The U.S. Senate Forecast

By Emma McNamee

As election day draws closer, senate races heat up across the nation. With 35 seats on the ballot for this election cycle, the question of whether Republicans will be able to hold onto the Senate majority is a pressing one as many races remain competitive. Below is a breakdown of the states still too close to call, and which competitive states are leaning where. 

Leaning Democratic:  


In Arizona, 2019 Senate appointee and Republican incumbent Martha McSally currently trails Democratic challenger Mark Kelley anywhere from six to 11 points, according to most recent polls. The race has also made headlines recently for its unprecedented pulling-in of campaign funds, reaching a record-breaking 133.7 million from both sides. 


One state over, in Colorado, Democratic challenger and popular former governor, John Hickenlooper, continues a 14-point lead against the sitting Republican Senator, Cory Gardner. Despite multiple stumbles from the Hickenlooper campaign, including a story about violating state ethics laws while governor, Hickenlooper’s chances look promising in a state whose electorate appears to be moving towards the left. 

Leaning Republican:  


Doug Jones’ hold on his narrowly won 2017 seat as a Democrat in Alabama has been a big question in this election. Internal polling from the campaign of Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville has Jones trailing by as much as 15 points, though a prior October poll gave Jones a single point lead. Either way, Jones has a tough race ahead. 


Until recently, the Alaska senate race was thought to be in the bag for Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan. However, the breaking of a story concerning the Senator’s ties to a controversial mining project, Pebble Mine, has caused a surge in support for the independent challenger Al Gross. Recent polls flip-flop on who truly holds the lead in Alaska now, but an October 15th poll from Siena College still has Sullivan with an eight-point lead. 


Senator Mitch McConnell has seen a far tougher opponent than expected out of Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in the race for Kentucky’s Senate seat, though the current Majority Leader maintains a seven-point lead in the most recent state polls, updated last month. However, McGrath isn’t out of the race yet and continues to raise finances and net endorsements, including the support of one of Kentucky’s largest newspapers


Seeing a deep-red state like Texas be considered competitive is a development from only the most recent election years. In the 2020 election, Republican senator John Cornyn faces Democrat MJ Hegar in what Vox calls the three-term incumbent’s “first real challenge.” While Cornyn remains the frontrunner, his lead lies anywhere from one to nine points, according to polls from the month of October

Toss up Elections:  


Georgia is the only state to have both Senate seats up for re-election, due to Republican Johnny Isakson’s 2019 resignation from his position as senator. After Isakson’s resignation, Kelly Loeffler (R) was appointed to his seat and she is a frontrunner in a 21-candidate-involved special election race. Other promising candidates are Doug Collins (R) and Raphael Warnock (D), who is currently polling ahead of his Republican opposition. In a similarly tight race, incumbent David Perdue is facing democrat Jon Ossoff, and polls continue to see the two change leads. 


Polls for the month of October show Theresa Greenfield taking a tentative lead over Republican Senator Joni Ernst in the Iowa race. However, Ernst’s recent debate stumble on the topic of soybeans could widen that gap going forward. Ernst has often campaigned off her ‘home-grown’ roots in farming and in a race as tight as this can’t afford to lose any advantages. 


With four-term Kansas Senator Pat Roberts announcing his retirement in 2019, only one thing about this race is certain: the next Senator from Kansas will have a long history in the republican party. Former GOP member Barbra Bollier split from the party two years ago and has entered the race as a Democrat against Republican Roger Marshall. The numbers have been competitive, with Bollier taking a slight lead in the latest polling. 


Susan Collins, a Republican Senator for Maine made headlines after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for opposing nomination hearings but in the polls, she still trails after Democrat Sara Gideon. While Gideon’s lead is consistent, it is marginal and ranges from one to eight points. With those numbers, Collins is still very much a player in this race. 


According to the latest Michigan polls, there is no clear frontrunner in this Senate race. One of the few vulnerable Democratic senate seats, Gary Peters has struggled to gain traction against Republican challenger John James. While Peters maintains a shallow and at times inconsistent lead in the polls, this race will certainly be one to watch as both candidates seemingly vie for votes from the opposition’s base


This Senate election has become the most expensive in Montana’s history. Going back months, current Senator Steve Daines (R) and Democrat Steve Bullock have continued to flip leads, though the most recent rolls from October show Bullock pulling ahead with a narrow but consistent edge. 

North Carolina

Despite the recent bombshell of Cal Cunningham’s extramarital relationship, the Democratic challenger’s numbers do not appear to have taken a hit in the race against incumbent Thom Tillis. In fact, Cunningham’s numbers continue to show a marginal but consistent lead as election day grows closer. 

South Carolina

The South Carolina race has the potential to be one of the greatest upsets of this election, should Jaime Harrison manage to oust prominent Republican Lindsey Graham from the Senate. Harrison has gained tremendous support from big-name Democrats, including former President Barack Obama who recently filmed an ad demonstrating his support. However, polls continue to show the two candidates neck and neck, with no clear lead for either. 

2 thoughts on “The U.S. Senate Forecast

  1. This is really comprehensive coverage. It’s really helpful that you’ve laid out the races according to which way they’re leaning. Great roundup of interesting information and races we should be watching on Election Night!


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