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 KavanaughHouse, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Justices appear cautious of expanding gun rights in NY case Thanks to President Trump, major tests loom for Chief Justice Roberts MORE.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Schumer briefs Democrats on impeachment trial 'mechanics' Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (R-Ky.), hit the Alabama Democrat in a press release last week over his vote to reelect Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law | Michigan governor seeks to pause Medicaid work requirements | New front in fight over Medicaid block grants House, Senate Democrats call on Supreme Court to block Louisiana abortion law Why a second Trump term and a Democratic Congress could be a nightmare scenario for the GOP MORE (D-N.Y.) as minority leader.

Maine

Democrats are bullish about their chances of ousting Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate confirms Trump pick labeled 'not qualified' by American Bar Association Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Collins opposes Trump's district court pick 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 PoliquinThe Hill's Morning Report - Mass shootings put spotlight on Trump, Congress Ex-GOP lawmaker from Maine says he won't run for his old seat in 2020 Making the case for ranked-choice voting 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 FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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 McCainLessons of the Kamala Harris campaign Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Top Armed Services Democrat scolds military leaders on Trump's intervention in war crimes cases 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 McSallyLobbying world Senate roundtable showcases importance and needs of women entrepreneurs GOP braces for Democratic spending onslaught in battle for Senate 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 GardnerHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Senators urge FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (R) in 2020.

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThree legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise Report: Barr attorney can't provide evidence Trump was set up by DOJ Jayapal pushes back on Gaetz's questioning of impeachment witness donations to Democrats MORE beat Trump in Colorado by roughly 5 points in 2016. And earlier this month, Democrat Jason CrowJason CrowColorado rep planning sunrise run to possible sites for military memorial Bill introduced to give special immigrant visas to Kurds who helped US in Syria Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds MORE ousted Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanBottom Line Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner 20 years after Columbine, Dems bullish on gun reform MORE (R).

In the race for governor, Democrat Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisDrudge faces conservative pushback after mocking Trump's Colorado wall comment Trump says remark about Colorado border wall was made 'kiddingly' Colorado governor mocks Trump for saying he's building wall there 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 ErnstRepublicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Congress braces for chaotic December Senate roundtable showcases importance and needs of women entrepreneurs 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.