By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch
If Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate, that could lead to laws that shake up key sectors such as tech, health care, finance and energy — especially if Tuesday’s election brings a “blue wave” that puts Joe Biden in the White House.
So which Senate races are worth tracking, as 35 seats in that 100-member chamber are up for grabs in 2020?
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated nine seats as solidly Republican and 10 as solidly Democratic as of Tuesday, meaning the independent newsletter’s analysts view 16 races as competitive, with ratings that range from “Toss up” to “Lean D” or “Likely R.” The analysts previously rated 15 contests as competitive but then switched Mississippi to “Likely R” from "Solid R” last week.
Key Senate races in 2020
|State||Incumbent||Other candidate(s)||FiveThirtyEight forecast||Cook rating|
|1. Arizona||Martha McSally (R)||Mark Kelly (D)||78% chance for D win||Lean D|
|2. Colorado||Cory Gardner (R)||John Hickenlooper (D)||84% chance for D win||Lean D|
|3. Maine||Susan Collins (R)||Sara Gideon (D)||59% chance for D win||Toss up|
|4. Alabama||Doug Jones (D)||Tommy Tuberville (R)||87% chance for R win||Lean R|
|5. N. Carolina||Thom Tillis (R)||Cal Cunningham (D)||68% chance for D win||Toss up|
|6. Iowa||Joni Ernst (R)||Theresa Greenfield (D)||58% chance for D win||Toss up|
|7. Montana||Steve Daines (R)||Steve Bullock (D)||69% chance for R win||Toss up|
|8. Georgia (1)||David Perdue (R)||Jon Ossoff (D)||57% chance for R win||Toss up|
|9. Georgia (2)||Kelly Loeffler (R)||Doug Collins (R), Raphael Warnock (D)||63% chance for D win||Toss up|
|10. S. Carolina||Lindsey Graham (R)||Jaime Harrison (D)||77% chance for R win||Toss up|
|11. Kansas||N/A, incumbent retiring (R)||Roger Marshall (R), Barbara Bollier (D)||80% chance for R win||Lean R|
|12. Alaska||Dan Sullivan (R)||Al Gross (D)||77% chance for R win||Lean R|
|13. Michigan||Gary Peters (D)||John James (R)||83% chance for D win||Lean D|
|14. Texas||John Cornyn (R)||MJ Hegar (D)||86% chance for R win||Lean R|
|15. Kentucky||Mitch McConnell (R)||Amy McGrath (D)||96% chance for R win||Likely R|
|16. Mississippi||Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)||Mike Espy (D)||88% chance for R win||Likely R|
Sources: Cook Political Report and FiveThirtyEight data as of 11/3/20
Republicans are the incumbents in 14 out of the 16 competitive races. The GOP currently has 53 seats in the Senate, so Democrats need a net gain of four seats to take control of the chamber — or just three if Biden wins the presidential contest, because a Democratic vice president, Kamala Harris, would cast tie-breaking votes.
Henrietta Treyz, director of economy policy at Veda Partners, said in an Oct. 9 note that Democrats “now have a 55% chance of securing 50 seats in the Senate and upwards of 85% odds of winning the White House.”
Meanwhile, FiveThirtyEight has given a 75% chance for a Democratic takeover of the Senate as of Tuesday, and Height Capital Markets analysts put it at 73% in an Oct. 14 note. Height’s team also has warned that it could take time to determine the winner of this year’s Senate contests.
“Even as investors are beginning to discount the possibility of a period after the election in which presidential winner is not known for weeks, the chances of uncertainty about control of the Senate are rising,” the analysts said in an Oct. 8 note.
Some of the recent gains for U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.16% have been pinned in part on investors becoming less concerned about a contested presidential election. Biden has an edge of 2.3 percentage points over President Donald Trump in a RealClearPolitics average of polls focused on top swing states, and betting markets tracked by RCP give the Democratic challenger a 61% chance of beating the Republican incumbent.
Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm election and are widely expected to remain in charge there. The party lost its grip on the Senate in 2014’s midterm election, when Republican candidates picked up seats in key battleground states.
This is an updated version of a report first published on Oct. 9, 2020.