With all eyes on the tussle for the White House between Republican Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Joe Biden, there is a no-less dramatic clash culminating on 3 November for control of the US Senate.
Up against the Republicans’ 53-47 majority in a chamber that is touted as able to “make or break” a presidency, the Democrats are facing a daunting challenge.
Currently, 45 seats are held by Democrats, with two Independents – Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME) – caucusing with the Democrats.
In the event of a Joe Biden win, he would be battling a wall of opposition to his proposed key legislation on issues he has wielded as part of his campaign, such as healthcare, immigration and climate change, unless the Democrats wrest control of the Senate.
There are 35 chamber seats up for re-election in November, with pundits claiming it will probably all come down to seven key races.
2020 ‘Toss-Up’ States
As any 50-50 tie vote in the Senate is broken by the sitting vice-president, the number of additional seats needed by the Democrats to achieve a voting majority hinges on who wins the presidential election.
In the event of a Trump reelection, the Democrats are suggested as requiring three states, in addition to Arizona and Colorado, to win a majority. If Joe Biden triumphs, the Democrats will likely need only two more.
Republicans are set to fend off a challenge in states that were previously deemed off limits to Democrats.
In two states - Arizona and Colorado – Democrats are suggested as having a solid chance of defeating Republican incumbents.
In Alabama, though, the position of just one Democratic incumbent is perceived as shaky, according to the latest forecast from the Cook Political Report.
There are seven races currently deemed “tossups” by the Cook Political Report’s Senate forecasts.
Maine, North Carolina and Iowa are named as the principal targets eyed by the Democrats.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who secured 70 percent of the vote during her last reelection bid in 2014, has been deemed the underdog this time, with her race against Democratic Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon suggested as a “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report. Gideon is suggested as leading in the polls and in fundraising, while Collins, a moderate Republican, is believed to have turned off many Maine voters in 2018 when she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.
Gideon, meanwhile, has been touting her experience as the state’s House speaker and campaigning as someone who can allegedly bring together members of both parties.
North Carolina Senate
North Carolina - a key state for Trump’s reelection chances, holds a crucial Senate seat coveted by both parties.
North Carolina’s senate race sees Democrat Cal Cunningham, who has defended Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, leading freshman Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) in most recent polls.
Cunningham recently had to face the challenge of a scandal, as the state senator acknowledged exchanging sexually suggestive texts with a woman who was not his wife.
Tillis has been hoping to make up ground in North Carolina as the state holds a negative approval rating of President Trump, as well as a positive approval rate of Biden, according to a recent NBC / Wall Street Journal poll.
In Iowa’s Senate race the incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is a key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that recently oversaw the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, who recently began her tenure as the 115th justice on the Supreme Court.
She is also the Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.
Theresa Greenfield, her challenger, has never held public office before. In a race appearing to be highly competitive, recent polls have gone for either candidate.
Senator Cory Gardner, the Republican incumbent, has been engaged in a balancing act as he seeks to distance himself from the president while not criticising him.
Gardner, who is facing a challenge from former Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, with the polls showing him lagging behind.
Recent polls show Hickenlooper up by anywhere from eight to 11 points.
Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff is trying to unseat Republican Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who is running for a second term as Georgia’s senior Senator.
At a debate matchup, Perdue slammed Ossoff for raising large sums of out-of-state money, while in response, Ossoff has denounced Perdue for selling stocks ahead of the economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Georgia Special Senate Race
There are two Senate races in Georgia, with 21 candidates on the ballot, as the state’s Special Election is a runoff race.
There are 8 Democrats, one Libertarian, one Green Party candidate, five independents, and 6 Republicans, including the incumbent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
If no candidate garners more than 50 percent, the top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, will go into a runoff election in January.
Arizona Special Senate Race
Another special Senate race in this election is in Arizona. However, here the winner will be part of the US Senate almost immediately.
Former Rep. Martha McSally is running against retired astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot and nearly killed in an assassination attempt in 2011.
In line with Arizona law, if Kelly dislodges the incumbent, he can be sworn in on 30 November, joining the lame duck 116th US Congress instead of waiting until 3 January to join the 117th US Congress.
Polling averages show Kelly leading McSally in the race.
In Michigan a Democratic incumbent is fending off a strong Republican challenge.
Although Senator Gary Peters has consistently led in the polls, the GOP believes John James has a shot at claiming the seat.
Recent surveys have shown the Democrat leading by anywhere from four percentage points to the double digit range. As the battle for the Senate unfolds, lawmakers have warned of a late night regarding the outcome of close senate races.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was cited as saying it will “probably [be] a long night or several days thereafter” until the results come in.
Currently, according to the forecast offered by FiveThirtyEight, Democrats possess an advantage in flipping the senate, while Republicans have a solid chance to retain the chamber.