Senate Races 2020: Where Close Contests Stand


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As of mid morning on Wednesday, there haven’t been any huge surprises in Senate races yet. Republicans and Democrats got all their expected wins, including in red states where some thought a blue upset was possible.

Though media outlets and Democratic activists insisted that Republican Senate seats in South Carolina and Texas were in play for Democrats, GOP incumbents Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn held on by large margins. With most votes counted in South Carolina, Graham is leading his Democratic opponent by 14 points, and Cornyn leads his challenger by ten points; both races were called fairly early yesterday evening.

Meanwhile, a few of the races called yesterday involved a Senate seat changing hands.

Although the full vote has yet to be reported in Arizona, most major networks and outlets have called the Senate race for Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, unseating incumbent Martha McSally. With more than 80 percent of the vote in, Kelly leads McSally by about six points. After losing the 2018 race to fill the seat left by the death of Republican senator John McCain, McSally was appointed to fill the seat left by the retirement of former Republican senator Jon Kyl until the next election.

Earlier yesterday evening, several outlets called two other races that will flip Senate seats. In Colorado, former Democratic governor and failed presidential candidate John Hickenlooper has defeated Republican incumbent Cory Gardner, and in Alabama, Republican challenger and political outsider Tommy Tuberville has unseated Democrat Doug Jones.

With all those races counted, the Senate stands at 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats (including the two Independents who caucus with the Democrats). But there are several key races in swing states with results outstanding, which could still determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years. Let’s go through them and where they stand as of this morning.

With about 89 percent of the vote counted, according to the New York Times election tracking, Republican challenger John James is leading Democratic senator Gary Petters 49.4 percent to 48.7 percent, an advantage or fewer than 40,000 votes. If James holds on and defeats Peters, that would be R+1.

In Maine, with a little more than 70 percent of the vote in, Republican senator Susan Collins has a sizable lead over her Democratic competitor Sara Gideon. As of this writing, the Times shows Collins up by more than six points, 49.6 percent to 43.5 percent, a difference of about 35,000 votes. If Collins hangs on, it’d be a somewhat unexpected and important hold for the GOP.

About 95 percent of the vote has been counted in North Carolina, and Republican senator Thom Tillis maintains a fairly healthy lead against Democrat Cal Cunningham. The Times reports that Tillis has received about 48.7 percent of the vote thus far to Cunningham’s 46.9 percent, a difference of nearly 100,000 votes. Tillis was widely considered one of the more vulnerable GOP incumbents in the Senate, but late yesterday evening he declared victory in the race before any network or outlet had called it in his favor.

Another GOP incumbent is leading his Democratic opponent in Georgia, where Republican senator David Perdue boasts a four-point advantage over challenger Jon Ossoffm 50.8 percent to 46.8 percent. Perdue is up by almost 200,000 votes with more than 90 percent of the vote counted.

Finally, though the Associated Press has labeled the Alaska Senate race “too close to call,” Republican incumbent Dan Sullivan is leading Democratic challenger Al Gross by nearly 30 points, a vote difference of about 40,000. Only about a third of the votes in Alaska have been counted.

If all five of those races go the way they are trending at the moment, the GOP will finish the cycle exactly where they started, with 53 senators to the Democrats’ 47. Even if Republican John James doesn’t managed to pull off an upset against Peters in Michigan, the GOP will still hold the Senate, barring any huge changes in these other remaining contests.

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