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GOP favored to defend Senate in 2020: analysis

May 23, 2019

Sen. Doug Jones faces such tough re-election prospects in Alabama that it is “far from guaranteed” that he could emerge victorious in a rematch against Roy Moore if the embattled Republican captured his party’s nomination.

That is one of the takeaways from the University of Virginia’s latest breakdown of the 2020 Senate races, which finds the GOP is well-positioned, at least for now, to defend its 53-47 seat majority in the upper chamber.

“The GOP remains favored to hold the chamber in large part because so many of the seats they are defending are in states that seem certain to vote Republican for president, and strongly so,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

As it stands, Democrats best opportunities to flip seats are in “toss-up” races in Colorado, and Arizona, but they could struggle to hang onto the seat in deep red Alabama, where President Trump’s influence is likely to be felt down ticket.

That leaves Democrats searching for opportunities elsewhere - including in Maine, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina - to flip seats.

Mr. Kondik said the Senate retirements so far - Democrat Tom Udall of New Mexico and Republicans Pat Roberts of Kansas, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Mike Enzi of Wyoming - are not likely to have a major impact on the broader battle for control of the Senate.

National Democrats, meanwhile, have missed out on some high-profile recruits and Alabama and Colorado remain the most likely seats to flip in races that could hinge on what happens in the presidential contest.

“In an age where ticket-splitting has become much less common, the individual attributes of the incumbents -- and the challengers -- may not mean as much as they commonly have in the past,” Mr. Kondik said. “For that reason, it’s far from guaranteed that Jones could win even if Moore ran and got the nomination again; despite Moore’s horrible baggage and campaign, he only lost to Jones by less than two points.”

Democrats, he said, got their favored recruit in Arizona, where former astronaut Mark Kelly, the wife of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is running - setting up a possible showdown with Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who needs to win her party’s nomination.

Democrats also could try to target Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, as well as Joni Ernst of Iowa and David Perdue of Georgia.

At the moment, though, those races are uphill battles, Mr. Kondik said.

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