The Senate outlook is quickly sliding for Republicans riding the Trump train. Democrats are now within striking distance of retaking the Senate majority in November while Republicans are facing an increasingly daunting electoral map as President Trump’s sinking poll numbers threaten to drag down vulnerable GOP incumbents.
Several recent polls show Democratic challengers leading Republican incumbents in Arizona, North Carolina and Iowa. The GOP is also fending off tough challenges in a handful of other states, including Colorado, Maine and Montana.
Democrats need three or four seats to win the Senate, depending on who wins the White House. Here are the states in play with four months to go before Election Day:
Republican Sen. Martha McSally is expected to face presumptive Democratic nominee Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and anti-gun violence activist, as she looks to hold onto the Senate seat she was appointed to in 2018 following the death of former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
McSally, a fervent Trump supporter, was appointed after losing a bid for the state’s other Senate seat to current Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). Current polling paints a dire picture of McSally’s prospects against Kelly. A CNBC/Change Research survey released on Wednesday showed Kelly leading her by 9 points, and a recent New York Times/Siena College poll put Kelly ahead by a similar margin.
Democrats have put up a political heavyweight in former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to take on Sen. Cory Gardner (R) in November. Hickenlooper is heading into the general election with some key advantages. Colorado has drifted to the left in recent years, a shift exemplified by the 2018 midterm elections when Democrats won control of the state government for the first time since 1936. At the same time, Democrats have racked up a roughly 80,000-person voter registration advantage over Republicans, marking a significant change from June 2016, when the GOP held a 13,000-person advantage.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) became the main target for Democrats after she voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court while he faced a sexual assault allegation in 2017.
National Democrats are backing Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon for the nomination to take on Collins in November. Gideon is set to face off against progressive Betsy Sweet in a Democratic primary on July 14.
There have been few polls in the race, but a survey conducted in March by the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) showed Gideon with a 4-point lead on Collins. But Collins, a four-term Senate incumbent, has a political brand in her home state that few if any politicians can match, which may prove difficult for a challenger to overcome.
Still, Gideon outraised Collins in the first quarter of the year, raking in about $7.1 million to her opponent’s $2.4 million, and she’s not too far behind Collins in overall cash on hand.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is up against a challenge from Democrat Cal Cunningham in this crucial presidential swing state, and recent polling suggests that the race is as competitive as ever.
A New York Times/Siena College poll conducted earlier this month showed Cunningham ahead by 3 points in the race against Tillis, while a subsequent Fox News poll showed Cunningham up by 2 points.
Trump’s popularity in the state has dipped in recent weeks, with the ECU poll showing a 4-point drop in approval since May. Meanwhile, Biden has pulled ahead of Trump in North Carolina in a handful of recent polls.
Sen. Steve Daines’s campaign got hit with a “shock and awe” when Montana’s current Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock entered the Senate race in March complicating Daines’s prospects of an easy reelection bid and threw him into one of the most competitive Senate contests in the country.
Daines started the year well-positioned to win a second term. But the entrance of Bullock threw his campaign in disarray.
Both candidates are relatively popular in Montana. But Bullock’s approval rating has soared in recent months as he took a leading role in his state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. That rise in approval prompted The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, to shift the race last month from “lean” Republican status to “toss-up” status.
Democrats’ plan to oust Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in Iowa is suddenly within the realm of possibility. And while Ernst still has an advantage in her home state, there are signs that the race is becoming more competitive.
Polling from the Des Moines Register and Mediacom released last month showed Ernst trailing her Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield by a narrow 3-point margin. Another survey fielded by Public Policy Polling showed Greenfield ahead by 2 points.
In one key finding, the Des Moines Register poll showed Greenfield leading Ernst by a 31-point margin among white women without a college degree.
Additionally, Trump’s support also appears to be eroding in the state. The Des Moines Register poll released last month showed him holding a scant, 1-point lead over Biden in the presidential race, far below his 9-point margin of victory there in 2016.