Control of U.S. Senate hangs in the balance - "The Sunday Political Brunch" - May 24, 2020


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Last week we looked at five of the most critical states for contested U.S. Senate seats: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina. This week we analyze the remaining five on my top-ten list. Remember Democrats need a net gain of four seats to control the Senate (or three if they win the White House). Let’s “brunch” on that:

“Dorothy, We’re Still in Kansas” – Longtime U.S. Senator and former House member Pat Roberts (R) Kansas, announced he would leave Congress after 50 years. Eight Republicans are competing in the August primary to succeed him, but polls indicate Kris Kobach, the 2018 nominee for governor, and Rep. Roger Marshall (R) Kansas are the frontrunners. State Sen. Barbara Bollier (D) Kansas and perennial Congressional candidate Robert Tillman are in the Democratic primary. While Kansas is a solid red state, it elected a Democrat governor in 2018. President Trump is popular here, and that may spell the difference. Pick? Leans GOP.

“Iowa Caucus Clatter” – Iowa is always one of the main battleground states in the presidential race, so the coattails of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden could have an impact. A composite of three recent polls indicates Sen. Joannie Ernst (R) Iowa, is at 46 percent, with potential Democratic nominee Theresa Greenfield at 41 percent. Greenfield, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress, is her party’s frontrunner. While often viewed as a red state, Iowa has a solid track record of sending Democrats to the U.S. Senate and the governor’s mansion. Pick: Leans GOP.

“Big Race in 'Big Sky' Montana” – Montana may be one of the real “sleeper” races in the U.S. Senate this year. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R) Montana, is seeking reelection after serving one term in the Senate and one in the U.S. House. His likely opponent is Gov. Steve Bullock (D) Montana, who ran unsuccessfully for president in the Democratic primary, but certainly built some name recognition. A composite of three recent polls has Bullock with 47 percent, to 41 percent for the incumbent Daines. Pick? Toss Up.

“Kennedy Calamity” – Massachusetts will likely send a Democrat back to the U.S. Senate, but the big question is, which one? Sen. Ed Markey (D) Massachusetts, has served the Bay State in Congress for the past 44 years, most of which was in the U.S. House. But he’s being challenged in the primary by Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D) Massachusetts, a four-term U.S House member. He is the son of former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, and grandson of former U.S. Attorney General and Sen. Robert Kennedy (D) New York. We have a 39-year old upstart with a famous name, taking on a 73-year old veteran. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll shows Kennedy in the lead 52 to 41 percent, but some individual polls show a much closer race. We’ll see. GOP opposition seems weak, no matter who Democrats select. Pick? Likely DEM.

“Michigan's the Ticket” – Two Democratic incumbents are up for reelection in states President Trump carried in 2016. We mentioned Sen. Doug Jones (D) Alabama above, but the other is Sen. Gary Peters (D) Michigan. He is most likely being challenged by John James, who was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 (there is still an August 4 primary). This is a state hard-hit by Covid-19, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been very critical of President Trump’s response. This is one state where coattails from the top of the ticket may pay off. An average of the five most recent polls has it 47 percent for Peters, to 38 percent for James, with 15 percent of voters undecided. The state’s presidential pick weighs heavily, especially if Gov. Whitmer is picked as Joe Biden’s vice-presidential running mate. I predict Michigan holds the keys to the White House this year. Pick: Leans DEM.

“Why Coattails Matter” – In 1980, within days of the election, it looked like President Jimmy Carter was going to go down to a landslide defeat. Two weeks earlier he had a strong lead in the polls. Politics can shift like an earthquake without warning. While the Reagan landslide was a last-minute surprise, the thing that few, if any. political analysts (including me) saw coming, was the Republican takeover of the U.S Senate. It was the big story of the night.

Who are you voting for in the U.S. Senate race in your state? Let us know by clicking the comment button.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and most of the Washington, DC media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for The White House Patch at

© 2020 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: U.S. Capitol Police

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options