The overwhelming majority of the news lately has been, with good reason, COVID-centric. To take your mind away from the pandemic, we will talk about some of the major congressional races coming in 2020. After what some would consider a small red wave 2018, there are quite a few races that have the early makings of major upsets from both parties this fall.
Oklahoma’s 5th District
Oklahoma’s 5th district was flipped blue in the 2018 election cycle when incumbent Steve Russell lost to Democrat Kendra Horn by less than 4,000 votes. This came as quite an upset since FiveThirtyEight’s last poll on the district, posted on October 31st, showed Russell with a 12 point lead. In 2020, OK-5 remains a tossup ahead of the Republican primary. As a matter of fact, it is Oklahoma’s only district that isn’t classified as “safely Republican”. While it is still early, Horn boasts the title of Oklahoma’s least popular house member (24/7 Wall St.). This paired with Oklahoma’s strong republican lean as a whole means this is certainly a region Republicans will seek to regain this year. Conservative businesswoman Terry Neese will look to take the district back in November.
Republicans should feel significantly less comfortable with Arizona’s incumbent senator Martha McSally’s performance in the polls. Recent polling from FiveThirtyEight shows McSally polling at 38%, down 13 points to Democrat Mark Kelly. While 538 shows McSally still having a near 40% chance to win in November, those odds seem to be failing every day. Arizona as a whole leans republican, so an upset victory isn’t out of the question. This is an upset that might be necessary for republicans, as polling shows republicans will hold 50-53 seats after the senate elections in the fall. A loss for McSally could lead to a 50-50 split, or worse, in the senate. It is important to note that a 50-50 split would put even more pressure on the results of the presidential election, as the Vice President would serve as the tie-breaker.
Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, faces a similar situation as McSally. Gardner is an incumbent facing a plethora of Democratic challengers in the upcoming senate race. Early on Gardner held a strong lead over top competition (6 point lead in September 2019). Since then, however, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has joined the race. After a brief stint in the presidential race, Hickenlooper dropped out and chose to instead pursue Gardner’s seat in the senate. As of early May Hickenlooper holds a 17+ point lead (538) over Gardner. Unlike Arizona, Colorado leans left as a state (voting for Clinton over Trump by 5 points in 2016). Gardner’s Senate seat is another one considered a tossup by FiveThirtyEight and is thus hugely important for Republicans if they wish to hold their majority.