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Wed Oct 14, 2020, 09:24 PM

Democrats Once Seen as Long Shots Are Now Contenders for Senate

WASHINGTON—Democrats began the 2020 election cycle with a far-fetched hope of winning Senate seats in states that President Trump won by double digits. Now, with less than a month before the election, some of those races are no longer considered long shots. Nonpartisan analysts have continued to upgrade Democrats’ prospects of winning seats in traditionally red states, including South Carolina, Kansas, and potentially Alaska, while Republican hopes are growing that they could pick up a seat held by Democrats in Michigan. On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said Democrats were the “clear favorite” to take back the Senate and predicted they would pick up between two and seven seats.

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Republicans worry that GOP incumbents could suffer from Mr. Trump’s declining poll numbers and concerns over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court nomination fight has refocused attention on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats concentrated on in the 2018 midterms when they took back control of the House. Democratic challengers have also raised substantially more money than their GOP opponents in many states, enabling them to flood the airwaves in the campaign’s final stretch.

Democratic strategist Molly Murphy said recent research had shown that voters are largely focused on the coronavirus. “The ways that Republicans ignored the warnings early on, then tried too many times to turn the page or return to normal has put them on shaky ground,” she said, noting that fundraising from small donors has buoyed not only top-tier races but also lower-profile contests in red states. “Nothing can put a race in play better than candidate resources.” Among the seats once considered safely Republican, South Carolina now is the most competitive battleground. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, a three-term GOP senator, faces a surging Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, a former state Democratic Party chairman and lobbyist. Cook Political recently moved the race into its “tossup” category after recent polling showed Mr. Harrison neck-and-neck with Mr. Graham.

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In Kansas, two doctors are vying during a pandemic to replace retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, with sharply differing approaches to the virus. Democrat Barbara Bollier, a state senator and retired anesthesiologist, has conducted more of her campaign virtually. GOP Rep. Roger Marshall, who hasn’t consistently worn a mask on the campaign trail, volunteered at a Kansas hospital to support Covid-19 patients and said he and his family were taking the drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against the coronavirus. Mrs. Bollier criticized her opponent for going “rogue” to take the unproven antimalaria drug touted by Mr. Trump.

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In Alaska, GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan remains the favorite in a tightening contest against Al Gross, an independent who has said he would caucus with the Democrats if elected and who raised $9 million in the third quarter. An orthopedic surgeon and commercial fisherman, Mr. Gross has played up his Alaska roots and independent nature, highlighting that he once killed a grizzly bear in self-defense. A poll released by Alaska Survey Research last week showed Mr. Sullivan leading Mr. Gross among likely voters, 48% to 44%.

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Republicans hope they can offset losses elsewhere with an unexpected win in Michigan, where Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters is facing a competitive challenge from GOP businessman and combat veteran John James. Mr. Peters eked out a 43%-42% lead over Mr. James in a New York Times/Siena College Research Institute poll released Monday, while Mr. Biden held an 8-point advantage over Mr. Trump.

More..

https://www.wsj.com/articles/senate-battleground-map-grows-boosting-democrats-hopes-11602694203 (subscription)

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