Saturday, November 10, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A First Look At The 2020 U.S. Senate Elections

Electioneering no longer ceases in America. No sooner has one election
concluded, the next election pops into view.

The tumultuous 2018 campaign brought not only mixed results, but also
some road signs for the next big election in 2020 when there will be a
presidential election as well voting the for entire U.S. house, one-third
of the U.S. senate, and several governorships and state legislatures.

Discussion of most of these would obviously be premature, especially
of the U.S. house and state races, because so much about them depends
on local conditions still unknown. The presidential race, of course, will
soon preoccupy pundits and conversations, but lacking any announced
challengers to President Trump, it might be prudent to delay that
discussion, at least for a while.

But there is one part of the 2020 election, with its particular conditions,
that’s worth an early examination.

In the next cycle, the Republican mathematical advantage in the races
for he U.S. senate will be reversed. In 2018, the GOP had only 9
incumbents seats up for election while the Democrats had 26. In 2020,
it will almost be reversed --- 21 Republican seats at stake, and only 12
Democratic seats.

As in 2018, the ages of some incumbents in both parties will be in their
mid-to-late 70s and early 80s, and they could retire.

But quite different from the 2018, only two seats would be contested by
incumbents in states which usually vote for the other party.  And those
two senators, one Democrat and one Republican are the only two of the
33 who would now be rated vulnerable.  The Democrat is Senator Doug
Jones of very conservative Alabama who won a special election in 2017
only because state Republican voters deserted their own very
controversial nominee. He is likely to lose in 2020. The Republican is
Senator Susan Collins of Maine where she has been very popular. She
became the hero of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings when she not
only voted to confirm, but delivered a widely-hailed speech doing so.
Maine is a liberal and independent state, but moderate Collins has fit
it well. Democrats now say they will make her a target, but unlike
Senator Jones in Alabama, she would currently be favored for

There are older incumbents from both parties. In 2020 Senator Lamar
Alexander of Tennessee will be 80, Senator Jim Imhofe of Oklahoma
will be 86, and Senator Paat Roberts of Kansas will be 84. All are
Republicans, as are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who
will be 78 and Senator Jim Risch of Idaho who will be 79. But even if
they do retire, each come from very conservative states, and their
GOP replacements on the ballot would be strongly favored to win.

Similarly, Democratic Senators Dick Durbin (who will be 76) of
Illinois and Edward Markey (who will be 74) of Massachusetts
represent very liberal states, and would likely be replaced by
Democrats should they retire.

Two Democratic incumbents from purple states, Senator Gary Peters
of Michigan and Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota, might face serious
contests if Republicans can recruit first-rate challengers. This would be
more likely in Michigan where charismatic John James made an
impressive but unsuccessful run against Democratic Senator Debbie
Stabenow in 2018, and would be a formidable challenger against Peters.

After the above exceptions, it looks like easy re-election for the
remaining incumbents of both parties, including Democratic Senators
Booker of New Jersey, Coons of Delaware, Reed of Rhode Island,
Schumer of New York, Udall of New Mexico, Warner of Virginia, and
Merkley of Oregon --- and Republican Senators Caputo of WestVirginia,
Cassidy of Louisiana, Cornyn of Texas, Cotton of Arkansas,, Daines of
Montana, Enzi of Wyoming, Gardner of Colorado, Graham of South
Carolina, Perdue of Georgia, Rounds of South Dakota, Sasse of
Nebraska, Sullivan of Alaska, Tillis of North Carolina, and Ernst of
Iowa. If the Republican wins the 2018 run-off in Mississippi, she would
also be favored in 2020.

Races could develop, however, in Delaware, New Hampshire, Colorado,
and Kansas, but only if very strong challengers are recruited.

Circumstances might change, yet as matters stand now, little alteration
in the senate is expected in 2020. Ironically, even though the
mathematics of number of seats contested that cycle favors the
Democrats, they currently face the most competitive races, and might
have to face a larger GOP margin going into 2022, especially if Donald
Trump is then favored for his re-election.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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