The Other Crucial Election in 2020
Author: Greg Valliere
June 13, 2019
THE SENATE IS A FIREWALL, guarding against progressive House legislation like tax hikes, and its Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has prevailed with over 100 confirmations of conservative judges thus far in the Trump era. So control of the Senate is a very big deal — and it looks like Republicans have a decent chance of retaining control of the chamber in the 2020 election.
WATCHING ALABAMA: Republican retention of the Senate depends greatly on their prospects of reclaiming a seat they lost in 2018 when their nominee was the deeply flawed Roy Moore, who lost to Democrat Doug Jones. Alabama is among the most conservative states in the country; assuming Moore isn’t nominated again, this looks like a pickup for the GOP.
IF THAT HAPPENS, THE NUMBERS WOULD BE EXTREMELY DAUNTING for Democrats, who already trail in the Senate by 53-47 (counting two independents who caucus with the Democrats). With Alabama back in the GOP fold, the Democrats would need a net pickup of four seats, if they win the White House — or five, if Donald Trump stays as president.
WHO’S VULNERABLE? Of 34 seats up for re-election, the Republicans have to defend 22 and the Democrats 12. Amazingly, it appears that there aren’t many truly vulnerable incumbents. The Democrats have only one, Jones in Alabama, while the GOP has three: Susan Collins in Maine, still under fire for voting for Bret Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation; Cory Gardner in Colorado; and Martha McSalley in Arizona. Even if all three of these Republicans lose, the Republicans could still retain the Senate.
COULD THERE BE SURPRISES? There’s always surprises, and the Republicans can’t take for granted their Iowa seat, potentially vulnerable as the Farm Belt reels from high tariffs. And there’s a chance that Republican seats in Georgia and North Carolina could be vulnerable. The Democrats, meanwhile, look like a lock in most all of their races other than the one in Alabama.
BOTTOM LINE: We think there’s a 70% chance the Senate will stay Republican. We’ll predict the Democrats will lose only one seat while the GOP loses two of their own, which would give the GOP an effective 52-48 majority. A “wave” election for the White House could make a huge difference, of course, but a presidential cliffhanger is much more likely.
THE POLICY IMPLICATIONS: Republican control of the Senate means that even if the Democrats retain their majority in the liberal House and win the presidency, progressive legislation would stall — no Green New Deal, no Medicare for all, no tax hikes, etc. And the least appreciated story in Washington — the sharp veer rightward in the judiciary — would persist at least through 2021-22.
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