Prospects for Republicans maintaining control of the Senate appear a little brighter as there are some polls showing Republicans very competitive in two Midwestern battleground states.
John James, a rising star in the Republican Party, is closing in fast on incumbent Democrat Gary Peters and some polls show James within the margin of error. James has been aided by a large infusion of cash from Senator McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund and with the polls all over the lot, it may come down to Election Day turnout.
The other Midwestern state where some experts say the Senate race is still competitive is Minnesota. Republicans had targeted the Gopher State from the start as the incumbent, Democrat Tina Smith, has been a weak candidate. Republican hopeful Jason Lewis is gaining in recent polls and some Republicans, including Majority Whip John Thune, think he’s got a decent shot at an upset.
“I think that people are looking at the security issues if you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs,” he said, referring to the belief among Republicans that Trump’s law-and-order message will play well with suburban voters concerned about the rioting and looting in the city after the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis in late May.
“You get to the rural areas and it’s real strong for the Republicans,” Thune added. “There’s always going to be a couple of surprises election night.”
While reaction to the riots has not been visible in the polls, it would be surprising if it’s not on people’s minds. How much of an impact it will have may depend on how close a voter lives to the violence. Suburban voters in Minneapolis-St. Paul are not likely to forget what happened over the summer nor are they likely to dismiss it.
“I think Michigan’s an opportunity that people are at least somewhat aware of. John James has done a great job of raising money, and I think if he can turn out voters in the city, he’ll do well out-state. He’s got a good shot,” Thune said.
A New York Times-Siena College poll published Wednesday showed Peters ahead of James by 8 percentage points, the same margin as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s lead over President Trump in the state.
Other polls have shown a tighter Senate race.
Some other races that Republicans were worried about — John Cornyn in Texas and Steve Daines in Montana — appear to be breaking for the GOP at just the right time. John Cornyn has lengthened his lead in Texas and Daines — who was trailing former Montana Governor Steve Bullock — has pulled ahead in some polls.
This is a normal pre-election tightening of races in a polarized nation. Even “safe” Senate seats in both parties might flip when all the ballots are counted. No one knows when that will be, but the drama of which party will control the Senate in January will almost certainly be a long one.
Republicans are already assured of picking up the Senate seat in Alabama held by Doug Jones, as Tommy Tuberville is well ahead. If they can steal a couple of Democratic seats and unexpectedly hang on to some others, it will be a very steep hill for Democrats to climb in order to wrest control from the Republicans.