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This ‘Dirty Dozen’ Will Decide The Senate

The odds are pretty good for a Democratic Senate takeover.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since I wrote in April that chances for a Democratic takeover of the Senate were getting stronger. Since then, things have gotten a bit worse for Republicans. The current 53-47 balance of the Senate means that Democrats need to flip four seats to take control of the upper house and a new analysis by Larry Sabato and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics now shows that 10 of 12 vulnerable seats are held by Republicans.

The top line of the report is two rating changes that essentially cancel each other out in the net fight for control of the Senate. The good news for the GOP is that Georgia’s special election for Kelly Loeffler’s seat has been upgraded from “lean Republican” to “likely Republican. Recent polling shows Loeffler and fellow Republican Doug Collins leading the jungle race over three Democrats and a Libertarian.

The bad news is that Joni Ernst’s Iowa seat has moved in the opposite direction, going from ‘lean Republican” to “tossup.” The Real Clear Politics average showed Ernest trailing Democrat Theresa Greenfield by less than one point.

Sabato then ranks the other members of the Dirty Dozen Senate races in order of vulnerability:

1. Alabama (D) – The most vulnerable seat is Alabama’s Doug Jones. Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is the presumed favorite even though there have been few recent public polls. But we always knew Jones’s Senate career would be a short one, didn’t we?


2. Colorado (R) – Again, there is no recent public polling but Cory Gardner is widely perceived to be trailing Democrat John Hickenlooper, a popular former governor. Colorado has been trending more and more blue in recent elections.


3. Arizona (R) – There is a wealth of polling in the race for Martha McSally’s seat and she trails Democrat Mark Kelly in almost every survey.

4. Maine (R) – Susan Collins has long been a thorn in the side of Republicans. Now she trails Democrat Sara Gideon in two polls from July. Republicans may exchange the “RINO” for a Democrat, which won’t improve the Senate from their perspective.


5. North Carolina (R) – There has also been a lot of polling in this Thom Tillis (R) versus Cal Cunningham (D) race. The race seems to be turning ugly with Cunningham building up a double-digit lead in the Real Clear Politics average.


6. Iowa (R) – This is a tossup race with incumbent Republican Joni Ernst trailing by less than one point.


7. Montana (R) – Incumbent Senator Daines squares off against Gov. Bullock in this battle of the Steves. With only two polls reporting divergent results, this should be considered a tossup.


8. Georgia (Regular) (R) – The other Georgia Senate race this year. Incumbent David Perdue is leading Democrat Jon Ossoff in every poll and is just outside the margin of error. This will be fairly close but Perdue will retain the seat.


9. Michigan (D) – The Michigan seat of Gary Peters is one of only two likely Republican attempts for a pickup. Those hopes seem to be fading as Republican John James falls behind and Peters opens an almost 10-point average lead.


10. Texas (R) – John Cornyn holds a double-digit lead in the polling average over M.J. Hegar. This won’t be as close as the Cruz-O’Rourke race.


11. Georgia (Special) (R) – As mentioned previously, this is a jungle race in which the top two of six candidates advance to a runoff in January. The top two candidates are both Republican so you do the math.


12. Alaska (R) – Incumbent Dan Sullivan is facing re-election. The Alaska primary will be held on August 18. Sullivan is not very popular (35 percent approval in a recent PPP poll) but is favored to win against independent Democrat Al Gross, a doctor running a health-focused campaign.

If you’re keeping score at home, a net gain of three seats looks likely for the Democrats. Probable Democratic victories in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina will be partially offset by the loss of Alabama. That would put the Senate at a 50-50 tie.

The problem for Republicans is that there are other tossup seats, the most likely of which are Iowa and Montana. If the Democrats can pick up one of these seats or get lucky elsewhere in addition to the seats where they are favored, then Donald Trump will have cost the GOP the Senate.

With 89 days until the election (and less than that until the start of early voting), much of the polling is pointing towards a bad night for Republicans. Time is running out to reverse that trend.

If you would like to continue the discussion on social media, you can visit David Thornton’s Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

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