State of the Senate Races – Part 2


This senate race is a special election to fill the seat left open by John McCain upon his death in 2018. McSally was appointed as the interim senator after McCain’s initially appointed nominee Jon Kyl resigned in December 2018.


Martha McSally (R): Incumbent, former Representative for Arizona’s second congressional district

Mark Kelly (D): Former astronaut


RealClearPolitics‘ polling average shows Kelly ahead of McSally by 4.7 points; FiveThirtyEight also projects that Kelly is favored to win.


Both national and local coverage show Kelly as a crowd favorite, and predict that he will win the election by swaying moderates. In 2018, McSally was defeated in the senate race by Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona’s first Democratic Senator in nearly 20 years.

At a Trump rally on Wednesday, President Trump rushed McSally through her speech in a way that many voters thought was disrespectful. McSally defended Trump, saying that she was proud to work with him and did not feel slighted by the exchange.

Meanwhile, a photo allegedly of Mark Kelly dressed as Hitler at a college party has emerged. The Kelly campaign insists that it is not a photo of him.

Brookings and the New York Times report that Arizona’s growing Latino population has undermined Republicans’ base there.


Few notable or surprising endorsements in this race. McSally has received endorsements from Republican politicians and PACs, including George W. Bush, Nikki Haley, and Mike Huckabee’s Huck PAC. She has also notably received an endorsement from former astronaut Buzz Aldrin,  who backed former air force pilot McSally over her opponent and former astronaut Kelly. Kelly has received endorsements from Democratic politicians and PACs, including Barack Obama and the Feminist Majority PAC, as well as the United Auto Workers Union.



Joni Ernst (R): Incumbent, former Senator in the Iowa State Senate

Theresa Greenfield (D): Former urban planner who grew up on an Iowa farm


The polls show an incredibly close race in Iowa. RealClearPolitics‘ average shows Ernst ahead in the polls by half a points, and FiveThirtyEight calls it a toss-up.


This election was recently brought to the forefront of popular culture when a clip from the Senate debate went viral. In the video, the debate moderator asked both candidates about the market price of crops and produce that day. While Greenfield answered swiftly and correctly, Ernst stammered and struggled to come up with an answer.

Greenfield has halted campaign appearances in the week before the elections due to a possible COVID-19 exposure on her staff. While the move is seen by some as virtue signaling out of respect for the pandemic and response thereto, it could cost her the race.

Greenfield raised the highest amount in any one quarter for a Senate race, gathering $28.7 million for her campaign in the third quarter of 2020. Greenfield had a 5-point lead in the polls in late August, but the race has gotten much closer since then.

Iowa has a history of political volatility. The state voted for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, but voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016.


No notable or surprising endorsements in this race.



Cory Gardner (R): incumbent, former House of Representatives member for 4th Congressional District

John Hickenlooper (D): former governor of Colorado


RealClearPolitics’ polling average has Hickenlooper on top of Gardner by 8% while FiveThirtyEight models shows a comparable favor towards Hickenlooper.


Democrats have pulled out $1.2 million of remaining campaign funds because of Hickenlooper’s large lead over Gardner. They are pretty confident that he will win the senatorial race over Gardner.

Gardner’s choice to associate himself and support President Donald Trump may have been ultimately been his biggest mistake with unaffiliated voters, which make up most the state’s population because according to polls detest the president 

Gardner’s and Hickenlooper’s sharp differences in political ideology  on issues such as the Supreme Court confirmation, Black Lives Matter, Guns, Fracking and others has ultimately decided the election in favor of Hickenlooper. Gardner’s position aligns similarly to President Trump.


Gardner is endorsed by Charles Koch; Hickenlooper is endorsed by former Colorado governor Roy Romer.



John James (R): former businessman and Iraq war veteran

Gary Peters (D): incumbent, former U.S. House of Representatives member for 14th Congressional District


RealClearPolitics’ polling average has Peters in the lead of the Senate race by 7% while FiveThirtyEight models shows a small margin of 6% with Peters still leading.


Both candidates have made it intentionally difficult to identify their party alliance. As a result, local publications speculate that voters are conflating James’ race as a black male with being affiliated with the Democratic party and Peters’ race as a white male as being affiliated with the Republican party .

Senate Leadership Fund has devoted at least $4.6 million in campaign funds. If the republicans are able to pull off an upset in the Senate race in Michigan, it is most likely to lead to them securing the Senate majority.

James has gained the support of many household names, such as Nikki Haley, in the republican party and refers to Peters as “Gary the Gaslighter” as a last attempt to climb up in the polls before the election


No noteworthy or surprising endorsements in this race.


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© Evelyn Torsher, 2020