Senate Watch 2020

The 2020 Senate Races, Explained



This November, all eyes will be on the U.S. Senate, where both parties are fighting to claim majority leadership. In Senate Watch 2020, we'll bring you weekly updates, including races to watch, expert predictions, and interviews with the key players. This week, tap along for a recap on where both parties stand.

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Republicans currently have the upper-hand in the chamber, holding 53 of 100 seats. Democrats hold 45 seats, plus two Independent senators who caucus with them. For simplicity's sake, let's say that Republicans hold a 53-47 majority.

This November, 35 seats are up for election.

The Role Of The Vice President

In the case of a 50-50 vote split, the Vice President casts the deciding vote, so if President Trump wins reelection, the Democrats will need 51 senate seats to claim majority. That's a net gain of four seats.

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For the Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee. If he wins the presidency, Democrats would only need 50 seats to claim the majority, since his VP would vote in case of a 50-50 tie. That's a net gain of three seats.

So how does the polling look so far?

"From a 30,000-foot view, this map looks bad for the GOP." — David Byler, The Washington Post


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Democrats are on the offense, as current polling favors their candidates. In a June 12 report from The Washington Post, of the nine seats most likely to flip parties in November, only one would switch from Democrat to Republican.

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There are tight races in at least five seats currently held by Republican senators. For the GOP to maintain their majority, they're hoping to hold on to at least four of these seats.

  1. Martha McSally (Arizona)
  2. Cory Gardner (Colorado)
  3. Susan Collins (Maine)
  4. Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
  5. Steve Daines (Montana)

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For now, there's just one tight race held by a Democratic incumbent. That's in Alabama, where Senator Doug Jones won a surprise victory in a 2017 special election, filling the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who left to be Trump's first Attorney General.

That's all for now! Tune in next week for the next round of Senate Watch 2020.