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 KavanaughJuan Williams: Buttigieg already making history Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Fight over census citizenship question hits Supreme Court MORE.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.), hit the Alabama Democrat in a press release last week over his vote to reelect Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerHillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference MORE (D-N.Y.) as minority leader.

Maine

Democrats are bullish about their chances of ousting Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump GOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying 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 FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family 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 McCain10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing 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 McSallyGOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing 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 GardnerSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Cain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying MORE (R) in 2020.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIt is wrong to say 'no collusion' 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era And the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin MORE beat Trump in Colorado by roughly 5 points in 2016. And earlier this month, Democrat Jason CrowJason Crow20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' How gun control activists learned from the NRA MORE ousted Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard Coffman20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE (R).

In the race for governor, Democrat Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisColorado governor signs 'red flag' gun bill Colorado governor expected to sign net neutrality bill Colorado sheriff says 'red flag' gun bill doesn't address mental health 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 Ernst Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback Abrams: Schumer has been 'relentless but thoughtful' about Senate bid 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.