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Democrats are trying to flip the Senate in 2020: These are the seats considered up for grabs on Election Day

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WASHINGTON – With less than a month before Election Day, this year's Senate races could have just as big of an impact on the direction of the country as the presidential race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

There are 35 seats up for election in the Senate, and of those, 23 belong to Republicans and 12 to Democrats. Democrats would need a net gain of three or four seats to win a majority in the Senate, which is currently held by Republicans with 53 senators. Democrats count 45 senators and there are two independent senators who caucus with Democrats. 

There are eight Republican-held seats rated as either leaning Democratic or toss-ups by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which by contrast lists only one Democratic seat as leaning Republican and none as a toss-up.

More: Here are the Senate races to watch as the COVID-19 election comes into focus

If Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris win the White House, Democrats would only need to flip three seats that are Republican-held, as the vice president can act as a tie-breaker on Senate votes if needed. If Trump and Vice President Mike Pence win reelection, Democrats would need to flip four seats to take control of Congress' upper chamber.

These are some of the key races to watch in the 2020 Senate elections:


Democrat Doug Jones is in a race against Tommy Tuberville that leans Republican. Tuberville is a former Auburn University football coach who beat former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Republican primary runoff earlier this year.

Jones' 2017 special election victory against Republican Roy Moore, who was accused by multiple women of making sexual advances toward them when they were teenagers, was a narrow one. 

In this race, Jones is facing tough odds in a state that Trump dominated in 2016. Trump has endorsed Tuberville in enthusiastic tweets and an early October poll from Auburn University-Montgomery had Tuberville up 54%-42%.


The Grand Canyon State is within reach for Democrats, with one Senate seat up in a special election to fill the rest of the term held by the late Sen. John McCain. Former astronaut Mark Kelly, a gun control activist whose wife former Rep. Gabby Giffords survived an assassination attempt in 2011, is taking on incumbent Sen. Martha McSally, a former military pilot who has aligned herself closely with Trump. 

More: Martha McSally, Mark Kelly clash on COVID-19, health care, China

Kelly is up about eight points in average polling data assembled by RealClearPolitics. The Cook Political Report ranks the Arizona seat as leaning Democratic.

Arizona has long been considered a red state, but it has shifted in recent years to battleground status in the 2020 presidential election. If Kelly wins, both senators from Arizona will be Democrats for the first time since the 1950s.


Colorado's Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner faces the state's former governor, John Hickenlooper, who also ran for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. 

Though Hickenlooper has led in polling against Gardner, his campaign has had to deal with an ethics scandal involving a Colorado panel that found he twice violated rules as governor against giving valuable gifts to officials.

The Colorado Senate race is rated as leans Democratic.


There are two Senate seats up for election, both currently held by Republicans. The race between incumbent Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is rated a toss-up. That race has the potential for a runoff if neither candidate gets 50% of the vote in November. 

The other is a special election with an open primary, which means incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler is facing a challenger from her own party in Rep. Doug Collins, as well as the Democrat currently leading in polling, Raphael Warnock. It's unlikely a candidate will receive the required 50% of the vote, so a runoff is in the cards for the top two candidates, even if they are from the same party. That race is considered Republican-leaning by the Cook Political Report.

If one or both seats go into a runoff, that could leave the fate of the Senate unknown for weeks after Nov. 3.


Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is in a close race with Democrat Theresa Greenfield.

Though Trump flipped Iowa to the Republican column in 2016, Trump's support has declined, leaving him in a virtual tie with Biden in average state polling data. Ernst, who is serving her first term in the Senate, has been a close ally to Trump. 

A recent Des Moines Register Iowa Poll showed Greenfield leading Ernst by three percentage points. Both of Iowa's senators are Republicans, but Ernst replaced a Democrat, Sen. Tom Harkin, who had served Iowa in the U.S. Senate for 30 years before retiring in 2014.

The Iowa Senate race is a toss-up, according to the Cook Political Report.


Few Senate races have been as closely watched as the one heating up in Maine, pitting Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins against challenger Sara Gideon, who poses a serious threat to the senator who has held her seat since 1997. The race is rated a toss-up. 

Collins, known as a moderate conservative who sometimes wavers in support for Republican-backed positions, has faced a mountain of criticism for siding with Trump on issues like the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and his acquittal in this year's Senate impeachment trial.

Gideon is using those issues to her benefit in her campaigning and has pulled ahead in polling. 


Michigan's seat that is up for grabs is Democrat-held but has a possibility of turning red. Incumbent Sen. Gary Peters faces Republican Army vet John James in what is considered a swing state for the presidential election and leans Democratic for the Senate race.

James ran as the Republican nominee to unseat Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow in the 2018 midterm elections, falling short but gaining enough recognition to lead his party in 2020's Senate race.

A recent New York Times/Siena College poll had James within one point of Peters.

More: Joe Biden still has big lead on Donald Trump in Michigan — but it's shrinking, poll shows


Democrats are looking to the outgoing governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, to beat incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines in a state Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

Bullock has recognition as governor and as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination briefly, and Trump's lead in the state has shrunk to a margin of about eight points, according to FiveThirtyEight. The election is billed as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report.

Daines' lead against Bullock in the polls has varied, from a New York Times/Siena poll that had Daines up just one point last month to an early October Emerson University poll that saw Daines with nine points on his opponent.

North Carolina

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis faces a tough reelection bid in the Tar Heel State against challenger Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and Iraq war veteran. 

But Cunningham's campaign has faced turbulence since reports of an extramarital relationship surfaced, drawing attacks from Republicans and Tillis' campaign. The scandal, however, has not appeared to hurt Cunningham's bid. A SurveyUSA poll from Oct. 8-11, after the scandal surfaced, found Cunningham up 10 percentage points over Tillis, and 61% of the voters in the survey said the scandal would not affect their vote.

The race is considered a toss-up among the Republican-held seats.

More: Democratic Senate candidate Cal Cunningham admits he sent sexual messages to woman who is not his wife

South Carolina

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican known for his support of Trump and the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, faces a serious contender in Democrat Jaime Harrison, who has broken fundraising records for Senate candidates.

Though the two are not close in the results of their fundraising efforts, they are side-by-side in polling. A Quinnipiac University in September had them tied at 48% of the vote. The race is also rated as a toss-up.

Graham is leading the push to confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, in his role as chairman, with confirmation hearings beginning this week.

Contributing: Phillip Bailey, Nicholas Wu