Democrats Within Reach Of Senate Majority

This snapshot in mid-September may look completely different as we get closer to November 3rd.  But right now, Democrats have a real shot at winning control of the Senate this year.

The numbers spell it out.  Republicans currently have a 53-47 majority.  That means that Democrats need a net gain of three, or four, to take control.  Three gets them to 50, but Joe Biden would have to win the presidency, putting Vice President Kamala Harris in the Senate’s tie-breaking role.  Four gives them 51, a majority no matter who takes the White House.

Jones (D) is the senator most likely to go down to defeat.

It’s close.  At stake this year are 23 GOP-held seats and 12 Democratic seats.  The way things stand now, Democrats are all but assured of losing their seat in Alabama, which Doug Jones improbably won in a 2017 special election (that was the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions).  But there are far more vulnerable Republicans on the ballot, with four of them — Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins in Maine, Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Martha McSally in Arizona — in serious danger of losing.

If all five incumbents lose, the Democrats are left with a net gain of three.  But Jones is far more likely to lose than any of the four Republicans, and that’s why the Democrats have to go after other potential targets as well, such as Joni Ernst in Iowa, Steve Daines in Montana or, less probably, David Perdue in Georgia.  The Dems would love to knock off Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, as well as Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, but lots of luck with those.  Reports of McConnell’s demise appear every six years but it never happens, and it’s hard to imagine it happening this year.  Graham, on the other hand, has a well-financed challenger.  But I don’t see him losing either.

We have fewer than seven weeks to go.  We’ll see if things change by then.  Meanwhile, here’s how we see it today:

REPUBLICAN SEATS (23):

SAFE REPUBLICAN (10)Arkansas (Tom Cotton),  Idaho (Jim Risch), Louisiana (Bill Cassidy), Mississippi (Cindy Hyde-Smith), Nebraska (Ben Sasse), Oklahoma (Jim Inhofe),  South Dakota (Mike Rounds), Tennessee (open: Lamar Alexander retiring), West Virginia (Shelley Moore Capito), Wyoming (open: Mike Enzi retiring).

LIKELY/LEANING REPUBLICAN (7)Alaska (Dan Sullivan), Georgia (David Perdue), Georgia special (Kelly Loeffler), Kansas (open: Pat Roberts retiring), Kentucky (Mitch McConnell). South Carolina (Lindsey Graham), Texas (John Cornyn).

TOSSUP (2)Iowa (Joni Ernst), Montana (Steve Daines).

LIKELY/LEANING LOSSES (4)Arizona (Martha McSally), Colorado (Cory Gardner), Maine (Susan Collins), North Carolina (Thom Tillis).

DEMOCRATIC SEATS (12):

SAFE DEMOCRATIC (8)Delaware (Chris Coons), Illinois (Dick Durbin), Massachusetts (Ed Markey),  New Jersey (Cory Booker), New Mexico (open: Tom Udall retiring), Oregon (Jeff Merkley), Rhode Island (Jack Reed), Virginia (Mark Warner).

LIKELY/LEANING DEMOCRATIC (3)Michigan (Gary Peters), Minnesota (Tina Smith), New Hampshire (Jeanne Shaheen).

LIKELY/LEANING LOSSES (1): Alabama (Doug Jones).

ON THE CALENDAR:

Sept. 18 — Early voting starts in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wyoming.  Other states to follow.

Sept. 29 — First presidential debate, Cleveland.

Oct. 7 — Vice-presidential debate, Salt Lake City.

Oct. 15 — Second presidential debate, Miami.

Oct. 22 — Third presidential debate, Nashville.

Nov. 3 — ELECTION DAY (includes Louisiana Senate open primary and Georgia Senate special election).

This day in campaign history:  Commerce Secretary Henry Wallace criticizes President Truman’s foreign policy, saying that unless Truman eases up on his positions regarding the Soviet Union, an atomic war was likely.  Wallace called for concessions to be made to Moscow, including disclosing its atom bomb secrets and promising to destroy its bombs by a certain date (Sept. 17, 1946).  Wallace will be ousted from the Cabinet three days later.  In 1948, he will further challenge Truman by mounting a left-wing third-party bid for the White House.

Got a question?  Ask Ken Rudin: [email protected]

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