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My Turn - Dems target GOP seats

As House Democrats press on toward impeaching President Trump, Senate Democrats are determined to “flip” the Senate in their favor in 2020.

While the focus of the 2020 elections is obviously on the race for the White House, the concomitant clash for control of the U.S. Senate could have even more, longer lasting implications for the future of our nation.

In 2018, there were 34 Senate seats in contention, and 24 of them were held by Democrats.

Moreover, 10 of those Democrats faced Republican opposition in states won by Donald Trump in 2016. The GOP gained two Senate seats, giving it a slightly larger majority of 53 to 47. 

However, the Senate seat tables are turned in favor of the Democrats in 2020. Currently, there are 35 Senate seats theoretically up for grabs, with 23 of them held by Republicans. Hence, if the Democrats can flip just four of those seats, and hold what they have, they stand to regain Senate control. That would be a huge victory for them and a big blow for the GOP.

So far, the Democrats have targeted GOP-held seats in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, and North Carolina. They could add a few more, but even if they don’t, they aim to win at least 4 of these 6 seats.

Thanks to an early surge of big money into key states, Democrats and Republicans alike are now eying the prospects for potentially competitive Senate races in a dozen or more states next year. Republicans have visions of victory in Michigan with John James, a successful businessman and Iraq War veteran. He is challenging incumbent Dem. Sen. Gary Peters and is ahead in new fundraising, but slightly behind in recent polls.

In Kansas, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is being urged to run for Senate in a state that has been rock-solid Republican since 1932. A former Congressman, Pompeo still has nearly $1 million left in his campaign account from then. 

So far, candidates running for Senate seats in 2020 have amassed more than $180 million in their campaign accounts. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) leads the pack with $10.8 million. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky.) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) both have well over $9 million in their accounts. Kelly is running in Arizona against GOP Sen. Martha McSally, retired USAF Colonel and former Fighter Squadron Commander. A combat veteran, she has logged 325 combat hours and deployed six times to the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, no Senate candidate has raised more money in the last quarter than retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, a Democrat who is challenging McConnell in Kentucky. She took in a mind-boggling $10.7 million. She will need to spend it wisely and well to prevail against McConnell.

Whether the Democrats succeed in regaining the Senate in 2020 may well depend on the “elephant in the room.” And we all know who he is.

Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at