iowa: Ernst vs Greenfield

  • The incumbent Republican is down by 4.8%, according the RealClearPolitics polling averages
  • FiveThirtyEight gives the Democratic challenger a 53% chance of victory
  • Thursday night’s debate could well boost Greenfield’s chances of success after her opponent was unable to recall the break-even price of soybeans – a cardinal sin in Iowa politics!
  • Overall, whilst this race may be one of the closest in the cycle, the momentum is against Ernst and the Republicans.
  • The Democrats will re-take the Senate seat they lost in 2016

Maine: Collins vs Gideon

  • The Democratic challenger in this race is up by 4.2%, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages
  • FiveThirtyEight gives Collins’ a 37% chance of a fifth term
  • This race has turned into a referendum on Senator Collins, with her record under scrutiny from the very beginning
  • The incumbent’s troubles have been exacerbated by the fundraising juggernaut established by her Democratic challenger, who has outraised Collins by $7 million this election cycle
  • Undoubtedly another close race. However, Collins has failed to shed the negativity surrounding her actions during the Kavanaugh hearings and will be punished for it on November 3rd. A second Democratic pick up

Michigan: James vs Peters

  • The Democratic incumbent in this race is up by 5.1%, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages
  • FiveThirtyEight gives Peters a 79% chance of re-election
  • The Republican challenger here is likely to outperform President Trump on November 3rd, and has managed to maintain fundraising parity with his opponent thus far
  • Despite this, the Democrats are highly favoured to retain this seat, given the President’s poor polling at the top of the ballot

North Carolina: Tillis vs Cunningham

  • The Republican incumbent is down by 3.9% here, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages
  • FiveThirtyEight gives the Democrats a 65% chance of picking up this seat
  • In a bizarre turn of events this month, the Democratic challenger was embroiled in a sexting scandal, and subsequently saw his poll numbers increase healthily – yes really
  • Given both the position and direction of recent polling, the Democrats are the likely winners here. Tillis could still stage a comeback though, if he were to conjure up a sex scandal before November 3rd and benefit from the same strange phenomenon that has helped his opponent…!

South Carolina: Graham vs Harrison

  • Polling in this race has been very erratic, and so a polling average is difficult to produce. The most recent polling available has Graham up by 6%, although this had been preceded by a succession of polls which had the race tied
  • FiveThirtyEight gives the incumbent Republican a 77% chance of victory
  • This race has seen gaffe after gaffe on the Republican side, with Senator Graham referring to ‘the good old days of segregation’ in a recent Senate hearing and breaking federal law by soliciting donations from Capitol Hill
    Despite Graham trying his very best to lose this race, the pro-Republican demographics in the state will see him crawl over the line

Arizona: McSally vs Kelly

  • The Democratic challenger is up by 8% in this race, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages
  • FiveThirtyEight gives Kelly an 80% chance of victory
  • This race is especially important, given that it is a special election. This means that the victor will not have to wait until January to be sworn in and could change the balance of power in the Senate within weeks of election day.
  • The Democrats have had a sizeable lead in this race from the beginning, despite McSally’s quasi-incumbency – another Democratic pick up

Colorado: Gardner vs Hickenlooper

  • Polling in this state has been infrequent, but has shown consistently large leads for the Democratic challenger
  • FiveThirtyEight gives the incumbent Republican a 21% chance of retaining his seat
  • The Cook Political Report recently shifted this race from ‘toss up’ to ‘lean democratic’
  • Everything appears to point towards another Democratic pick up here

Montana: Daines vs Bullock

  • The Republican incumbent is up by 3.3% here, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages
  • FiveThirtyEight gives him a 68% chance of retaining this seat
  • This race would usually not be competitive, but the Democratic challenger is a former two-term Governor of the state. Having won state-wide elections twice before, this is now on the Democratic hit list, albeit on the more ambitious end.
  • This is another race whereby the in-built Republican advantage is likely to prove too much, especially given that we are in a Presidential election year. A closer-than-normal election, but Republicans will retain.

Alabama: Tuberville vs Jones

  • The Republican challenger here is up by double digits in many polls
  • FiveThirtyEight gives Tuberville a 75% chance of victory
  • The fact that the Democrats won this seat in the first place was due to allegations of sexual assault made against the Republican nominee. Even so, Jones only won that election by 1.5%.
  • Having taken the bold strategy of nominating a candidate not accused of sexual assault this time around, the Republicans will be rewarded at the ballot box – a Republican pick up.

Georgia 2: Loeffler vs Collins vs Warnock vs Liberman

  • This race is complicated by the fact that it is a special election, and that no candidate is likely to receive 50% of votes cast. This means that a run-off is highly likely, which would take place on January 5th.
  • FiveThirtyEight gives the Republican candidate (whoever that may be) a 51% chance of victory in January
  • This race is highly unpredictable, given that four candidates are currently in the running. If forced to make a call, Republicans just about have the edge in this race. The special election will take place as a standalone, without the pulling power of a Presidential race. Turnout will fall and the Republicans will squeak by. However, if Trump is defeated in November, and does a lot of controversial things on his way out, it could easily swing this race for the Democrats.

Overall: Democrats 51 Seats Republicans 49 Seats