PAC For A Change – Races to Watch
Senator Cory Gardner is in deep trouble. His state, long a battleground, is rapidly turning blue. In 2016, Clinton won Colorado by 5 points. In 2018, Jared Polis was easily elected governor; Dems flipped a House seat and took control of every statewide office along with majorities in both the state House and Senate. Democrats have a strong bench of potential challengers, including recent two-term governor John Hickenlooper, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and state House speaker Cristina Duran. One December poll showed Gardner losing to a generic Democratic candidate by 47-41, with a disapproval rating of 50%. Perhaps sensing these headwinds, Gardner became the first GOP senator to jump ship on Trump’s shutdown. But this may be too little too late: According to 538.com, he has voted with Trump 92% of the time, making him the most out of step with his constituents of any GOP senator. (2014: Gardner 48%, Udall 46%)
After losing the 2018 election to Kyrsten Sinema, Martha McSally was appointed to fill John McCain’s seat for two years. If she is reelected in 2020, she would fill the remainder of that term and have to run again in 2022. In 2018, McSally ran as a Trump clone (as she was in the House, voting with Trump 97% of the time) and a McCain critic. This appeared to hurt her last time and will again. Several Democrats have expressed interest in the race, including Rep. Ruben Gallego and Grant Wood, a former Republican state attorney general. But the field would likely clear if Mark Kelly enters the race. The former astronaut, Navy veteran, and husband of Gabby Giffords would be a formidable foe for McSally.
This purple state is trending blue. In 2018, Mainers elected a Democratic governor (to succeed the Neanderthal Republican Paul LePage) and replaced a GOP Member of Congress. Senator Susan Collins had been historically very popular, but she infuriated her constituents and thousands of grassroots Democratic donors with her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh and especially her specious speech casting Kavanaugh as an even-handed moderate. If a strong Democratic challenger emerges, Collins may be headed for the exit – possibly retiring before the campaign begins. (2014: Collins 67 – Bellows 31)
In 2018, Democrats flipped the state’s Congressional delegation from 3-1 Republican to 3-1 Democratic. 2020 should be another good year, partly because Trump’s approval rating has tanked and Democratic presidential candidates will be camped out in Iowa for the next 12 months. A recent state poll showed voters disapproving of Trump’s role in the shutdown by a 17-point margin (39-56%). If Democrats are running well against Trump – and if former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack runs for Senate – Ernst could be in trouble. (2014: Ernst 52 – Bruce Braley 44)
This purple state is a big question mark. Obama won in 2008 but lost in 2012, and Trump won by 3.7% in 2016. In 2018, Dems chipped away at GOP state legislative majorities but didn’t flip any House seats. First-term GOP Senator Thom Tillis has been squirrelly on the shutdown, calling for negotiation but chiefly blaming the Dems. Like Colorado’s Cory Gardner, Tillis has alienated constituents by supporting Trump far more than they do, voting with the president 95% of the time. North Carolina will be a heavier lift for Dems than blue Colorado, but it’s definitely in play. (2014: Tills 49 – Hagan 47)