The political heat is reaching fever pitch as we rapidly approach the upcoming presidential election on November 3rd. The question dominating most political discussions is whether former Vice President Joe Biden will unseat incumbent President Donald Trump. However, while the battle for the White House is undoubtedly crucial, the consequences of this election reach far beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In addition to deciding which man will lead the country, voters will be determining whether or not Republicans will maintain their slim majority in The United States Senate.
Currently, the Senate has 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats (including two independent Senators in Maine’s Sen. Angus King of Maine and Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders). There are 35 seats “up for grabs” in November, including special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Republicans currently hold 23 of these seats. The Democrats only need to gain a handful of seats to wrestle back control of the Senate.
If Democrats succeed, the results could be politically disastrous for the Republicans. Democrats are already threatening to cement in place generational levels of power through actions like packing the Supreme Court. As such, the fight for the Senate is arguably just as important as the fight for the White House, with 10 key battles standing out as tipping points for both parties.
1. Alabama — Sen. Doug Jones (D) vs. Tommy Tuberville (R)
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones narrowly won in 2017 against Republican Roy Moore, soon after Moore was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with minors. Jones’ victory was the first win for the Democratic Party in the deeply red state of Alabama for decades, and responsibility for the loss of this seat falls squarely on the Republican Party. They will look to make amends this year, with former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville — who defeated former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the primary — looking to flip this seat with the support of President Trump. With other seats on the line, it’s crucial that the Republicans regain this seat.
2. Arizona — Sen. Martha McSally (R) vs. Mark Kelly (D)
Republican Senator Martha McSally is facing a tough battle against former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. McSally lost her last Senate battle in 2018 to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, and now sits in the Senate after being appointed by Governor Doug Ducey after the death of John McCain. Only two short years since her last electoral defeat, McSally’s seat looks at risk, with Kelly ahead in the polls by more than 6 points, according to RealClear Politics. As the state of Arizona becomes more competitive politically, the Democrats will be looking to flip McSally’s seat in November.
3. Colorado — Sen. Cory Gardner (R) vs. John Hickenlooper (D)
Incumbent Republican Senator Cory Gardner is facing former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in what looks like an uphill battle. Hillary Clinton won Colorado in 2016, and Biden looks likely to do the same in November. Not only that, Democratic Governor Jard Polis won his election by more than 10 percentage points just two years ago. Hickenlooper entered the race on the back of his presidential campaign, and has significant financial resources to launch a formidable effort. Unless he is hampered by a ruling that he violated state ethics rules as governor, Hickenlooper appears to be the likely victor.
4. Georgia — Sen. David Perdue (R) vs. Jon Ossoff (D)
Businessman David Perdue won his first race in 2014. He now faces Jon Ossoff who, like Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke, has been made famous by the media on the back of an electoral defeat. Ossoff’s strength lies in fundraising, having lost the most expensive House race in history when Rep. Karen Handel defeated him in a special election for Georgia’s 6th district, despite Ossoff spending over $30 million. Perdue currently leads Ossoff by about 3 points, according to RCP’s average.
5. Iowa — Sen. Joni Ernst (R) vs. Theresa Greenfield (D)
The state of Iowa has been somewhat of a thorn in the side of the Republican Party, with the decline in Trump’s approval rating allowing the Democrats to flip two Republican House seats during the midterm elections. A previously safe reelection bid for Sen. Ernst has now become a tight race, with businesswoman Theresa Greenfield leading by 5 points in the polls. If current trends continue, Iowa could flip from a red state to a blue state in a few short years.
6. Kansas — Rep. Roger Marshall (R) vs. Barbara Bollier (D)
While the Republicans have yet to lose a Senate race in the traditionally red state of Kansas since the Great Depression, two-term Congressman Roger Marshall faces a staunch challenge from state Senator Barbara Bollier, a former Republican. Bollier’s past political allegiance may provide some advantage, and time will tell whether her history of battles within the Kansas Republican Party will attract moderate Republican voters. Scant polling gives Marshall the advantage.
7. Maine — Sen. Susan Collins (“R”) vs. Sara Gideon (D)
On a presidential level, Maine is a reliable Democratic state. As a result, incumbent Collins is under growing pressure from a left-leaning base, with her vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 remaining as a contentious issue. With a huge amount of campaign funding, state House Speaker Gideon will look to finally remove Collins from office, and may profit from Maine’s somewhat bizarre system of “ranked-choice voting,” where votes are reallocated if neither Collins nor Gideon receive a majority. Gideon currently leads by about 4 points in the polls.
8. Montana — Sen. Steve Daines (R) vs. Gov. Steve Bullock (D)
Montana is another state witnessing a challenger who used a short-lived presidential run as a platform to run for Senate. After saying that he wouldn’t run for Senate, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is now running to defeat Republican Sen. Steve Daines. Montana is deeply red on a presidential level, with Trump winning in 2016 by 20 points. However, Bullock will attempt to use the modest buzz gained during his presidential campaign and significant statewide attention from his handling of Montana’s COVID-19 response to beat the odds and split the ticket. Polls show Daines currently edging out Bullock.
9. North Carolina — Sen. Thom Tillis (R) vs. Cal Cunningham (D)
Controversy is dominating this Senate race in the state of North Carolina, with Sen. Tillis testing positive for COVID-19 and Cunningham being embroiled in a scandal regarding the exchange of “sexually suggestive texts with a woman who is not his wife.” Polls place Cunningham ahead in the race by more than 5 points, with the former state Senator out-fundraising the Republican incumbent. North Carolina is a notoriously difficult place to win reelection in the Senate, and Tillis will hope to buck that trend.
10. South Carolina — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) vs. Jaime Harrison (D)
Sen. Lindsey Graham has had a turbulent few years, moving from vocal critic to staunch supporter of President Donald Trump and rocketing to social media fame as “Lindsey Graham 2.0” after his response to the attempts to upend Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. Former state party chairman Jaime Harrison is looking to become the first Democrat to win a Senate race in South Carolina this millennia, and is placing heavy focus on driving voter turnout among South Carolina’s black population and Graham’s role in the nomination and potential confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Recent polls show the race to be a toss-up.
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