The 7 Republican Senators at Risk of Losing Their Seats in 2020

With polling in the presidential race swinging in the Democrats' favor, the party will be buoyed in its ambitions to oust a handful of GOP senators in a bid to take charge of the Senate as well.

Republicans have 23 seats to defend and a net shift of four to the Democrats, or three if presidential nominee Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump in his bid for the White House, would see power in the Senate flip.

The Democrats have fewer seats to defend, with 12 up for election, and will be looking to go on the offensive in order to seize a majority.

And though it looks set to be a hard fought power battle, several Republican senators sit in precarious positions ahead of the vote.

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Martha McSally (R-AZ) faces Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, a Navy veteran and retired NASA astronaut, in Arizona.

McSally, a retired Air Force pilot, recently physically returned to the campaign trail with a book signing of her memoir Dare to Fly, having held off events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In doing so, she is looking to reduce Kelly's lead, which a recent poll put at double figures. The Fox News survey, which saw 1,002 voters in Arizona questioned between May 30 and June 2, 50 percent of those asked said they would back Kelly, compared to 37 for McSally.

Prior to this, a poll from OH Predictive Insights also put Kelly's advantage at 13 points. This asked 600 likely Arizona voters May 9 to 11, with 51 percent stating they would back Kelly, compared to 38 for McSally.

Speaking last month, pollster Mike Noble told AZ Central: "McSally is doing terribly. There's no way to find a bright spot on that one."

martha mcsally
Martha McSally (R-AZ) wears a mask depicting the Arizona state flag as she listens to testimony during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Polling indicates she is at risk of losing her Senate seat. Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images

As she fights to retain her spot in the upper chamber, McSally's campaign has turned its messaging to focus on China, amid tense relations between the nation and the United States.

She has called for the nation to be "held accountable," stating China "is to blame" for deaths of Americans from COVID-19, while suggesting her rival Kelly will not work to do so.

Dylan Lefler, campaign manager for McSally, told Newsweek in a statement: "Arizona is a tight battleground for both President and Senate, and Martha McSally is fighting every day to serve Arizonans and earn their votes. This Senate race is a dead heat and Senator McSally's record of fighting for jobs, lower prescription drug costs, protecting people with pre-existing conditions and holding China accountable for their Covid malfeasance is resonating. She led to get fast coronavirus relief to Arizonans, has a plan to bring home jobs from China and supports people keeping their health insurance if they lost it during the pandemic.

"It's still early in the election, but as people learn more about Mark Kelly's ties to Communist China and his shady business dealings, we believe people will realize that he's made some poor choices and doesn't deserve to represent Arizona in the US Senate."

Cory Gardner (R-CO) faces an uphill battle for re-election before his Democratic opponent has even been confirmed. He will be pitted against either former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper or Andrew Romanoff, who won four terms in the Colorado House of Representatives, serving two as speaker.

Despite the Dem primary to decide the two not due until June 30, some polls have already looked to pit Gardner versus Hickenlooper, with the latter thus far ending up on top.

A Keating–OnSight–Melanson (KOM) Colorado Poll conducted from May 1 to 3 gave Hickenlooper an 18-point lead, with 54 percent of voters stating they would back him if pitted against Gardner, who 36 percent of respondents said they would support. The poll was conducted online among 600 likely Colorado voters.

cory gardner
Cory Gardner (R-CO) speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a Keep America Great rally on February 20, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Gardner, a first-term Republican senator, is up for reelection this year. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

This comes almost a year on from another poll, conducted by Emerson, which pitted the pair, giving Hickenlooper 53 percent of support compared to Gardner's 40. This survey was carried out between August 16 to 19 of last year, with 1,000 respondents asked.

However, despite Hickenlooper hypothetically holding a strong advantage over Gardner, his nomination is not yet secure and has been rocked after he was fined for ethics violations from his time as Colorado governor, related to violating the state's gift ban during two trips in 2018.

Susan Collins (R-ME) will find out her opponent following the Democratic primary in Maine on July 14. At present, Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives is the favorite to contest the seat.

Polling has already put the two head-to-head, with one recent survey giving Gideon a slight advantage. Research from Public Policy Polling found 47 percent of respondents would back Gideon, over 43 for Collins, out of 872 Maine voters asked from March 2 to 3.

Another poll, conducted February 10 to 13 among 1,008 respondents, gave Gideon a marginal advantage of 43 percent to 42 percent. This result is within the margin of error for the poll, conducted by Colby, but gives another indication as to how tight the race may be.

susan collins
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) arrives at the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Hearings to examine implementation of Title I of the CARES Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on June 10, 2020. She faces a tight contest in her bid for reelection. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

In her run for re-election, Collins has faced accusations of going against her reputation as an independent-minded senator to be loyal to Trump.

She has objected to the idea her behavior has changed, telling the Los Angeles Times: "I don't even understand that argument. I am doing exactly the same thing I've always done. I've always cast votes with an eye to how they affect the state of Maine and our country."

In recent days she has spoken against the Trump administration, criticizing the decision to roll back nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people in health care. She has vowed to work to overturn the move.

Kevin Kelley, spokesperson for Sen. Collins' campaign, said in a statement to Newsweek: "Mainers recognize that Senator Collins' experience and leadership are invaluable.

"Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Senator Collins has been focused on the health of all Americans and the well-being of our nation's economy. She authored the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program which has brought more than $2 billion to Maine, protecting the paychecks of roughly 200,000 Mainers, and helping nearly 75 percent of all small businesses in our state."

He went on to describe Gideon as "missing in action" with the state legislature adjourned.

Thom Tillis (R-NC) faces a knife-edge race with Cal Cunningham, a former North Carolina state senator.

Polling of the pair has seen them essentially tied. The latest from Public Policy Polling, with 949 North Carolina voters asked June 2 to 3, put Cunningham 2 points ahead, at 43 percent to 41 percent. This was within the margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

In contrast, another poll of 500 likely voters, conducted May 26 to May 28, gave Tillis a 2-point lead. The poll, from Harper Polling, showed 38 percent for Tillis and 36 for Cunningham. Again, the difference fell into the margin of error, which was plus or minus 4.38 percent.

The potential implications of a victory have not been lost on Cunningham, who wrote on Twitter: "When we flip North Carolina, we flip the Senate. It's that simple.

"Working together, change is possible—and we only have one shot to get this right."

Similarly to McSally, Tillis has looked to shift focus to his stance on China, releasing what he called his plan "to hold China accountable for COVID-19 and protect America's economy, public health, and national security."

Tillis has also moved to tout his working-class credentials in his latest ad, stating: "My job is fighting for your job."

Steve Daines (R-MT) will be challenged by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock for his Senate position.

A poll last month found Bullock led Daines by 7 points, 46 to 39 percent. This came from research by Montana State University (MSU), with 738 Montana residents questioned online from April 10 to 27. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4.6 percent.

Bullock's numbers may have been boosted by his actions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 70 percent of respondents in the MSU poll stating they approved of his response.

It would appear Trump sees the race as an important one, stating he will visit Montana to help Daines' campaign.

On June 5, Trump wrote on Twitter: "No Contest. Steve blows him away. So important for Montana. I'll be there to help Steve win big!!!"

Daines replied: "Montana can't wait to have you back, Mr. President!"

University of Montana political analyst Sara Rinfret, speaking to AP, suggested having Trump in his corner could pose some problems for Daines.

Rinfret said: "Having Trump in your corner or being a unifier, that's going to be the true test in November. How does Steve Daines reconcile those two? He's going to have to demonstrate he is able to bring people together."

Joni Ernst (R-IA) will face a tough run-in against Theresa Greenfield, who has a slight advantage according to latest polling.

A Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll gave her a three-point advantage, with 46 percent looking to back Greenfield and 43 for Ernst, of 674 likely voters asked June 7 to 10. It was noted this was the first such Iowa Poll conducted where Ernst trailed her opponent since she first ran in 2014.

The president of Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll, J. Ann Selzer told the Des Moines Register: "This is definitely a competitive race."

Ernst has been loyal to Trump on the handling of coronavirus.

Asked how his reaction to the pandemic could affect her as a Republican candidate, she told CNN: "I think the President has actually handled it quite well, so I think it helps.

"I think he took some really great initial steps and ... the left was just hammering him on that and it was the right thing to do. And so, I think the President has done quite well."

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Senate majority leader will be looking on at the contests with concern, with the potential of the GOP-hold at risk. His own position as a senator does not appear guaranteed.

Amy McGrath looks the favorite to run for the Democrats, ahead of the Kentucky primary on June 23.

She drew in $11.3 million to her Senate campaign from April to early June, seeing her outraise her prospective opponent McConnell by $4.1 million.

Polling between the pair, should they face each other, has put them neck and neck.

Polling conducted May 21 to 24 among 500 registered voters in Kentucky by RMG Research put McConnell on 40 percent and McGrath 41.

It then asked the question again, but detailing prospective positions on term limits, asking: "Suppose you knew that Amy McGrath and Donald Trump support term limits, but Mitch McConnell opposes term limits. If you knew that to be true and the U.S. Senate election were held today, for whom would you vote?"

This saw a boost to McGrath, who following this received 45 percent compared to McConnell's 30, showing the difference specific issues could make in the run up to November.

A spokesperson for Team McGrath in a previous statement, shared with Newsweek, said: "Voters aren't just fed up with Mitch—more Kentucky voters now say they want Amy to be our next senator.

"This poll confirms what earlier polls showed: Mitch McConnell is very much beatable in 2020."

Newsweek has contacted the senators mentioned for comment.

Correction 6/16/20, 8:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated to state the KOM poll showed Hickenlooper had an 18-point lead over Gardner.

Update: Comment from Martha McSally's campaign manager was added to this report 6/18/20.

The 7 Republican Senators at Risk of Losing Their Seats in 2020 | Politics