The House That Mitch Built

This morning, this blog released its Presidential preview, with a vow to also provide a key race analysis on the battle for control of the US Congress.  As promised, here is the prediction on the United States House of Representatives and, much more importantly, the United States Senate.

The House

Democrats are currently the party of choice in 233 US House seats (including the John Lewis vacancy), with the other 202 being currently or formerly represented by Republicans.  And in 2020, House control is simply not in doubt – Dems will hold the chamber easily and without difficulty.  However, despite some Dem dreams about racking up a much bigger House margin, the pick here is that Dems add six seats to their current majority, creating a 239-206 Democratic advantage in the House of Representatives.  To expound further, this blog expects a national result ranging between no net change (Dems remain at 233 seats) and Dems plus 14 (Dems hold 247 seats).

The Senate

Since the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, literally all of the non-impeachment action in Congress has taken place in the US Senate, better known on the right as “The House That Mitch Built.”  Most of said action has, of course, been the confirmation of scores of federal judges, most notably the elevation of Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, cementing a 6-3 conservative majority on the judiciary’s loftiest bench.  With a narrow 53-47 GOP lead, how the Senate sitting in 2021 and 2022 will shake out is probably the most difficult question before us in the present election.  Here is predicting a 50-50 tie in which Vice President Kamala Harris gives Democrats only nominal control of the chamber.  The key races are broken down below, each with a pick.

Alabama – Democratic Doug Jones was a fluke victor over abomination Roy Moore in late 2017.  Whether former Auburn football coach does or does not have political gravitas is irrelevant, he is a Republican who loves football in Alabama.  GOP Gain.

Colorado – Republican Cory Gardner is a good Senator who represents his state well.  He is swimming against a rip tide in Colorado during a Trump Presidency, and former Governor and Dem candidate John Hickenlooper is not perceived as extreme.  Dem Gain.

Arizona (Special Election) – Appointed GOP Senator Martha McSally is probably unfairly tagged as a “bad candidate” because of her 2018 loss to rising star Kyrsten Sinema.  Now she gets another solid Democratic nominee in Gabby Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, and the impacts on having to run as a Trump-era Republican in suburban Arizona are again fatal to her.  Kelly by 6 for a Dem Gain.

Maine – Susan Collins should be cruising to yet another re-election.  Instead, she’s being swarmed by rising polarization that has been massively exacerbated by the Donald Trump Presidency.  While Collins likely outruns Trump by an impressive 10%, the pick is Democrat Sara Gideon by 3% and another Dem Gain.  As a side note here, Gideon will likely lead after the first round of voting but not crack 50%, requiring the use of instant run-off ballot counting to confirm her as the winner.

Iowa – This blog has long been circumspect of a Dem Senate win in Iowa during the Trump Presidency.  Ann Selzer’s final Iowa poll confirmed that sentiment, and the pick is that Joni Ernst fights off Theresa Greenfield by 4% for a GOP Hold.

North Carolina – Democrat Cal Cunningham is the worst candidate of the entire cycle.  Republican Thom Tillis was headed to a likely defeat before Cunningham’s personal scandals exploded.  Now Cunningham’s lead is mostly gone and he will need to rely on limited split ticket voting to survive his self-made problems.  Here is guessing he does, barely, Cunningham by 1 in the closest race of the cycle and another Dem Gain.*

Montana – Local Dems are bullish that Montana Governor Steve Bullock can pull the upset in an epic “Battle of the Steves” with GOP incumbent Steve Daines.  Polling suggests otherwise, as does the reality that giant Montana turnout might produce some Trump-friendly results not seen elsewhere.  Daines by 4 in a GOP Hold.

Georgia (Regular Election) – Senator David Perdue is a pretty typical Republican in what is shaping up as an atypical year for the GOP in Georgia, where the party is struggling much worse than it has in many years.  Dem challenger Jon Ossoff will struggle to crack 50% in the first round of voting, and special elections are not the friends of Georgia Dems, especially ones where Trump-skeptical suburban Republicans can return to being Republicans with Trump out of the White House.  The pick is Runoff won by the GOP.

Georgia (Special Election) – The Georgia special election is a quirky race where, barring one of many candidates getting over 50% in the first round of voting, the top two vote getters will meet in a runoff.  Democrat Ralph Warnock is a lock to reach the runoff; appointed GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler is locked in a close battle with Representative Doug Collins for the other spot.  Ultimately, whichever GOP candidate ends up in the runoff should have the upper hand, generating another Runoff win for the GOP.**

Texas – Republican Senator John Cornyn will look to substantially outrun President Donald Trump in his Texas Senate race against former helicopter pilot MJ Hegar.  Here’s betting Cornyn shows everyone paying attention that, at least for awhile longer, the GOP’s Texas problems are really Donald Trump problems.  Cornyn by 7% for a GOP Hold.

Kentucky/South Carolina – Democratic challengers raised an absolute fortune in their quests to beat Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham.  This money would have been better lit on fire, as at least it provides warmth.  McConnell by 16% and Graham by 9% for GOP Holds.

Michigan/Minnesota/New Hampshire – In a year where the GOP had strong performances, all of these seats would be highly competitive.  Instead, the GOP’s best hope is excellent candidate John James in Michigan, whose biggest hurdle to having an impressive career in politics is his poor selection of years for mounting Senate challenges.  The prediction is Dem Holds in Michigan, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.

Alaska/Kansas – If the Donald Trump re-election goes wildly off the rails, Dems have dreams of a shock in ruby red Kansas and solid red but a bit odd Alaska.  However, there’s very little evidence that Republicans and/or the Trump base will no show 2020, and accordingly there should be very little hope Dems gain either state.  Republican Holds in Alaska and Kansas.

* This blogger has Donald Trump winning North Carolina, but has hedged that prediction with a Thom Tillis loss in the NC Senate contest (in large part because the GOP losing one additional race beyond CO, AZ, and ME seems likely, and North Carolina appears the best bet for this loss).  However, it would be fairly unsurprising if Trump/Tillis both won NC, and such a win preserved a 51-49 GOP Senate.

** The pick is Doug Collins over Kelly Loeffler in the first round of voting, but truth be told, that is an absolute guess as it’s anyone’s ballgame for the Georgia Republican making the highly likely special election runoff.