2020 Senate Preview:

While the most urgent priority facing humankind right now is the removal of Donald Trump from office, it’s also pretty damn important for the democrats to flip the senate, which will be necessary in order to undo at least some of the damage that maniac has done, and to give Ruth Bader Ginsburg the peaceful retirement she deserves.

So, can they do it? At the moment, the Toteboard says . . . . maybe.

By way of reminder, the republicans currently control the senate 53-47, but the democrats might have the wind at their backs. It’s far too early to start talking about a wave election – in fact, it’s far too early to assume that Biden can successfully vanquish Trump – but it’s unquestionable that the good guys have a number of built-in advantages: Trump’s unpopularity, a relatively favorable electoral map, and a string of promising candidates. Overall, the democrats have no more than two seats that are in danger, but they have at least a half-dozen legitimate targets, and possibly more. This is a cycle when the democrats can play a lot of offense.

So what do they need, and where will they get it? Assuming a Biden victory in November – all of this is null and void if that doesn’t happen – the democrats need to win FIVE of the following races, listed below from most to least likely:

THE BLUE MUST-HOLD:

Michigan: Apart from the unique situation in Alabama, this is the only seat the republicans can plausibly target, but even that may be more theoretical than real. The GOP candidate is African-American businessman John James, who made a fairly good showing against Debbie Stabenow two years ago, and the pundits have imagined that incumbent Gary Peters doesn’t quite have Stabenow’s cachet. But Michigan seems to have some buyer’s remorse about Trump, and the few polls so far, including the ones commissioned by the republicans, show Peters leading by high single or even low double digits.

THE BEST TARGETS:

Colorado: Clearly the most likely (and most necessary) pick-up, as Cory Gardner has tethered himself closely to Trump in this ever blue-ing Indigo state. The charisma-challenged former governor John Hickenlooper isn’t the most progressive democrat in the field (the primary isn’t until late June), but the Toteboard is satisfied that he’s the one who can most easily notch this one for the good guys.

Arizona: Technically still an Aspirational Purple, Arizona appears to be one of the fastest blue-ing states in the country, though more from demographic shifts than any ideological transformation. Either way, the dems found a fund-raising titan (who rejects PAC money) with an all-American resume in Mark Kelly. Early polls show good news, but Kelly has to be careful not to let down his guard.

THE TIPPING POINTS:

Maine: Susan Collins’ moderate republican cred has been eroding for years, and now she’s going to be seeing Brett Kavanagh’s face in her dreams for the rest of her life, or at least for the next five months. The primaries have been put off until July, and the dems are mostly pinning their hopes on the speaker of the state House Sara Gideon. This should be a high-profile blockbuster in a state noted for its taciturnity.

North Carolina: While this is at least as crucial a battleground state as Maine, the Toteboard wouldn’t be surprised if few of its readers could name either the republican incumbent (Thom Tillis) or the democratic challenger (Cal Cunningham). Nevertheless, this one could be a barn-burner too. The state is technically Burgundy, but this seat has alternated between parties over the last 18 years, Tillis is disproportionately conservative for such a tenuously red state, and Cunningham brings a fascinating dossier as former state senator, army veteran, and environmental services executive, not to mention degrees in political science and philosophy. It would be cool if this is the one that does it.

THE NEXT TIER:

Iowa: Once considered a reliable leg of the Blue Base, Iowa has been tilting rightward, culminating with Trump winning it four years ago without much of a fight. But Iowa is not homogeneous, and freshman Joni Ernst is not a shoo-in. Theresa Greenfield, who won the primary decisively Tuesday night, is running as a born-and-raised Midwesterner with farm-girl roots, a let’s-get-things-done ethos, and a compelling personal story, including the death (by accidental electrocution) of her first husband when she was a young mother. It’s still Ernst’s to lose, but no one should be surprised if Greenfield catches fire.

Montana: Montana? Really, Montana? The state that Trump won by 20 percentage points, the state where anticipation about the beginning of the “season” doesn’t refer to baseball or strawberries? Yes, believe it or not, Montana. The state actually voted for Clinton back in 1992, and has been more than willing to elect democrats on the state level, especially those who come off as principled, level-headed pragmatists. Max Baucus served as senator for an astounding six terms, and Jon Tester has been elected thrice, though admittedly during three blue-friendly years (i.e., Bush’s bad 2006 midterm, Obama’s 2012 reelection, and Trump’s bad 2018 midterm). Anyway, outgoing term-limited governor Steve Bullock is hoping to make things interesting against one-term incumbent Steve Daines, but it won’t be easy, as Daines is popular, and his voting record seems tuned into the pulse of his state. Still, Bullock is a force to be reckoned with, and there’s some evidence that Trump’s approval rating is eroding there. Polls over the next few months will make it clear whether or not this is one of the places where the dems should spend some time and money.

Georgia Special Election: Thanks to Johnny Isaacson’s retirement for health reasons, Georgia will have a “jungle primary” for his seat on election day, with the top two vote-getters (from any party) forced into a runoff if no one gets 50%. There is much to put this race on the national radar, including the anointed successor Kelly Loeffler’s appearances of impropriety and a tendency to shoot herself in the foot every time she shoots off her mouth, Trump surrogate Doug Collins’ challenge from the republican populist front (they’re really no different ideologically), and democrats hoping Ebenezer Baptist Church’s oratorical pastor Raphael Warnock will inspire huge African-American turnout and enough educated whites from the Atlanta suburbs. Joe Lieberman’s son Matt is also in the race, but state democrats have not flocked to his side, and the Toteboard has such a bad taste in its mouth from the senior version that it’s not giving the son a second look.

DREAMS SOMETIMES COME TRUE:

Georgia: As Biden is trying to turn the state blue, and democrats are hoping to capitalize on republican chaos in the special election, the nasty Trumpian incumbent David Purdue is up for reelection. The democratic pool isn’t bad – it includes Stacy Abrams’s “running mate” Sarah Riggs Amico from their close-but-no-cigar campaign two years ago, and Jon Ossoff, the young documentary filmmaker who lost an expensive, nationalized special congressional election around the same time (and who is leading big in the few available polls). But the Toteboard is in full for Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who has the right combination of ideology, wonkiness, coalition-building skills, and a little “bless your heart” southern zing when she needs it. The primary is next week, and time will tell if the winner can get some traction.

Alabama: It was a moment of great celebration when Doug Jones barely knocked off the Bible-beating child-molester Roy Moore in the special election two and a half years ago, thanks to an inspiring multi-cultural coalition anchored by the African-American community, who well remembered his successful prosecution of the Birmingham church bombers. But duplicating that feat during in a regular election in Alabama with Trump heading the ticket is another matter, and many democratic strategists have already written this one off. But who knows? There could be some bloodletting in the republican primary runoff, slated for mid-July, as Jeff Sessions engages in a battle of half-wits with a former Auburn football coach, and it’s conceivable that Jones may once again outlast a damaged candidate.

Kansas: A la Alabama, there’s really no reason why there should a be a close race here, but local internecine warfare may yet wrestle defeat from the jaws of republican victory. Failed gubernatorial candidate and highly polarizing figure Kris Kobach is running for the nomination, and if he wins, state senator Barbara Bollier may be able come of as a sane alternative, much as Governor Laura Kelly did two years ago. The primaries aren’t until August, though, so we’ll have a long wait to see how this one shapes up.

Kentucky: It would be great to see Mitch McConnell leave on the same train to Hell as Trump, and Amy McGrath is a strong candidate, but she’s just in the wrong state, and the Toteboard is highly apprehensive that Kentucky can flip. Still, dreams do sometimes come true.

And so, this is where we are now. As always, the Toteboard will keep you posted. Everyone please stay safe, sane, and sanitized.ping.