I plan to every ten days until US election do an update on state of race. On the presidential front, not much has happened and state of race is more or less the same as 10 days ago. As such this will focus more on senate since if Biden wins White House but Democrats don’t win senate, very little will get done. While there is a slight chance GOP retakes house, there is no scenario I can for see where Biden wins White House but loses House. So if Democrats lose house, Trump gets re-elected. For presidential race, not a lot has changed but with many voting by mail, Trump actually has even less time to turn things around. Some of the first ballots will be mailed out in less than 30 days from now while in 60 days from now, a good chunk of ballots will have already been cast. So Trump doesn’t have a lot of time to turn things around. But he is not out of the game just yet, but the window is closing. In many ways its like a 100m sprint, Biden is at the 60m point and Trump at the 50m point. In such a race its still possible for person at the 50m point to catch up, but the person at the 60m point has a much better chance of crossing finish line first. So while polls are just a snapshot of present, Biden has a strong head start over Trump thus advantage but not insurmountable.
For Democrats to win senate, the first thing they need to do is hold onto the seats up for re-election they already hold. While they need 50 if they hold White House as Vice-president breaks tie while 51 if not; I cannot see a scenario where Trump wins re-election but Democrats have a net gain of 3 senate seats. If Democrats get 50 seats, Biden will win the White House.
So first looking at the defensive end of things, only two that I think GOP has any chance of flipping. They are Alabama and Michigan. For Michigan, it will likely go whichever way the state does for president unless super close. That means at moment Democrats are in good shape to hold it but that could change if things tighten. Nonetheless there is no scenario where I could say GOP gaining Michigan and Biden winning White House. So if Biden wins White House, Democrats hold Michigan. Alabama is a different story as this is a very red state and only went Democrat in a special election due to GOP candidate. With Trump likely to win state by around 25 points, I expect GOP to pick up Alabama. Doug Jones will likely outperform Biden but not by nearly enough to hold his seat. So this puts Democrats at 46 seats and means they need to find another four.
Colorado with its leftward trend is probably the easiest one and barring some massive change in political environment, I believe Democrats will gain this. That puts them back at 47. Next on list is Arizona where former astronaut Mark Kelly and husband of Gabby Giffords is running. Every poll shows him outperforming Biden so if Biden either wins Arizona or only narrowly loses, Kelly likely wins seat. That puts Democrats at 48 seats so 2 to go. Next on list is Maine. This is a light blue state so should be good for Democrats but it is a very independent minded one. They have independent Angus King as other senator and in 1992, Ross Perot came in second in this state. Likewise Olympia Snowe used to get close to 80% even when Democrats were winning all other offices. So in Maine, ticket splitting is very common. Problem is Trump is not popular here and Susan Collins who used to often break party lines supported Kavanaugh and has voted with Trump too often. As such her approval rating has plunged from almost 80% to 40s. She is now trailing although still outperforming Trump. If Trump can close gap even if he loses Maine, I think Collins can hang on. But if Biden maintains double digit leads in Maine, then Collins likely loses her seat. This puts Democrats at 49 seats so one shy.
At this point, those are the only senate seats likely to flip so good news for GOP is if they win all toss ups, they hold senate. Good news for Democrats and bad news for GOP is there are three toss ups and Democrats if things stay where they are at only need to flip one of the three. North Carolina has a tight race with Biden averaging around 2 points ahead and with senate rate polls are fairly similar although Cunningham for Democrats doing marginally better. So if Biden flips North Carolina, good chance Cunningham flips seat there for Democrats. Iowa is another one with Joni Ernst polling about a point or two below Trump so with Trump only 1-2 points ahead there, things are tied up. Many of us remember her cheeky ads in 2014 about castrating hogs and that no doubt endeared her to many in this farm state, but since then she has become seen more as a Washington insider than an outsider coming to clean things up. So if Biden flips Iowa or narrowly loses it, then Ernst likely goes down in defeat. Montana is a fairly red state and Trump will almost certainly win it. However, it is also very independent minded and often tends to be one of the best states for third parties. Likewise it does contrary to popular opinion have a strong Democrat streak, but it is a very populist one. That makes it very winneable for state elections, congress, and senate but much tougher for presidential where public is quite anti-Washington. Its sort of like Quebec for Tories in Canada; right type can win there, but nationally they almost never have that type thus fail to win there despite many who lean that way. Montana is much the same with respect to Democrats. Stephen Bullock is a very popular governor with 2/3 approval so if this were a midterm he would almost certainly win it. But its a general election where many pull the lever for one party thus why a toss up. He will definitely outperform Biden, but question is will it be enough. My guess is if Trump wins state by under 10%, then Bullock picks up seat. But if Trump wins by double digits, then it stays GOP.
So if Democrats win all toss ups, that puts them at 52 seats which means not only do they have senate for 2020 but due to map in 2022; they likely have senate locked up until 2024. In this case, Biden can take his time rather than rush to push his agenda through as he will have 4 years instead of two provided he doesn’t lose House in 2022 midterms. But to improve odds of holding it even longer, undoubtedly Democrats would like to expand even further. There are a few possibilities but none look too great. Georgia has both a regular senate seat up and a special election, so two opportunities for Democrats to gain. With presidential race being very tight, that would on surface look like a good opportunity. However it is not likely to happen as Georgia requires any senate race where no candidate gets over 50% to go to a run off. Democrats may come in first in one or both, but unlikely they get over 50% on first go around. Run off almost always has much lower turnout and that massively favours GOP. So unless Democrats can win either on first round, GOP likely holds both. There is also Texas, but almost all polls show Cornyn doing slightly better than Trump and even the most optimistic polls at best show Biden tied or a point ahead. Now if Biden by e-day can expand his lead to 5-6 points in Texas (which is extremely unlikely), then Democrats may have a shot here, but I don’t see that happening. Some have suggested Lindsay Graham may be in trouble. I believe he will win by a smaller margin than used to, but South Carolina has a very inelastic electorate. Unlike Midwest states, almost all voters are firmly in one camp or another so while a 5-7 point deficit can be overcome in Midwest states, it cannot in South Carolina as too few undecided or soft voters who might switch. With controversial Kris Kobach losing nomination in Kansas, we can scratch that off as a potential Democrat pick up.
So in summary, if things stay as is, Democrats should win at least 49 seats in Senate which means if Biden’s popularity doesn’t fall too much, they may have a shot at gaining in 2022 due to lots of swing states with GOP incumbents, but it will mean Biden will be very limited on what he can do. Unlike in past, there is very little cross party support so Biden likely cannot count on any GOP members backing his agenda. If all swing ones go for Democrats, then that puts them at 52 seats so control all three houses and have a good chance of retaining all three until at least 2024. If things really go well, I see 55 as best case scenario for Democrats which would ensure they hold senate until at least 2024 and GOP’s only way to stop them would be win back House in 2022. But that is really pushing things and realistically I would say winning 52 seats would be a good night for Democrats while for GOP, keeping Democrats at 48 or lower would be a good night for them.