Elections 2020: The Must Win Senate Seats for the GOP


  • Aug. 7, 2020
  • 3 min read


Iowa: After five consecutive Iowa statewide post-primary surveys found Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield edging Sen. Joni Ernst (R) by 2-3 percentage points, the new Monmouth University poll (7/30-8/3; 401 IA likely voters) shows the incumbent holding the same small lead, 48-45%. The Iowa race is part of the four-state Republican majority firewall that includes Alabama, Maine, and Montana. All four races are must-win GOP contests if the party is to hold their tenuous Senate majority.

Kansas: The Kansas Republican Senate primary went the way of the national GOP leadership as US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) defeated former Secretary of State and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and businessman Bob Hamilton, among others, last night to claim the party nomination and advance into the general election. This was perhaps the strangest campaign in the country as Democratic outside organizations were coming into the primary to actually help Kobach win the Republican primary by claiming he is too conservative for Kansas. Their plan failed in that Rep. Marshall won the nomination in a 40-26-19% split over Messrs. Kobach and Hamilton. Rep. Marshall will now face state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills) in the general election.

Montana: The Emerson College Polling Institute released their new Montana poll (7/31-8/2; 584 MT likely voters via live interview) and while the results find President Trump outpolling former Vice President Joe Biden, 53-42%, the more important story is Sen. Steve Daines (R) reaching beyond the polling margin of error for the first time in this cycle in his race against Gov. Steve Bullock, the Democratic US Senate nominee. Emerson finds Sen. Daines leading Gov. Bullock, 50-44%.

Morning Consult Polls: The Morning Consult research firm conducted a series of surveys and finds Republicans building big leads in two key states and falling into close contests in another pair where they should have a strong advantage.

In Kentucky (7/24-8/2; 793 KY likely voters), the MC data finds Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recording a 53-36% lead over retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot Amy McGrath (D) who has raised a whopping $47 million+ for her campaign. Alabama GOP nominee Tommy Tuberville likewise holds a major Morning Consult detected advantage over Sen. Doug Jones (D). This poll (7/24-8/2; 609 AL likely voters) projects the retired Auburn University head football coach topping the Democratic incumbent, 52-35%, in what is a must-win conversion race for the GOP.

Morning Consult detects close races in two other states that should be much stronger for the respective Republican incumbent. The South Carolina survey conducted over the same period as the others (741 SC likely voters) finds Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) claiming only a one-point, 44-43%, edge over former South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison, while in Texas, Sen. John Cornyn (R) posts only a six-point margin (2,576 TX likely voters from a pre-determined sample cell; online) over Democrat M.J. Hegar, 44-38%.

Tennessee: In the only primary election held on a Thursday, former US Ambassador to Japan and ex-Tennessee Economic Development director Bill Hagerty rolled to a strong 51-39% Republican nomination victory. The win virtually guarantees Mr. Hagerty’s election in November and the right to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R). Mr. Hagerty defeated Nashville surgeon Manny Sethi in what evolved into a more competitive campaign than originally forecast. Several polls found Dr. Sethi pulling to within small single digits in mid-July, but Mr. Hagerty pulled away in the end largely to a 2:1 campaign spending advantage and the combined endorsements of President Trump and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

In the Fall, Mr. Hagerty will face the surprise Democratic primary winner, businesswoman and environmental activist Marquita Bradshaw who literally spent no money on her campaign.The forecast favorite to win the Democratic nomination, attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler who raised and spent more than $2 million for his race, finished a poor third.

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