Democratic Challengers Lead GOP Incumbents in Key Senate Races, Polls Show

Democratic challengers are ahead of Republican incumbents in three must-watch races that will determine which party wins majority control of the Senate this November.

Polling averages in Arizona, Maine and North Carolina currently show Democrats in the lead, according to Real Clear Politics.

The biggest advantage for the Democratic Party is in Arizona, where Senator Martha McSally is being challenged by former astronaut Mark Kelly. Polling averages show Kelly, a first-time political candidate, ahead by nearly 12 points. The most recent survey from The New York Times/Siena College found Kelly with 47 percent support among registered voters compared to McSally's 38 percent.

Kelly has also been besting McSally in fundraising. He nearly doubled her team's numbers in the first quarter of 2020, raising $11 million between January and March. McSally's team raised $6.3 million during the same time period.

Democrats in Maine and North Carolina are also leading Republican incumbents, but by smaller margins.

In Maine, Sara Gideon has an average 2.5 point lead over Senator Susan Collins. Gideon, the Democratic speaker of the state's House of Representatives, also raked in more cash during the first quarter of this year. Campaign finance filings show she collected just over $7 million compared to Collins' $2.4 million. But Real Clear Politics still rates the race as a "toss-up."

In North Carolina, another "toss-up" contest, Cal Cunningham is ahead of Senator Thom Tillis by an average of 2 points. The Times/Siena College survey showed Cunningham leading Tills 42 to 39 percent among registered voters--though 19 percent of respondents said they're undecided or would vote for someone else.

Like the other Democratic challengers, Cunningham also had a bigger fundraising haul so far this year. He reported a $4.4 million fundraising haul between January and March, compared to Tillis' $1.3 million.

To regain control of the chamber, Democrats need to flip at least four seats. However, if presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden defeats President Donald Trump in the general election, the party would only need to win three Senate seats. The vice president serves as president of the Senate and would cast tie-breaking votes.

In the 2020 election cycle, Republicans have to defend far more territory in the Senate than their Democratic counterparts. Of the 36 seats up for grabs in November, 23 are held by Republicans. In addition to Arizona, Maine and North Carolina, Democratic candidates are also putting up a strong fight against conservative incumbents in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa and Montana.

Newsweek has reached out to each campaign for comment on the latest polling numbers, but did not receive responses before publication.

democrats leading GOP incumbents key senate races
A woman walks her dogs near the U.S. Capitol Building on March 27, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Polls show Democratic challengers ahead of Republican incumbents in several must-watch races that could determine which party wins control of the Senate this November. Alex Edelman/AFP/Getty Images