With Thursday’s release of a Public Policy Polling poll from Montana showing a tied race in Montana’s Senate race between Republican incumbent Senator Steve Daines and incumbent Democratic Governor Steve Bullock, we finally have a poll from most every competitive Senate race in 2020. The Democrats need four gains, given Alabama will go to the GOP, to get to a 50/50 tie, where the Vice President would break any ties, and so every individual seat matters. You can look at Senate seats and count your way to majority (or staying in the minority) in the House in a way you can’t in the Senate. It’s hard to say if the GOP fail to gain a specific House district they couldn’t win the House majority back, butin the Senate you can do that, given the limited numbers up for election at a time.
The Democrats are solidly ahead in Colorado, despite the lack of any 2020 polling, and the fact it’s currently expected to be non-competitive at the Presidential level doesn’t help incumbent GOPer Cory Gardner – that’s seat 47. Seat 48 is Arizona, where the LeanTossup average of the race is Democrat Mark Kelly up 6.6% over appointed incumbent Martha McSally, and every pollster agrees Kelly is ahead at this point. Those two are increasingly likely Democratic gains, and there’s no real way around it. Colorado is a blue state that is getting even bluer, and Gardner hasn’t shown any strength in what 2019-era polling we have of the race between him and presumptive Democratic Senate candidate (and former Governor) John Hickenlooper. Arizona, on the other hand, is looking like Missouri 2012 did until Todd Akin went full Todd Akin – a race where the incumbent was consistently between 4-10% down and favored to lose a close-ish race.
Unless the GOP’s internal polling is showing a radically different environment to that which the public polling in Arizona is showing, and what the national environment is saying about Colorado, those two states have to be triaged. The Democrats will win them, and if the GOP want to win, they have to plug holes in states they should have an easier time in. In Maine, Susan Collins is down in the first two 2020 polls of the race, but on RCP’s average she’s only down 2.5% and she has a history of beating good Democratic challengers in good Democratic years. Maine is also a cheap state to advertise in, so it should remain in the GOP’s plans, but as of now, it is seat 49 if the Democrats are going to win the Senate. Seat 50 would be North Carolina, where the LeanTossup average shows Democrat Cal Cunningham up 3.2% on the GOP incumbent. The other thing working in Cunningham’s favor is the fact that Joe Biden is winning North Carolina as of right now by 2% over Donald Trump, which will help the Senate candidate over the line.
The problem for the GOP doesn’t end there – if the Democrats just had those four options, one might even think they’re the underdogs still. Needing everything to go right for you is a suboptimal outcome, whether at the poker table or an electoral map, and the fact that the Democrats have more options is what helps them. In Montana, the only poll of the race has Bullock and Daines tied, meaning that’s a Tossup there, even if a PPP tie is probably closer to a 2-4% GOP lead in reality (knowing PPP’s usual house effect). Georgia has been sparsely polled, especially at the Senate level, and there are two seats up there this year. The last time two Senate seats up in the same year split was 1966, so treating those as a common battle makes sense. There’s also Kansas, where Kris Kobach is resorting to leaking McLaughlin and Associates polls of the race to prove he isn’t in trouble, and the only non-partisan poll of the race has it a tie. Even the Texas Senate race, where the only poll of the race this year has John Cornyn up 8%, is in play, with a CNN poll of Texas showing Biden up 1% over Trump at the Presidential level but no Senate question. If that’s the environment in Texas – a near Tossup at the Presidential level – then MJ Hagar could very well do what Beto O’Rourke failed to do – and flip Texas.
All in, the GOP are having to play defence in 8 states with 9 seats up, and they’re already down in four states. If they want to hold the Senate, they’ll have to give up on wistful dreams of holding Colorado and Arizona for the much more pressing concerns of concentrating money and resources in the other 6 states they have to protect – Maine, North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Georgia, and Montana. Every dollar spent on what amounts to vanity exercises in the first two states is money that can’t be spent on the wide board of actual, credible contrasts the GOP could still win. It doesn’t matter if Mark Kelly wins by 6% or 16% – what matters is if the GOP can get Daines, Tillis, and Collins back to DC. If the GOP wastes their money and time, the only people who will be happy are the Democrats.