September 25, 2019


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin's (D-IL) 2020 re-election is a certainty. The perpetuation of the Republicans' current 53-47 U.S. Senate majority is not such a certainty, however. And the ability of the president elected in 2020 to effectively govern makes control of the Senate a necessity.

There are 33 seats on the table in 2020, plus vacancies in Georgia and Arizona. Republicans occupy 23 of those 35 seats, and 21 of those Republican seats are in states that Donald Trump won in 2016. Only 12 Democratic seats are on the ballot, and only one - Alabama - is in a state won by Trump.

Current projections are that Republican senators in Maine, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina are at risk, as is Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, who won a special 2017 election. Trump's approval rating is underwater in Colorado, Maine and Arizona, which puts senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) in jeopardy. Gardner's opponent will likely be former governor John Hickenlooper (D), who recently quit the presidential contest, and Collins faces residual backlash from her 2017 vote for Brett Kavanaugh. Her gigantic 2020 problem: Does she or does she not endorse Trump? Either option loses her votes. Collins has yet to announce her intentions. McSally lost her 2018 Senate bid by 55,900 votes, but then was appointed to the late John McCain's vacancy.

North Carolina is a politically marginal state with a high population influx and turnover, and incumbent Thom Tillis' (R) fate is inextricably tied to Trump, who won the state 2,362,631-2,189,316, a margin of 173,315 votes, in 2016. Tillis won by 45,408 votes in 2014.

Jones won because of a flawed Republican opponent who was accused of dating underage girls. His margin was 21,924 votes in a state Trump won by 588,708 votes, or 62.1 percent, votes in 2016. If Republican voters smarten up and don't nominate Roy Moore again, Jones is history.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House is busily trying to build a record of accomplishment, eschewing impeachment, and giving Democratic House incumbents a record on which to run on in 2020. Voters have largely ignored those efforts. Nevertheless, whatever passes the House gets buried in the Senate, but Democratic senatorial candidates can use that against "McConnell Majority" incumbents. An impeachment, as Pelosi knows, would completely consume all congressional time over the next year, and subsume all other issues. Pro- and anti-Trump allegiance would engulf everything and everybody.

There will likely be two liberal U.S. Supreme vacancies in the near future, and the 60-vote filibuster cloture rule has been voided. 2020 Democrats are safe in Ill, N.J., Del Minn., Mass., Ore., Mich., R.I., N.H., N.M. and Va., all anti-Trump states. Republicans are safe in Tenn., W. Va., La., Miss., Ark., Mont., Wis., S.C., Okla., Ky., Ga., Ind., Kan., S.D., Neb. and Alaska. Republican incumbents have retired in Tenn., Wis., Kan. and possibly in Okla. and Maine. There will be long shot Democratic efforts in Texas and Iowa plus the second Georgia seat, which will have a special all-party primary and a January runoff between the top two finishers.

ILLINOIS: Durbin has served since 1996, and is the Senate's minority whip. At age 74 he will never become the Democrats' leader, but could become majority whip. This is likely his last term. Republican candidates are former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, physician and Vietnam veteran Peggy Hubbard, along with second-tier aspirants Robert Marshall, Omeed Memar, Dean Seppelfrick and Tom Tarter. Running as an independent will be 2019 mayoral loser Willie Wilson, who will draw some black votes. OUTLOOK: Safe for Durbin.

NORTH CAROLINA: The 2018 gubernatorial contests in Florida and Georgia proved that outsider African-American candidates could assemble a large minority/white liberal. That situation is developing in this state, which has a black population of 22 percent, and a large liberal population in Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte. Erica Smith (D), a state senator, and Joe Cunningham (D), a white attorney, are running, and Tillis (R), who has not been an especially vocal supporter of Trump, faces a primary against investment banker Garland Tucker, a big Trump booster. OUTLOOK: It all depends on how well Trump does. If he wins by 100,000-plus, so will Tillis. If it's the obverse, Smith goes to Washington.

ALABAMA: If Republicans want a winner, who better than a much-venerated and well-known Auburn University football coach? Tommy Tuberville is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Jones, as are Moore, U.S. representative Bradley Byrne, hard-righter Arnold Mooney and secretary of state John Merrill. Polls show Tuberville in the lead. OUTLOOK: Moore still has support, but in the 2020 runoff Tuberville will win by a whole bunch of points, and then dispatch Jones.

COLORADO: This is a flaky and politically volatile state, swinging ideologically left and then right, and then back through the decades. It is going left in 2020. Trump lost 1,338,870-1,202,484 in 2016, a margin of 136,386 votes. Gardner won by 39,688 votes in 2014. Hickenlooper, age 67, is running, as is ex-speaker Andrew Romanoff and eight other candidates, all with credible credentials. Coloradoans are noteworthy for replacing drab-and-dreary politicians with flavor-of-the-month phenomena. OUTLOOK: Don't be surprised if a woman defeats both Trump and Gardner.

MAINE: Collins has not announced for re-election, which means she is out. Republicans have no replacement although Trump lost by just 357,735-335,693. OUTLOOK: Either congresswoman Chellie Pingree or speaker Sarah Gideon, both Democrats, will replace her.

MASSACHUSETTS: It's Kennedy Time - Again. At the ripening age of 38, congressman Joe Kennedy III, grandson of Robert Kennedy and grandnephew of the late president and Ted Kennedy, is poised to run for senator. OUTLOOK: There is no doubt he will beat the aging Edward Markey in the primary. A Kennedy has been one of the state's senators for 58 of the past 67 years.

ARIZONA: McSally, a former Air Force pilot, will face Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and later disabled in 2010. Trump won the state 1,252,401-1,161,167. OUTLOOK: Unless Trump's current poll numbers rebound, and he wins Arizona by 100,000 plus, McSally will lose again.

GEORGIA: Stacey Abrams (D), the state legislator who lost 1,978,408 -1,923,685 for governor in 2018, will not run for either senate seat. She is preparing for a 2022 rematch with winner Brian Kemp (R). Trump won Georgia 2,089,104-1,877,963. Note that the 2018 turnout was almost as high as 2016's. OUTLOOK: Incumbent David Perdue (R) looks secure but in the so-called primary for Johnny Isakson's seat, a viable Democrat like political legacies Michelle Nunn or Jason Carter could make the runoff.

TEXAS: Ted Cruz is not much beloved, but he still managed to beat the charismatic Beto O'Rourke 4,260,553-4,045,632 in 2018. O'Rourke is running for president, and John Cornyn's (R) seat is up in 2020. Cornyn is the Republican majority whip, and in line to succeed Mitch McConnell in the 2020s. Trump won the state 4,685,047-3,877,866, so there seems to be a solid yet eroding Republican majority. Democratic senate candidates include MJ Hegar, Sema Hernandez and Royce West. OUTLOOK: Both Trump and Cornyn will win.

IOWA: Incumbent Joni Ernst (R) should be on the ropes, especially considering the effect of Trump tariff policies on soybean farmers. Trump won Iowa by a comfortable 800,983-653,699, so he can afford to lose some votes. Ernst won 588,575-494,370 in 2014, but is not seen as a Trump acolyte. A bunch of Democrats are pondering the race, including an ex-governor and the state auditor. OUTLOOK: Ernst favored thus far.

KENTUCKY: The venerable 77-year old Mitch McConnell was supposed to retire in 2020, but the demands and opportunities of power dictated otherwise. McConnell won with 56 percent in 2014 and Trump won with 65.5 percent - 1,202,971-628,254 - in 2016. OUTLOOK: McConnell is a political icon at the peak of his Washington clout, Kentuckians know it, and will keep him around for a final term. The Democrat is Amy McGrath, an ex-fighter pilot who is running to get some statewide ID. McConnell will win.

SOUTH CAROLINA: Incum-bent Lindsey Graham is chairman of the Judiciary committee, and his body's Supreme Court and federal court gatekeeper. He will face a black anti-Trump Democrat, either Gloria Bromell-Tinubu or Jaime Harrison. OUTLOOK: The state is 28 percent black, but Graham won with 55 percent in 2014. Safe for Graham.

KANSAS: Kris Kobach (R) is outspokenly pro-Trump, especially on immigration issues, and that got him beat convincingly for governor in 2018 in a traditionally Republican state won overwhelmingly by Trump in 2016. Incumbent Pat Roberts (R) is retiring, and a slew of more moderate Republicans, including congressman Roger Marshall and senate president Susan Wagle, are running, but a Kobach primary win would hand the seat to a Democrat. OUTLOOK: An upset in Kansas could give the Senate to the Democrats.

TENNESSEE: Once dominant, Democrats in Al Gore's state aren't even competitive anymore. Incumbent Lamar Alexander (R) is retiring and his successor will be Bill Hagerty, a wealthy equity investor, Trump's 2016 state chairman, and until recently Ambassador to Japan. OUTLOOK: No contest.

OUTLOOK: Republicans will lose Maine and Colorado, neither North Carolina nor Arizona look particularly rosy, and Kansas, Iowa and the Georgia special could flip in any anti-Trump wave. Alabama will be a gain. It would be a miracle if Democrats DON'T have a 52-48 majority in 2021.