What to watch for in Presidential, Senate & House races

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Breakdown of swing states and close Senate battles

Courtesy: WilsonHouse.gov

(WKRG) — Here is what to look for Tuesday night as you watch the election returns come in on WKRG News 5 and CBS. The White House and both branches of Congress are up for grabs.

Presidential Race

Remember, the presidential race is not really one election but more like 51 individual elections. There are 538 available electoral votes. The candidate who reaches 270 wins.

The number of votes a state has is two (for each senator) plus the number of its congressional districts. 48 states and the District of Columbia have winner-take-all elections for their respective electoral college votes. Nebraska and Maine could split votes. Each awards two electoral votes to the candidate who carries the state. Then, each awards one electoral vote for the winner in each of its congressional districts. Nebraska has three congressional districts. Maine has two.

Historical data and polling show 37 states and the District of Columbia can basically be counted in one camp or the other. So the race will come down to the following 13 states.

Historically Democrat Leaning:

Minnesota (10 votes)
Nevada (6 votes)
New Hampshire (4 votes)

The Biden/Harris ticket will be trouble if it loses any of these states that voted for the Democratic candidate in 2008, 2012, and 2016. Trump lost close races in all three states, though, in 2016, including an extremely close race in New Hampshire.

Historically Republican Leaning:

Texas (38 votes)
Georgia (16 votes)
Arizona (11 votes)

These three states have gone with the Republican candidate in the last three presidential elections and none of the races have been close. Polling, however, shows all three states in 2020 are toss-ups. A loss for Trump in Texas where he won by 9-percentage points in 2016 would likely be fatal. Trump would have to offset a loss in Georgia or Arizona by sweeping the four Rust Belt states (see below).

Swing State Toss-ups:
Florida (29 votes)
North Carolina (15 votes)
Iowa (6 votes)

All three states voted for Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016. Florida has gone with the eventual presidential winner in 21 of the last 23 elections (exceptions: Bush over Clinton in 1992 and Nixon over Kennedy in 1960). It will be virtually impossible for Trump to win without winning Florida. Trump carried Iowa by nine-percentage points in 2016, but polls show the race against Biden a dead heat.

Rust Belt Swing States:

Pennsylvania (20 votes)
Ohio (18 votes)
Michigan (16 votes)
Wisconsin (10 votes)

These midwestern “rust belt” states will likely determine the 2020 election winner, as they did in 2016 when Trump swept all four, three by a percentage point or less. Ohio is most likely to go for Trump and Wisconsin is most likely to go for Biden. Obama won Michigan by 16-percentage points in 2008, but Trump staged an upset there in 2016. Pennsylvania is the key state. If Trump wins Ohio and Pennsylvania, Biden would have to win a large state that went Republican in 2016 – like Arizona, North Carolina, or Georgia to have a chance.

U.S. Senate

The Senate currently is composed of 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats.

A number of Senate seats, mostly held by Republicans, are up for grabs. Democrats need a net gain of three seats to reach a 50-50 split.

Remember that the Vice President is the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. So, the party that wins the White House would also control an evenly split Senate.

Held by Democrats:

Polls indicate Democrat Doug Jones is a long shot to beat former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville. A Tuberville win means Democrats have to flip four seats to get to a 50-50 tie.

Incumbent Sen. Gary Peters faces Republican Army vet John James. If Peters loses, it would be all but impossible for Democrats to win control of the Senate.

Held by Republicans:

This is 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.

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.

Georgia #1
There are two Senate seats up in Georgia, 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.

Georgia #2
Georgia’s other race is a special election with an open primary. 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 on January 5th is likely.

Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is in a close race with Democrat Theresa Greenfield.
Ernst is serving her first term in the Senate. She has closely aligned herself with President Trump.

Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins faces challenger Sara Gideon.
Collins was criticized 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. This month, Collins was the only Republican to vote against the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

North Carolina
Republican Sen. Thom Tillis faces Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and Iraq war veteran. Cunningham had a lead in polls until early October when news broke of an extra marital affair.

South Carolina
Sen. Lindsey Graham, known for his support of Trump and the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, faces a serious contender in Democrat Jaime Harrison.

U.S House

There are 435 House seats. The party with 218 representatives, therefore, controls the House.
Right now, the House consists of 235 Democrats and 197 Republicans, with three vacancies or third party members.

Democrats gained control of the House in the 2018 elections. Prior to that, Republicans held the chamber for eight years.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report predicts Democrats will extend their House majority in the Nov. 3 election.


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