Wednesday, August 26, 2020

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR:Tightening Senate Races

Control of the U.S. senate in the next term is still undecided,
nine weeks before election day, but a new trend favoring
most Republican candidates, appears to be currently
developing after several weeks of seeming GOP decline in
most polling.

Of course, polling isn’t the only indicator that’s useful, and
this cycle many observers, myself included, have raised
questions about those polls, even prestigious ones, which
employed questionable techniques such as low samples,
registered voters (RVs) instead of likely voters (LVs), and
arbitrarily weighting their raw results.

But, as I have long pointed out, as the election draws very
close, the pollsters (seeking to avoid embarrassment when
the results are known) usually make an extra effort to be
accurately predictive.

In addition, especially in a presidential election year, there
are waves of ups and downs for candidates and their parties,
and Mr.Trump and his colleagues had seemed to be in some
decline while Mr. Biden and his colleagues were enjoying a
bump up.

Latest polls, however, are signaling a tightening in many
competitive races.  Of particular note, three consecutive
major polls in the usually “blue” state of Minnesota, indicate
a virtual tie in the presidential race, a circumstance confirmed
by local reports, especially in outstate where Mr. Trump seems
possibly stronger than he was in 2016 when he almost carried
the state. Minnesota has not voted for a Republican for
president since 1972.

One important caveat: Just because voter sentiment seems
trending their way, does not mean Republicans are going to
win. There is still enough time for a trend toward the
Democrats to  develop. The next several weeks will see the
relatively small, but nonetheless key, number of undecided
voters make up their minds. The pandemic, and the
exceptionally large numbers of absentee voters, also inject
more uncertainty in the outcome.

What about the specific competitive U.S. senate races?

There are 10-12 races which are battlegrounds. Democrats
will need to pick up a net of 3 or 4 (depending on who is
elected vice president) to take control in 2021.

Although about twice as many GOP incumbent seats are up
his cycle, the most endangered incumbent is a Democrat,
Doug Jones of Alabama. He is likely to lose to Republican
Tommy Tuberville.        

In addition, incumbent Michigan Democratic Senator Gary
Peters is facing a strong challenge this year from Republican
John James. Peters leads now, but this could be too close to
call in November.

I had not, until now, thought that Minnesota Democratic
Senator Tina Smith was very vulnerable this cycle. Like
Gary Peters, Smith is low profile and overshadowed by the
state’s other senator, Amy Klobuchar. GOP senate nominee
Jason Lewis is aggressive, but controversial, and always
needed a Republican tide in 2020 to win this race. If the
current GOP surge continues, and Mr. Trump carries
Minnesota, this could be a big upset on election night.

Aside from the New Hampshire senate race, which is not
now close, the opportunities for additional GOP pick-ups
currently seem very slim.

Democratic possibilities for pick-ups are more numerous.

Perhaps the most vulnerable GOP incumbent this cycle is
Arizona Senator Martha McSally. Republican McSally lost
in 2018, was then appointed to fill a vacancy, but faces a
former astronaut, Mark Kelly, in 2020. McSally has
consistently trailed Kelly in polls..

The other highly vulnerable GOP incumbent, Colorado
Senator Cory Gardner, seems to be faring better. He has
been rated the underdog against former Democatic
Governor John Hickenlooper, but the challenger’s
campaign has been marked by missteps and controversies,
and Gardner might survive.

North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis has also trailed
his Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham in polls, and
this race might also depend on the presidential vote in the
state. North Carolina had been dependably “red,” but
recently has been trending “purple.”

As in Colorado, incumbent Montana GOP Senator Steve
Daines is facing a well-known Democratic challenger --- in
this case, current Governor Steve Bullock, who entered the
race at the last moment. Down-ballot, Montana is
somewhat “purple, but has been reliably GOP in the
presidential race.

Finally, among the most vulnerable GOP incumbents,
Maine Senator Susan Collins is facing a well-funded
challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon. One of the few
remaining GOP centrist conservatives in the senate,
Collins has been a popular iconic Maine figure with her
own base, and remains favored to retain her seat.

Less vulnerable, but nevertheless competitive GOP
incumbent senate races are taking place in Iowa (Senator
Joni Ernst vs. Democrat Theres Greenfield), Georgia (two
GOP incumbents facing liberal challenges), and Kansas
(open --- GOP nominee Roger Marshall vs. Democrat
Barbara Bollier).

Democrats assert they can also pick up senate seats in
Alaska, Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina, as
Republicans contend they can add a seat in New Mexico,
but so far, these are inclining clearly to the incumbent
party. With two months to go, these races could

In October, another evaluation of the above will be in
order. For now, however, control of the U.S. senate is in
contested doubt.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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