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The Other 2020 US Elections – the Democratic party fight to take back control of the Senate

May 7th, 2020

Yes, all eyes are on the Presidency. But let us not forget that there are other national US elections taking place on November 3: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

I’m not going to dwell on the House, where I think the Republicans will regain some ground, but not enough to take the Chamber back. Instead, let’s talk about the Senate. The current composition is 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 Independents. The two Independents (Bernie Sanders and Angus King) can probably be counted as Democrats, so it means the effective split is 53:47.

For the Democrats to gain control, they need a net gain of three Senate seats (if they win the Presidency), and four if they do not. They also have to defend Alabama.

So, a tough, tough ask for them, yes?

Well, except for one thing. The Republicans are defending quite a few marginal states. So, without further ado, here are my betting recommendations:

Colorado. Republican incumbent facing the former Governor, John Hickenlooper. The polls have been horrible for the incumbent and Colorado moves further to the left with each passing year. Smarkets have the Democrats as massive favourites, and they are correct. This is an easy Democratic pickup.

D + 1

Maine. Susan Collins has held Maine for almost a quarter century. She used to have the highest approval ratings in the Senate. Not any more. The latest Maine polls have her favorability at 37% against 52% who disapprove. Smarkets seems to think she stands a chance. Smarkets is wrong.

D + 2

Alabama. Doug Jones made the incomprehensible decision to vote for President Trump’s impeachment, despite it making no difference at all. Republican pickup. Next.

D + 1

Georgia. Two Republicans are up for election. Only one of them has truly horrendous personal ratings and sold all their shares after receiving a confidential briefing on the Coronavirus’s likely economic impact. I fear Georgia is going to see a pretty awful second CV-19 wave. Smarkets has Loeffler as narrow favourite to retain her Senate seat. I think she’s a goner. Her Republican colleague will probably hang on.

D + 2

Arizona. John McCain’s Senate seat is currently in the hands of appointee Martha McSally. You may remember her as the person who lost badly to Kyrsten Sinema in 2018. Well, this time Ms McSally is facing popular former astronaut Mark Kelly. The Smarkets odds have Kelly as massive favorite. They are probably right.

D + 3. But now it gets harder for the Democrats.

North Carolina. Smarkets have it as practically 50/50. I think the Republicans probably hang on here.

Iowa. You can get 2-1 on the Democrats here. Joni Ernst has seen her popularity plummet, but the odds are probably about right. If you want a bet on the Democrats having a really good night, this might be the one.

Kentucky. Why are we talking about Kentucky? Because Mitch McConnell is not a popular Senator. Still, I wouldn’t waste my money.

Alaska? Possible but unlikely. The recent plunge in oil prices will not have done the state’s finances any good. And there is a case for the Democrat former Governor of Montana, but it would require an unprecedented level of ticket splitting. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

All in all, I think the Democrats have a comfortably better than 50% chance of getting to 50 seats (including Independents). It’s also possible they have a blow out night, picking up both Georgia seats and Iowa. You can sell 51 or more Republican seats at slightly worse than evens on Smarkets, and get only marginally worse returns with Betfred and Ladbrokes. Take them.

Robert Smithson