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Battle for the Senate: These 12 races will determine party control in January

Republicans currently have 53 Senate seats and Democrats have 47, if the two independents that caucus with Democrats are included.

Published: October 27, 2020 5:56pm

Updated: October 29, 2020 2:13pm

With the Senate majority up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election, there are 12 crucial races that will decide which party controls the chamber next year.

Currently, Republicans have 53 Senate seats and Democrats have 47, if the two independents that caucus with Democrats are included.

Some political forecasters, like Nate Silver's Five Thirty Eight and the Cook Political Report, are predicting that Democrats will take back the Senate majority, which they lost in 2014.

Democrats could gain the Senate majority with three flipped seats, if Joe Biden wins the White House. If not, they have to pick up four seats to win a majority.

Here are the seats that could flip from Democrat to Republican:


The Senate race in Michigan is leaning toward incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, but second-time GOP challenger John James is not far behind in a recent poll. James, an Iraq War veteran, recently earned a key endorsement in the racefrom the Detroit News.


Republican Tommy Tuberville, a retired football coach, appears to be a lock to win the Senate seat currently occupied by Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who defeated Judge Roy Moore in 2017 after Sen. Jeff Sessions was named U.S. Attorney General.


Republicans are trying to pick up the Minnesota Senate seat occupied by Sen. Tina Smith, who was appointed to fill the vacancy when former Sen. Al Franken resigned from the Senate. Former Republican Rep. Jason Lewis is trailing Smith in some of the latest polls, but a recent survey shows the race as a dead heat. 

Here are the seats that might flip from Republican to Democrat:


Republican Sen. Cory Gardner appears to be trailing Democrat John Hickenlooper in the homestretch of the race. Hickenlooper, a former Colorado governor, was involved in an ethics controversy early in the race, but two recent polls show him with a comfortable lead over Gardner.


Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly, a NASA astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, are running in a close race. A recent Scott Rasmussen poll shows McSally trailing Kelly, but other recent polls have shown some tightening in the race, with one showing McSally surging into a small lead.

North Carolina: 

Sen. Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham, a former state senator, are neck and neck in the North Carolina Senate race heading into Election Day. Cunningham, who has been embroiled in a sex scandal, has seen some erosion in support, but for now he clings to a slim lead

South Carolina: 

Democrats are hoping to wrest a Senate seat from the GOP in the red state of South Carolina. Jaime Harrison, former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, has hit record fundraising totals in the race against Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham's original, large lead has shrunk, but he still leads in the latest polls.


Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican, continues to trail Democrat Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, in the Maine Senate race to hold onto her seat.


Incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst and Democrat Theresa Greenfield, a real estate developer, are running neck and neck in Iowa. A recently conducted Scott Rasmussen poll shows Ernst training Greenfield, but an Emerson poll released last week had Ernst up by one point. 

Georgia 1: 

Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue has a slight lead over Democrat Jon Ossoff, the head of an investigative television production company, in the latest polls. Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and Ossoff delivered speeches at a campaign event in Georgia this week. Former gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams is holding a Facebook live event with Ossoff on Tuesday evening to rally support for his candidacy.

Georgia 2:

The top 3 candidates in the "jungle" special election for the second open Senate seat in Georgia are incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Republican Rep. Doug Collins. Unless one candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff election in January. Warnock picked up an endorsement from former President Barack Obama in September. Some recent polls show Warnock leading the pack of candidates, although still falling well short of majority support.


Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock are locked in a tight race in Montana. Democrats are hoping Bullock, the current governor of Montana who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, can pull off a win in the race and increase their chances of taking the majority in the Senate, but Daines still has a slight edge heading into Election Day.

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