In addition to re-electing President Trump, retaining control of the
U.S. senate is critical to Republicans in the 2020 election cycle.
On paper, that control is clearly at risk --- since more than twice as
many conservative seats than liberal seats are up for re-election, and
three of those GOP incumbents have already announced they are
not going to run again.
But paper is not reality, and only a few GOP seats are likely to have
serious contests in 2020. The seats of the three retiring GOP senators
are in heavily GOP states, as are most of the other GOP senators
running for re-election.
With A 53-47 current lead, the GOP can also afford to lose 1 or 2
net seats. Republican are already considered likely to take back a
set that was unexpectedly won by a Alabama Democrat in a 2018
special election when the Republican nominee was so controversial
that many Alabama conservative voters stayed home.
Two Republican incumbents are considered especially vulnerable
next year --- Arizona Senator Martha McSally and Colorado Senator
Corey Gardner --- but Democrats so far have been able to recruit a top
challenger only in Arizona (former astronaut Mark Kelly) In Colorado,
they have not yet done so.
In fact, in several contests strong potential Democratic challengers
have not yet been recruited with a number of possible strong liberal
candidates either choosing to run for president or taking a pass
in 2020. These include Texas, Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Republicans likewise have not yet recruited formidable challengers to
potentially vulnerable liberal incumbents in Michigan and Minnesota
--- although there is at least one strong GOP potential candidate in
each of these states.
One Democratic incumbent senator, Tom Udall of New Mexico, is
also retiring, but like his retiring GOP colleagues, his is likely to
remain a safe seat for his party.
The basic environment of the 2020 battle for control of the U.S.
senate has been known for some time. but Democratic prospects
for this contest, as well as the one for the White House have until
recently appeared to be favorable. For the present, however, the
historically large (and likely unwieldy) number of Democratic
presidential candidates, and a weak recruitment of Democratic
senate challengers has clouded that optimism.
The growing difficulty in the U.S. senate races is that time is running
out. The nature of a U.S.senate race today, especially in states of even
modest size, requires almost all challengers to either raise a lot of
money early or be able to self-fund with considerable resources. There
are exceptions such as the 2018 Utah senate candidacy of Mitt Romney
to succeed retiring Senator Orren Hatch. But even the exceedingly
well-known Romney was running in a very conservative state, and was
in a position to self-fund if he had to do so
Control of the U.S. house in 2020 remains a complicated matter.
Democrats must defend a large number of seats they won in 2018 by
relatively small margins, several of them in districts won by Donald
Trump in 2016. Court-ordered redistricting continues to favor
Democrats, and their surprising strength among suburban women
in 2018 might continue in 2020. On the other hand, President Trump
was not on the ballot in 2018, and the booming economy with
historically low unemployment (particularly among blacks and
Hispanics) had not been as realized then as it is now --- at least for
the time being. In 2018, Democrats did an excellent job of recruiting
challengers. In 2020, the onus of this task falls to the Republicans.
Unlike senate races, candidates for the U.S. house have more time,
in most cases, to enter a race. For these and other reasons, a useful
assessment of the the battle for U.S. house control needs to wait for
more time to pass.
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.