When you have almost three dozen 2020 US Senate races, it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on in each state. Not so much for us, however, because this is the sort of thing we do.
Last election cycle, it was the House that was the major focus. This year, it will be the Senate. To be exact, there are 35 United States Senate elections going on around the country in 34 states. (Yes, Georgia has two of them this year.) Control of the upper house of Congress is at stake, with Democrats feeling they have a chance to flip the majority while the Republicans hope they can hold enough seats to hang on to power. At present, the Republicans hold 53 seats and the Democratic caucus is 47. If Donald Trump is re-elected, the Democrats would need to gain four seats net to win the Senate. Should the Democrats win the 2020 presidential election, they will only need a net gain of three.
Below, we will update our Senate race ratings from now until the November election. After that, we’ll have the results and let you know how we did. Isn’t this easy?
In the meantime, if you are looking for a primer on all 35 Senate races this year, we made a handy Youtube video that will walk you through each and every one.
These ratings were last updated on May 17, 2020.
Senate Race Latest Update Video: May 23
2020 US Senate Races Predictions: Current
Projected Seat Ranges
|Doug Jones (D) seeking re-election|
Jones in 2020 Alabama is like Scott Brown in 2012 Massachusetts. Both were very fortunate to have won their special elections against very bad opponents, but reversion to the political mean is very hard to prevent. The incumbent senator would need to call in a few more miracles to get re-elected in a year in which Trump will get over 60 percent in Alabama.
|Dan Sullivan (R) seeking re-election|
The Democrats are not putting a lot of effort into this race and it shows. Sullivan appears to be safe.
|Martha McSally (R) seeking election|
What once was a pretty red state could soon have two Democrats representing it in the Senate. Martha McSally, the appointed senator, must run in a special election for the remainder of John McCain’s unserved term. The early polling in this race has been almost universally unfavorable to McSally, putting this in the Democratic column for now.
|Tom Cotton (R) seeking re-election|
The Democrats do not have a candidate in this race, and even if they did, it would not have made a difference.
|Cory Gardner (R) seeking re-election|
Cory Gardner is in for a rough ride in the Colorado Senate race. He got elected in 2014 during the GOP’s Senate wave but now has to face a well-known former governor, John Hickenlooper, in a presidential year in which Donald Trump is not going to carry the state. The amount of ticket-splitting that would have to happen to save Gardner in November may not be realistic. Consider also that Gardner’s poll numbers to date against Hickenlooper have been straight-up bad.
|Chris Coons (D) seeking re-election|
Delaware is blue where it matters (New Castle County), but the whole state probably will be when hometown candidate Joe Biden wins it in November. Democrats will do very well in Delaware all the way down the ballot as a result. Coons may have to put down a rebellion in the Democratic primary, but the Democrats will hold this seat with no issue.
|David Perdue (R) seeking re-election|
RATINGS CHANGE MAY 3: R3 TO R2
May 17: Well, the first wave of opinion polls is out and it’s reasonable to expect David Perdue is ahead. He is not, however, running away with this thing so we are dropping him out of the “safe” category, just like where the other Senate race stands.
April 4: Perdue is the Republican senator from Georgia at less risk. The other Senate race is going to be such a mess that we might forget this one is happening.
|Kelly Loeffler (R) seeking election|
Loeffler seeking the remainder of her term and is getting a full-court press from the pro-Trump guys thanks to Doug Collins, which is not to say Loeffler is not pro-Trump, she certainly is, but Collins wanted the appointment and didn’t get picked. With this race starting off with a jungle primary, Loeffler and Collins could technically face off in the general election, but most likely it will be one or the other as they split GOP votes. The Republicans would probably hold both seats, but doesn’t necessarily mean both incumbents will be back in the Senate next year.
|Jim Risch (R) seeking re-election|
This race will be called on election night a second after the polls close.
|Dick Durbin (D) seeking re-election|
No problem for Durbin in Illinois, as he will be re-elected with little trouble. Illinois has had Republican senators in recent times, but Durbin is an entrenched incumbent. This state is still blue and Durbin is not going anywhere.
|Joni Ernst (R) seeking re-election|
RATINGS CHANGE MAY 3: R2 TO R1
May 3: The first polling is starting to come in for the Iowa Senate race, and while we assume Joni Ernst is ahead, but if so, not by much. This race no longer deserves “strong lean” status and Joni Ernst is in a more heightened sense of electoral danger.
April 4: We have on our hands an interesting race in Iowa as Joni Ernst is running for a second term, but how interesting? It feels like the Democrats could have found a standout candidate but they did not, and even though the national Democrats are putting money into this race, they had better hope it moves the poll numbers over time. Ernst is believed to be ahead, maybe not by a lot, but in a winning position as the campaign begins.
|Pat Roberts (R) retiring|
Pat Roberts has been in the Senate since 1996 and survived a spirited challenge in 2014; the senator is going out on top. The Republicans have a wide-open race to replace him, and whomever wins that primary is going to be a strong favorite in the general. It depends on who that person is. Will the Republicans give Kris Kobach another chance after he imploded in the 2018 governor’s race? He would still probably win the Senate race, but there are a number of national Republicans not interested in taking that sort of chance.1
|Mitch McConnell (R) seeking re-election|
Mitch McConnell is very unlikely to lose Kentucky in a year in which Donald Trump will win the state in a landslide. Even if this were a midterm election, McConnell, who has been in the Senate for a long time and has obvious power, is a good bet to win. It’s been well over 20 years since the last time a Democrat won a Senate race in the Bluegrass State.
|Bill Cassidy (R) seeking re-election|
Like many Southern states, Louisiana is a fraction of the Democratic bastion it used to be. This state having two Republican senators would have been unthinkable a few decades ago. When Bill Cassidy got elected, it happened for the first time since Reconstruction. Louisiana may swing back someday, but that is not in 2020. Cassidy is safe.
|Susan Collins (R) seeking re-election|
RATINGS CHANGE APRIL 16: R1 TO D1
April 16: Well, the poll numbers are getting worse for Susan Collins and we are at the point where we can’t sit here and tell you she’s the favorite anymore despite 24 years of Senate incumbency. She was barely favored in our first run of projections but her polling is too weak to sustain it. Maine is a strange state politically so who knows where the votes will land in November, but for this moment, we have this as a flip.
April 4: Susan Collins has not had to break much of a sweat getting re-elected in past races, at least since she first won in 1996. Might this finally be the year the Democrats get her? It could, but it looks like a close race. Maine is a political oddity of a state: they’ve got Democratic congresspeople, an Independent and a moderate Republican senator, just had a two-term arch-conservative governor replaced by a liberal, and split its electoral votes in 2016. The point is not to count Maine all in one column or all in another; if states could be politically non-binary, this one is. Collins’ poll numbers are not great but do not count her out yet; do not assume the Democrats will win here just because it’s New England.
|Ed Markey (D) seeking re-election|
All of the drama in this Senate race is in the Democratic primary, which is Ed Markey vs. Joe Kennedy. Its winner us almost certain to be elected in November.
|Gary Peters (D) seeking re-election|
The Republicans are in for an uphill battle in Michigan, as all of their Michigan Senate races have been for a few decades now. As senators go, Gary Peters has a low profile, but this race more than leans Democratic.
|Tina Smith (D) seeking re-election|
There is little reason to believe at this point that the Republicans are on their way to picking this seat off from Tina Smith, who just won a Senate race here less than two years ago.
|Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) seeking re-election|
Mike Espy could prove to be a decent candidate again for the Democrats, but Democratic success in Mississippi these days is rare. In a year in which Trump will top the ticket and win big in Mississippi, Hyde-Smith may not run level with Trump, but they will both win.
|Steve Daines (R) seeking re-election|
Montana was a recruitment success for the Democrats given that Steve Bullock jumped into the race, but will he flip a Senate seat in a presidential year? It’s possible, but a lot depends on the size of Trump’s margin here. Straight-ticket GOP voters could save Daines if it gets to that point.
|Ben Sasse (R) seeking re-election|
The Democrats don’t really try in Nebraska anymore since Ben Nelson checked out, and Ben Sasse will be re-elected here without issue.
|Jeanne Shaheen (D) seeking re-election|
The 2014 race was a blockbuster Senate race that ended up going the Democrats’ way. In 2020, Shaheen will not face anything near the sort of challenge she had last time.
|Cory Booker (D) seeking re-election|
Republicans are not much of a viable entity in New Jersey, aside from the occasional moderate Republican getting elected governor. There is no indication at present that Cory Booker is in any danger.
|Tom Udall (D) retiring|
The Democrats had a few candidates from whom to choose to take up the mantle for this Senate race; as for the Republicans, not so much. New Mexico is a state that has only incidental contact with Republican elected officials in this day and age; they are not favored to win this open seat.
|Thom Tillis (R) seeking re-election|
RATINGS CHANGE MAY 3: R1 TO D1
May 3: Electionarium is really, really starting to hate the poll numbers for Thom Tillis, and what we mean is that we would hate them if we were him. Within the last month, they’ve gotten lousier. By no means is the seat gone for the GOP with six months until the election, but this is more than eyebrow-raising. This is a weak Democratic gain as of today.
April 4: I do not want to put any undue pressure on the parties or the Republican and Democratic candidates here, but control of the Senate may rely on who wins the North Carolina race. We’re serious: it could come down to North Carolina. Thom Tillis’ poll numbers have him viable, not running away with it, not falling too far behind. He is in a competitive position but the Democrats will try very hard to win this seat, knowing how important it is.
|Jim Inhofe (R) seeking re-election|
Inhofe is a senator-for-life in Oklahoma and we all know it. If this is his last go-around at age 85, it will be a successful one. Oklahoma has not put a Democrat in the Senate in decades and this is one of the least competitive 2020 US Senate races.
|Jeff Merkley (D) seeking re-election|
There is no notable opposition to Merkley, who will only benefit from it being a presidential year in a state that Donald Trump lost in 2016 by 11 points.
|Jack Reed (D) seeking re-election|
If you told me that the Rhode Island Republican Party was a figment of my imagination, I might believe you. Reed might as well not be opposed at all.
|Lindsey Graham (R) seeking re-election|
Somewhere along the line, both Republicans and Democrats at various times have found themselves on the outs with Graham. At the end of the day, however, he is still a Republican running in South Carolina, which is and will be Trump Country. Graham’s chances of defeat are minimal.
|Mike Rounds (R) seeking re-election|
The Democrats will not spend a plug nickel on this race, for the most part because they have nobody to run here. Gone are the days of Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson.
|Lamar Alexander (R) retiring|
The Republican primary might be a free-for-all, but once that’s over, the GOP winner will be the heavy favorite. Think about this: in 2018, a strong Democratic year, the Democrats recruited as well as possible in Tennessee with a recent former governor, and still lost that Senate race by 11 points. The Democrats in 2020 have nobody of note to run.
|John Cornyn (R) seeking re-election|
John Cornyn is probably not as disliked as Ted Cruz, and Cruz won his race against a strong Democratic opponent in a blue year. Cornyn has the wind of the presidential race at his back. Texas is red until it isn’t.
|Mark Warner (D) seeking re-election|
Virginia ain’t what it used to be for the Republicans. Even though Warner got a surprising scare in 2014, the odds of that happening again (with a less well-known Republican challenger) are remote.
|Shelley Moore Capito (R) seeking re-election|
At least the probable Democratic nominee, Richard Ojeda, made some headlines for his 2018 House run, but West Virginia’s politics have changed so much in the last 20 years that it’s hard to picture any Democrat not named Manchin winning here now.
|Mike Enzi (R) retiring|
The Republican primary is in essence the general election in Wyoming. Mike Enzi’s seat will stay in Republican hands.
1: Manu Raju, Alex Rogers, Kevin Liptak, “Kobach courts Trump as Senate GOP frets over Kansas seat,” CNN, February 15, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/14/politics/kris-kobach-kansas-senate-run-republican-reaction/index.html/)