United States Elections

Ranking the 2020 Senate Races on Flip Chances

3 Mins read
2020 Senate Races Rankings

You may know that when it comes to the 2020 Senate races, there are 35 of them. One may also be aware that we have predicted all 35, and you can see those here on Electionarium.

This exercise in evaluating the 2020 Senate races is a bit different. We have taken it upon ourselves to rank the Senate contests this year from the most likely to flip all the way down to least likely. It is one more way political enthusiasts and interested voters can visualize the state of the race as we see it.

2020 Senate Races: Rankings

Remember, #1 on the least is the seat most likely to change partisan affiliation in the 2020 election. #35 is the one in which it would take a political extinction-level event to flip.

2020 Senate Races ranked 1st to 35th

The Rationale: How We Ranked Them

When looking at the 2020 Senate races and organizing this list, we had to take into account several factors:

  • The overall partisan lean of the state.
  • Current poll numbers.
  • The popularity, or lack thereof, of the incumbent senator (if applicable).
  • Possible presidential coattails, particularly in states where one candidate or another is likely to win by a wide margin.

First-Tier Races

With that in mind, it is no surprise (we think) that Doug Jones of Alabama, a Democrat, is the most likely Senate incumbent to lose. There is much talk about the Democrats picking up enough seats to perhaps flip the Senate, so it is easy to overlook the Alabama Senate race. In fact, it’s overlooked so much because most assume it is “gone” for the Democrats. Donald Trump will win Alabama by a comfortable margin and sweep Tommy Tuberville in behind him.

The real battle on this list was for second, a spot no senator wants. We gave it to Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, instead of Martha McSally. The reasons are twofold: Colorado is further down the track in turning blue than Arizona, and Gardner is running against a well-known former governor. Nevertheless, McSally comes in with the third-most likely seat to flip in the 2020 Senate races.

Susan Collins is ahead of Thom Tillis on the danger list because Maine is no bastion of Republicanism, while Donald Trump has a plausible chance at winning North Carolina and perhaps saving Tillis in the process. Joni Ernst is perhaps a bit more safe because of Trump’s stronger (not by much) possibility of winning Iowa, but she is in trouble.

Second-Tier Races

Once you pass Iowa on this list, you start getting into some second-tier races and others in which challengers hope to make them first-tier. At this point, the first of them may be David Perdue in the regular Senate election in Georgia. Jon Ossoff has been close to him in the polls, but this race has flown under the radar. So has Montana with Steve Daines, who is running against an incumbent governor, but we think Republicans are going to have a slightly less difficult time in Montana in general than Georgia.

Rounding out this second tier of races are Lindsey Graham in South Carolina and the Kansas open seat. Democrats have an outside chance at both, though of the two, they are going harder at South Carolina. Had Kris Kobach won the Kansas GOP Senate primary, Kansas would be higher than tenth on this list.

Third-Tier and Lower-Tier Races

Once outside the top ten, we are talking about Senate races in which there will have to be significant late movement for them to become genuine problems for their incumbent parties. For example, Gary Peters in Michigan is thought to not be quite safe, but few expect this seat to flip, either. Democrats would love nothing more than to send Mitch McConnell down to defeat, but it’s unlikely. His Democratic opponent, however, has raised a lot of money, so it sits in the middle of the list.

Probably not a single race below that will be competitive in the slightest. We rate little blue Rhode Island with Jack Reed as the least likely seat to flip in the nation. Why not Massachusetts? Here’s a better question: Does it matter?

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