Democrats Could Indeed Take the U.S. Senate in 2020

The 2018 election cycle was a huge year for Democrats in Colorado, but also across the country. Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 but actually lost two seats in the U.S. Senate (more on that in a moment). That may change in 2020.

In 2018, Democrats flipped 40 seats in order to gain majority control in the House — 17 more than they needed to outnumber Republicans. The news was less rosy for Democrats hoping to make inroads for control of the U.S. Senate, though the math was never in their favor. Democrats had to defend 26 of the 35 Senate seats on the ballot in 2018, including seats in 10 states that supported Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Things look different this year. Republicans have 23 of their own seats to defend this cycle, compared to just 12 for Democrats. The nine Republicans who gave the GOP a majority after 2014 — including Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) —  are all up for re-election this year.

“In Colorado, most strategists on both sides acknowledge former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is ahead of Gardner at this point.”

— via CNN (4/27/20)

As Chris Cillizza notes for CNN, that’s the good news for Republicans:

What’s happened over the last six months or so, however, is that Democrats have successfully broadened the playing field — putting a number of GOP seats in play even as the outlook for the incumbents in Maine and Colorado worsens.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political handicapper, now rates eight GOP seats as competitive as compared to just two (Jones and Michigan Sen. Gary Peters) for Democrats. Cook rates four Republican-held seats as pure “toss ups” (Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina) and another four (Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Iowa, Kansas and Montana) as “lean Republican.”

And in truth, those ratings may actually underplay the danger to some of those GOP-incumbents…

In virtually every state — with the exception of Alabama — their chances of either holding one of their own seats or winning Democratic seats has declined in the past two months. In some cases, like Arizona and Colorado, it has declined significantly. [Pols emphasis]

Cillizza is not the first political reporter to note the shifting political winds in recent weeks. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post was reading the writing on the wall on April 17, and POLITICO noticed similar trends a few days later.

President Donald Trump, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)

Democrats need a net gain of three seats in order to take control in the Senate in 2020 (or four, if President Trump is re-elected). In Arizona, former astronaut Mark Kelly has a firm lead in the polls and in fundraising in his race against Republican Sen. Martha McSally. That same combination is playing out in Maine, where longtime incumbent Sen. Susan Collins is looking up at Democratic challenger Sara Gideon. Here in Colorado, Sen. Gardner’s poll numbers have been in the toilet for years. On the money front, Democrat John Hickenlooper outraised Gardner last quarter by 65%.

For those of you counting at home, that’s three seats right there.

In this scenario, Democrats would still need to defend Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama, which could be tough, but there are several more pickup opportunities regardless. In North Carolina, incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is polling even with a Democratic challenger who can self-fund much of his campaign. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is surging against incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines. In Georgia, appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is going to have to convince voters that she didn’t commit blatant insider trading just as the coronavirus was about to hit the United States.

Republicans might be on defense just about everywhere in 2020. Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is looking stronger than expected. Even in Kansas — Kansas! — the Democratic candidate appears to be polling ahead of the likely Republican nominee.

As The Washington Post reported over the weekend, Democrats are also getting a boost from the top of the ticket:

Joe Biden’s unexpectedly rapid consolidation of the Democratic presidential nomination has upended calculations in both parties about the U.S. Senate landscape, with Democrats hopeful that Biden can actively help with close races and Republicans increasingly nervous about losing their 53-47 majority…

…Nonpartisan analysts and strategists in both parties agree that the Senate landscape has shifted in recent weeks, pushing Democrats to within striking distance of a takeover. The pandemic and the collapse of the economy, once Trump’s biggest strength, are big factors, but so is Biden’s rise.

“Biden’s likely nomination was critical to Democratic chances of taking back the Senate because it keeps the battlefield large,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections. “I think if Democrats had nominated Sanders, it would have limited Democratic takeover opportunities.”

The election is still six months away, and as we’ve all experienced with the coronavirus pandemic, a lot can change in a very short period of time. For now, at least, the momentum is clearly on the side of Democrats as the summer campaign season starts heating up.

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27 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. kickshot says:

    My dogs are ahead of Gardner.

    What’s going happen when Bloomberg/Everytown/Big Oil/Big Pharma endorse Hick?

     

    • gertie97 says:

      Hick still wins.

      • kickshot says:

        And we have another Manchin in the Senate.

        • ParkHill says:

          That is bizarrely, wrong.

          In what way is Hickenlooper at all comparable to Manchin?

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            Because he was placed in the Not Nice column by elite and effete know-it-alls.

          • kwtreekwtree says:

            Waffled on cannabis reform. 

            Stalled and waffled on police review boards following deaths in custody. 
            Against Medicare for All ( too socialist)

            Threatened to sue Longmont for daring to limit fracking within city boundaries

            Hired an ALEC oil and gas lobbyist, Glen Vaad, to chair the PUC, damning Pueblo area residents to years of price gouging by Black Hills energy.

            Drank fracking fluid ( or some liquid he said was fracking fluid), in an absurd publicity stunt.

            Inflated O&G jobs numbers for years, as argument against limiting or regulating the industry. 
             

            Manchin has a similar record. The main difference is that Manchins State is truly red/purple, while Colorado is blue/purple.

            ive put up links to these claims several times. If you want to see proof, say so. 

            • ParkHill says:

              Right, but incomplete, and not really relevant going forward.

              Coal was a big industry in Coal Country, and Oil extraction has been a big-ish industry in Colorado, so it is predictable that political leaders support those industries. Specifically in Colorado, most of us drive gasoline-powered cars and use natural gas for heating.

              It's obvious that renewables are the future, but until that future arrives, the oil industry is in fact essential. Big Oil opposes renewables and fights against science. Is Hickenlooper "Big Oil" or was he just managing the existing Colorado economy of the early 21st century? I'm fairly sure that Hickenlooper is a scientist and does not oppose the transition to wind and solar.

              But, we are already entering the end times of the petro-economy. Coal is dead-dead-dead and those jobs are not coming back. Wind and Solar are already cheaper than petroleum alternatives. Electric cars are cheaper than gas over their lifetime. 

              In other words, unless Hickenlooper is truly in the company of the science deniers and the Koch brothers, his oil history is basically irrelevant. We are inevitably on the slippery slope to renewables, and the game is over for the Koch-suckers the moment the Democrats win the presidency.

              • The biggest issue is not that Hickenlooper was pro-O&G. The issue is that he was anti-regulation. He worked publicly and privately to stymie attempts to let COGCC regulate health impacts of O&G operations.

                The other issues Hick shares with the rest of the Democratic party leadership. Our excise tax is way too low compared with neighboring states, depriving Colorado of one-time revenue that will never come back. We made much too big a deal of natural gas as some sort of "bridge" to climate action, when in reality it is an anchor (which was known at the time). And, the big one – all of the leadership is far too pro-physical-growth which leads directly to over-extraction and habitat destruction.

                • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

                  I’ll start by repeating I’m #BNMW but this needs addressing: 

                  Is Hickenlooper “Big Oil” or was he just managing the existing Colorado economy of the early 21st century?

                  Renewable energy is a big part of Colorado, arguably creating more direct jobs than O&G.  We were considered the leading edge of renewable deployment under Ritter.  Much of that inertia was in a chokehold under the Hickenlooper Administration.  In particular, the appointment of Vaad to the PUC absolutely killed the earlier opportunities for Pueblo to exit their equivalent of a abusive relationship with Black Hills. This isn’t whether I ‘like’ JH or not, I don’t dislike him.  I was disappointed in a lot of his positions, though, around renewable energy and cannabis reform. But make no mistake, he’ll get my vote if he’s the victor in the primary (and I remain unconvinced he has a lock)

            • VoyageurVoyageur says:

              So which of the uber lefty candidates are you backing, flightless bird?

              there are now three radical lefties who failed to meet the petition rules but got put on the ballot so their feelings wouldn't be hurt.

              Plus there is Romo, a good man who is 0-2 in big elections.  He's hated by advocates of totally open borders.

              And there's the Big Hick.  An outstanding moderate, 4-0 in big elections.

              Go ahead, tell me which one of the losers you're backing.

              I need a good laugh!

              (Cue Ride of the Valkyries.)

    • unnamed says:

      V's parakeet is ahead of Gardner.  And V's parakeet is dead.

  2. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    C.H.B. – I got my first edition of Bulwark this morning.  Thanks for the heads-up; I really enjoyed reading the articles. 

    • The realistThe realist says:

      I recently signed up for the newsletters, too. Good writing.

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        Glad you enjoy The Bulwark, and hope it’s helpful. Look for the recent article comparing the Trump presidency to the world of pro-wrestling. 

        Here’s another one you may like, in the pro-environmental realm of the center-right:

        http://www.deployus.org     I know a couple of the principals there. 

        (just tried the link and it didn’t work. This site sometimes makes strange additions to links, meaning you’ll need to google it.)

  3. Gilpin Guy says:

    I'm thinking the sports bet which starts Friday should be an over/under on whether Trump loses Colorado by a larger margin than in 2016.  The 2018 results would suggest a decidedly blue shift in voter affiliations.  Voters who vote against Trump are also going to vote against his lackeys so Gardner has to be worried that he tied his wagon to Trump.  What if all the senators up for election who voted to acquit Trump get beat?  What kind of justice would that be?

  4. JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

    Beyond the Cook report, others have a similar analysis.  Crystal Ball, out of UVa, analyzes and concludes:

    In order for Democrats to net four Senate seats, their presidential nominee will likely have to win at least four of the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina. …

    It would take an extreme departure from historical precedent for Democrats to net more than three Senate seats without also winning the presidency. Even with the volatility of contemporary politics, some things are predictable. For Senate Democrats, the magic number is three.

    The Crystal Ball current ratings show CO and AZ going D, AL going R, and toss-ups of ME and NC.  The "special" GA, IA, and MT are listed as only "lean R".

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