The 5 most competitive Senate races of 2020

The 2020 elections are set to flip the script in the battle for the Senate, as Republicans must defend at least 20 seats, teeing up a series of potentially competitive races that could alter the political map.

Republicans have so far expanded their Senate majority going into 2019 to 52 seats. They could pick up one more if Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) emerges victorious in her runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and agriculture secretary.

But Democrats have already put a number of Senate seats in their sights as they look to recapture a majority in the chamber in 2020. Meanwhile, Republicans are eager to win back the Alabama seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D).

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Here are five Senate races that are shaping up to be among the most competitive in 2020.

Alabama

Jones eked out a win in his 2017 special election bid against a Republican candidate shrouded in scandal and controversy. But as he prepares to run for his first full term in 2020, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to hold on in deep-red Alabama.

Alabama is the only solidly Republican state where a Democrat will face reelection in 2020, and while Jones doesn’t yet have a top-tier challenger, the GOP is already eyeing his seat as its best pick-up opportunity in the next election.

What’s more, Republicans are likely to go after Jones on his record in the Senate thus far, such as his vote against the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMaine House speaker announces challenge to Collins Senate seat Trump denies new sexual assault allegation Supreme Court sides with immigrant in gun possession case MORE.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden, Eastland and rejecting the cult of civility California governor predicts 'xenophobic' GOP will likely be third party in 15 years This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request MORE (R-Ky.), hit the Alabama Democrat in a press release last week over his vote to reelect Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' MORE (D-N.Y.) as minority leader.

Maine

Democrats are bullish about their chances of ousting Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMaine House speaker announces challenge to Collins Senate seat GOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP lawmakers want Mulvaney sidelined in budget talks MORE (R) in 2020.

Democrat Janet Mills easily won her bid to succeed retiring Republican Gov. Paul LePage this year, leaving Collins as the last remaining GOP statewide elected official. And with the defeat of Rep. Bruce PoliquinBruce Lee PoliquinMaking the case for ranked-choice voting The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Maine governor certifies Dem's win in disputed House race, but calls it 'stolen election' MORE (R-Maine) in Maine’s 2nd District, both of the state’s House members will be Democrats.

What’s more, the state has gone blue in every presidential election since 1988.

Collins incensed liberals last month when she voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, prompting warnings of an aggressive push to boot her from office. Already, one prominent Democrat, former national security adviser Susan Rice, has floated the idea of challenging the four-term senator in 2020.

But Collins has a history of winning outsize reelection victories. In 2008, a bad year for Republicans, she crushed former Rep. Tom Allen (D) by a whopping 23 points. She won reelection once again in 2014 by a 37-point margin.

Arizona

Republicans have held both of Arizona’s Senate seats for well over two decades. But as evidenced by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s victory in the race to succeed retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeJeff Flake becoming Harvard fellow Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R) this month, the state’s hue is becoming more purple.

The 2020 Senate election in Arizona is set to determine who will fill the seat once occupied by the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVeterans group to hand out USS John McCain T-shirts for July 4 on the National Mall Will we ever have another veteran as president? Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' MORE (R), a political giant who passed away earlier this year from brain cancer.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Jon Kyl, a former Republican senator, to fill the seat after McCain’s death. But Kyl has said he does not intend to seek election in 2020, setting up the possibility of a highly competitive primary and making the seat a prime target for Democrats.

But Republicans are unlikely to cede the state without an aggressive fight. Kyl is considering leaving the Senate seat ahead of 2020, and speculation has swirled that Ducey could name outgoing Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyHispanic Caucus seeks to retain voice in House leadership Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' McSally on Moore running for Senate again: 'This place has enough creepy old men' MORE (R), who lost her Senate bid to Sinema, as Kyl’s replacement.

If that happens, it could give McSally a second shot at the Senate seat and give Republicans an experienced candidate with an already high profile.

Colorado

Colorado has long been considered among the nation’s perennial battleground states. But that reputation appears to be waning, setting up a potentially tough reelection environment for Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerMcSally on Moore running for Senate again: 'This place has enough creepy old men' Hillicon Valley: Senate sets hearing on Facebook's cryptocurrency plans | FTC reportedly investigating YouTube over children's privacy | GOP senator riles tech with bill targeting liability shield | FAA pushed to approve drone deliveries Senate panel advances bill to protect government devices against cyber threats MORE (R) in 2020.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Trump says he's not prepared to lose in 2020 MORE beat Trump in Colorado by roughly 5 points in 2016. And earlier this month, Democrat Jason CrowJason CrowKoch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner Dem proposal to ban Pentagon funds for border wall survives House panel votes Centrist Dem pitches plan for Pentagon to tackle climate change MORE ousted Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanKoch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' MORE (R).

In the race for governor, Democrat Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisGOP gun rights activist arrested for flashing handgun at U.S. marshal First openly gay man elected governor marks Pride with flag at state capitol Colorado passes more than billion in marijuana revenue MORE notched a comfortable win over Republican Walker Stapleton. Perhaps more notable is that the 2018 midterms gave Democrats control of every statewide office in Colorado, as well as majorities in both the state House and Senate.

All told, that sets the stage for a potentially fierce Senate battle in 2020. Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has proven to be an adept campaigner. But his Senate seat is high on Democrats’ wish list as they seek to flip the last remaining Republican-held statewide office in their favor.

Iowa

Iowa may have handed Trump a nearly 10-point win in 2016, but the Hawkeye State holds a reputation as a perennial battleground, setting the stage for a fiercely competitive Senate race in 2020 when Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGOP frets about Trump's poll numbers GOP senators caught off guard by Shanahan withdrawal Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate MORE (R-Iowa) is expected to seek a second term.

Democrats managed to flip two of Iowa’s Republican-held House seats earlier this month, meaning that the state’s congressional delegation will be evenly split between the two parties next year.

Former President Obama also carried the state in his 2008 and 2012 White House bids.

But there’s a silver lining for the GOP. The state’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds won a second term this month and her party held their majorities in the state House and Senate, maintaining the GOP’s trifecta in Des Moines.

Just missing the cut: North Carolina

North Carolina’s political future is in flux. The state has seen a surge in new residents in recent years, particularly in suburban areas and cities, such as Charlotte, that could create a more Democratic-friendly electorate. 

At the same time, Democrats chipped away at the GOP’s supermajority in the state General Assembly this month. Still, Democrats didn’t see the same kind of success in U.S. House races in the state in 2018.