Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate in 2014 and haven’t given up control, even when Democrats won back the House of Representatives in 2018.
This hasn’t stopped the party from setting their sights on regaining control in 2020, but as CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote (credit when someone does something right), two recent developments have made 2020 look like a more difficult prospect.
For starters, failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) said she would not seek a U.S. Senate seat next year. As Cillizza notes, “Abrams was Democrats’ clear first choice to take on [Republican Sen. David] Perdue, a freshman senator sitting in an increasingly competitive state.” The other potential Democrats who could step up to the challenge would not “bring her name ID, fundraising capability and star power,” Cillizza observed.
Georgia, until the early 2000s, had mostly Democratic senators. On presidential election years, however, the state is more reliably red. Georgia has not voted for a Democrat for president since Bill Clinton in 1992. Democrats already were at a disadvantage with a senate vote during a presidential year, but without someone on the ticket with name recognition like Abrams, their chances are even slimmer. Of course, Perdue could always do or say something monumentally stupid, but Democrats can’t bank on that.
The other disappointment for Democrats came from Iowa. State Rep. Cindy Axne followed the Democrat governor’s lead and declined to enter the senate race against incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst (R).
As Cillizza reported, Senate Democrats tried to recruit Axne to run after Gov. Tom Vilsack declined. “With Axne out, it’s unclear who Democrats will turn to as they seek to upend Ernst,” he wrote.
The CNN editor mentioned Alabama, Arizona, and Colorado as other battleground states for Democrats. So long as Roy Moore (R) doesn’t get the nomination again in Alabama, Sen. Doug Jones (D) will have difficulty holding onto his seat. Sen. Cory Gardner may struggle in Colorado, but he was able to win in 2014 despite a Democrat incumbent and constant claims of sexism. Still, that wasn’t a presidential election, and the Centennial State hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since George W. Bush in 2004.
As for Arizona, it might be a toss-up. The state is considered reliably red, but Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, won last year and hasn’t legislated that differently than the Republican senators before her in the state.
Democrats need to win a net three seats to regain control in 2020 if President Donald Trump loses re-election. They will need a net four seats if Trump wins, Cillizza reported.
After Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, and Iowa, Democrats would need to make a run for Kansas, Kentucky (good luck taking out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) and North Carolina to have a chance to regain control. As Cillizza reported, these pickups are “more remote – but not impossible.”
It all depends on the presidential election, really. Who’s at the top of the ticket will end up deciding the makeup of the senate. Republicans couldn’t take back the senate during President Barack Obama’s elections, but were able to during an off-year.