International Policy Digest

Gage Skidmore
Politics /15 May 2020
05.15.20

Presidency Asaide, the Real Battle is Over Control of the U.S. Senate

While the 2020 presidential race is important, the real battle is over control of the U.S. Senate. A record amount of money is being raised to shift the Republican-led Senate to a Democratic-led chamber under a potential Biden administration.

There are 34 Senate seats up for grabs in November. I have highlighted three Senate races that each party should look at flipping in November.

The Democrats need to shift their attention to left-leaning states like Maine. Republican Senator Susan Collins is currently facing the toughest election battle in her 18 years as a Senator. Her opponent is Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, who is very popular among suburban and urban Mainers.

In what will be the most money ever spent on a Senate race in Maine, Gideon has raised $14 million in the 2020 election cycle compared to $13 million by Collins. Gideon’s fundraising base comes from mostly private citizens donating $200 dollars or less, which adds up to 41.7% of her total contributions. Collins has received 10.8% of her fundraising totals from small individual contributors.

While Maine has been one of the key states that Democrats plan to keep an eye on during the second and third quarters of 2020, voter registration shows that 33.2% of voters are Democrats, 27.2% are Republicans, and 35.4% are Independents.

Another election that Democrats have their eyes on is Arizona. The winner of this election will fill the last two years remaining of Senator John McCain’s term. The two opponents are appointed Senator Martha McSally and Mark Kelly, the husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords.

Kelly has shown the country how popular he is by outraising McSally by more than $13 million dollars. Kelly’s campaign will be more financially flexible later in the election cycle as McSally’s campaign has spent 50% of its fundraising totals so far compared to Kelly’s campaign spending $11 million of its $31 million dollar total.

The Democrats have a real opportunity to flip Arizona because of liberal PACs supporting Kelly’s campaign. In the latest polls, Arizona State University and Univision predict Kelly winning by more than 12 points, and Monmouth has Kelly winning by more than 9 points against McSally.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, their Senate battle is considered to be a toss-up race because of presidential candidate and former Governor John Hickenlooper facing off against first-term Republican Senator Cory Gardner. Despite Gardner earning more money in the first quarter, Hickenlooper is looking forward to a strong second quarter after recently securing the Democratic nomination.

According to first-quarter financial results, Gardner has double the amount of cash on hand compared to Hickenlooper’s totals. Hickenlooper’s fundraising totals should be a red flag for Democrats and a cry for liberal PACs to step in and assist the Hickenlooper campaign.

This election is similar to Florida’s 2018 Senate battle because of a two-term governor facing off against a well-liked Senator. If history does repeat itself, the governor will walk away victorious. A recent Colorado poll had Hickenlooper winning by a marginal lead of 18 points.

Three Democratic seats that Republicans should focus on flipping in November.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan has been in the spotlight due to its right-leaning residents protesting Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order. The negative attention from the state-at home-order could lead to a rush of Independent voters changing their vote to the Republican side of the ticket in Michigan’s Senate battle.

Democratic Senator Gary Peters’ seat could be in jeopardy as he will face off against rising star John James. Despite Peters having more money in the bank, James has raised more funds than his opponent in the past three quarters. 94% of James’ funds come from individual contributors, while Peters has received more than $3 million dollars from PACs.

James’ campaign has been a recent conversation in the media because of his outspoken criticism of President Trump.

Another election that has a high chance of flipping from blue to red is the Alabama Senate battle between incumbent Democratic Doug Jones and former Auburn University Football Coach Tommy Tuberville. Some may recall Jones won the 2017 special election against Roy Moore.

While Tuberville’s nomination is not official yet, he will face off against former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is competing for his old seat. Registered Republicans in Alabama will vote in the state’s runoff primary in July.

Assuming Tuberville wins the Republican nomination, his campaign could be heading towards significant financial issues. As of March 31, Tuberville’s campaign had a little more than $400,000 dollars on hand compared to Jones’ $8.2 million dollars. Tuberville relies on significant individual contributors as they have funded 74.3% of his campaign. Regardless, the latest Alabama Daily News poll has Tuberville defeating Jones by 8 points.

Even though New Mexico leans left, Republicans should look to allocate funds to this election because of the open seat left behind by retiring Democratic Senator Tom Udall. New Mexico has not had a Republican Senator since Senator Pete Domenici left office in 2009 after six terms in office. This election will feature Democrat Ben Ray Lujan versus Republican front-runner Mark Ronchetti. New Mexico residents will vote in the state’s primary on June 2.

Ronchetti is running a unique campaign because of the grassroots movement of how he is raising funds. To this date, Ronchetti has only accepted money from individual contributors and not from PACs. Lujan, on the other side, has relied on large donations and will have enough cash to spend in the general election because of his lack of opponents during the primary.

The New Mexico Senate battle has not been a topic in the national media, but this is a campaign that could be influenced by large donors when Ronchetti officially receives the nomination. Ronchetti is a well-known figure in the Albuquerque metropolitan area because of his occupation of being the chief meteorologist in New Mexico. Ronchetti’s public appearances could fuel his campaign once his advertisements hit the airwaves.

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The coronavirus pandemic will leave an asterisk next to campaign fundraising totals due to the candidates not being able to campaign in person. With a string of primaries taking place within the next few weeks, look for PACs to have an impact once the candidates officially receive their respective nominations.