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Cook Political Report: “Democrats See More Paths to the Majority”

Ratings Changes in Iowa and Texas Shift in Democrats’ Direction, Races in Colorado and Arizona Continue “Moving Away from the GOP’s Direction”

A new analysis today from Cook Political Report on the fight for control of the Senate finds Democrats opening up more paths to a majority in 2020, with the odds of flipping the chamber “rising” and “now close to 50-50 odds.” Cook’s update on the Senate map includes ratings changes in Democrats’ direction in Iowa, where Senator Joni Ernst’s approval has fallen, and Texas, an emerging battleground.

Top takeaways on the Senate state of play:

  • Races continue to move away from Republican incumbents in Colorado and Arizona, Senators Gardner and McSally are “the most endangered”
  • There are true toss-up races in North Carolina and Maine, “few [Republicans] are sounding optimistic about either” Senators Tillis or Collins
  • Montana “came onto the competitive board last week” thanks to Governor Steve Bullock
  • GOP primary headaches in Georgia and Kansas have put those seats in jeopardy
  • Senator Joni Ernst’s approval has “dipped,” creating an opening for Democratic challenger and businesswoman Theresa Greenfield in Iowa
  • Texas has become an increasingly competitive state, where decorated Air Force veteran MJ Hegar is the favorite to challenge Senator John Cornyn
  • Bottom line: there are now “several plausible paths” for Democrats to get to 50 or 51 seats

Read more on why Democrats have more paths to flipping the Senate in 2020:

Cook Political Report: 2020 Senate Overview: Democrats See More Paths to the Majority

By Jessica Taylor

March 20, 2020

Key Points:

  • Conversations with nearly a dozen Republican strategists and pollsters this week revealed alarm about how Trump — who is in many ways so uniquely unsuited to manage such a wide response from the government actors he distrusts — is not only risking his own reelection prospects but those of many Republican senators.
  • Reports broke that both North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler had sold off stocks in the wake of a January 24 senators-only briefing on the coronavirus threat — potentially violating the STOCK Act, which was passed in 2012 to stop such trades by senators… the optics couldn’t be worse for Republicans amid a worsening massive health crisis that could further damage their party during an election year.
  • Arizona Sen. Martha McSally and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner are the most endangered Senate Republicans right now by far, and both races are moving away from the GOP’s direction.
  • Republicans have more of a chance in these two races, but few are sounding optimistic about either Maine Sen. Susan Collins or North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, especially over the past few weeks.
  • Multiple public polls have shown [Collins] in a statistical tie with her likely Democratic opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.
  • Newly-appointed Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces an all-party primary on Election Day, and Rep. Doug Collins, who was a fierce defender of Trump during impeachment, also jumped into the crowded race much to the disdain of the NRSC. He’s been attacking Loeffler, but the bigger headache for her now appears to be a Daily Beast report that dropped just last night that she dumped millions in stocks right after a briefing on the coronavirus threat — and subsequently bought more stock in a teleworking company that has seen its price rise amid the pandemic.
  • That uncertainty, on top of an all-party primary election, gives Democrats an unique opportunity in this race in a state that’s already trending their direction in recent elections. The DSCC has endorsed Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which Martin Luther King Jr. once led.
  • No major alternative to polarizing former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 race for governor, has emerged, and national Republicans have been unimpressed with Rep. Roger Marshall’s campaign so far… Meanwhile, Democrats are optimistic about their likely nominee Barbara Bollier, a former Republican state legislator.
  • A Des Moines Register poll earlier this month from respected Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer found that Ernst’s approval has dipped 10 points in the past year… That shows there is an opening for a Democrat, likely businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, who has the DSCC’s backing… Given the increasing competitiveness of the race, we are moving Iowa from Likely to Lean Republican.
  • One of those better targets is in Texas, a more competitive state at the presidential level where Democrats saw big gains at the congressional level in 2018… National Democrats like Hegar’s story as an Afghanistan War veteran and helicopter pilot who was wounded during a rescue mission, receiving the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor… We are moving Texas from Solid to Likely Republican.
  • But now several plausible paths could get [Democrats] to 50 or 51 seats. With eight different competitive targets: Arizona (McSally), Colorado (Gardner), Maine (Collins) and North Carolina (Tillis) as their top tier targets, then there are four alternative routes through some combination of one or two out of Georgia (Loeffler), Kansas (Open/Roberts), Montana (Daines) and Iowa (Ernst).

Read the full Cook analysis here.

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