Kaufman: Seven U.S. Senate races that could change the country

If you value constitutional governance and our republic’s survival, pray Republicans hold the U.S. Senate.

The presidential campaign gets the lion’s share of attention but in a country with three distinct branches of government, a U.S Senate majority is just as vital. Reclaiming the U.S. House is out of reach, but senate control, which is crucial to democracy, is at stake.

It seems that Sen. Martha McSally will lose in Arizona to former astronaut Mark Kelly — the Air Force veteran’s second election loss in two years and likely the end of her political career. However, Alabama looks like a Republican pick up, taking us back to 53 seats, with two to spare if Democrats have the White House.

Here are seven races — all with vulnerable Republican incumbents — on which to concentrate:

Minnesota

Jason Lewis is relying on turnout in Greater Minnesota, where the president is popular.

From the Iron Range to farmland, Republicans have worked hard. During a recent interview, the former congressman told Alpha News he’s visited almost every Minnesota county, covered 40,000 miles, and will hit the Twin Cities suburbs in his final push against Sen. Tina Smith.

Though the pugnacious Lewis — who’s focusing heavily on law and order — has been consistently down by 5-10 points, a recent poll shows Smith’s lead has effectively evaporated.

How President Donald Trump, who endorsed Lewis and won 90% of the state’s counties in 2016, performs, will be key, especially in suburbia, which is politically mixed. Smith leads among urban voters 51 to 29, while Lewis leads among rural voters 51 to 36. (Lewis is on the mend after emergency hernia surgery Monday.)

Colorado

Fifth-generation Coloradoan Cory Gardner is one of America’s best senators. Genteel, intelligent and elected at age 42, he represents his western blue state well. Gardner is ranked the 3rd most bipartisan senator for his ability to “build consensus, elevate the tenor of debate, practice civility, and advance legislation on pressing issues.”

His opponent, John Hickenlooper, was Colorado’s governor from 2011-18 and an ephemeral presidential candidate last year. Seemingly moderate on a stage of socialists, his big issue in office was marijuana legislation, which had mixed results. While he has experience, Hickenlooper has ethics issues. It also wouldn’t hurt Gardner to raise this matter to his state’s oil and gas producers.

Gardner has a tough road. The Centennial State has quickly moved from a state George W. Bush won by 100,000 votes in 2004 to not even in play at the presidential level.

Georgia

There are two competitive races in the Peach State. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to replace retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson as 2020 opened. Because the race also involves Rep. Doug Collins, the top two likely are headed to a January runoff. Despite being a pastor, the leading Democrat candidate in the race, Raphael Warnock is extreme; he espouses anti-police views and bizarre abortion rhetoric.tense debate, especially between Collins and Loeffler, occurred last week.

Jon Ossoff, who lost a key Georgia congressional seat in 2017, is back and running against incumbent David Perdue. Fond of China but not necessarily the right to keep and bear arms, Ossoff’s style and weaknesses are reminiscent of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Polls are very close.

Iowa

Sen. Joni Ernst is one of the more impressive women in politics. Hailing from a western Iowa farm town, she’s the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate and Iowa’s first female senator.

But Ernst is currently neck and neck with Theresa Greenfield, a businesswoman, who’s raised a ton of money. Greenfield has cultivated a down-to-earth image while still embracing woke politics and avoiding issues that ended her last campaign.

Driving though Iowa last weekend presented more Greenfield signs than Ernst, whether in rural or urban environs. Left-leaning Iowans are also up to shenanigans and want to portray Ernst as extreme, even when facts show otherwise.

While Trump visited Des Moines two weeks ago, Joe Biden hasn’t been to Iowa since primary season.

Maine

For years, conservative radio ranted about “RINO” Susan Collins, but two years ago this month, the senator saved Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation with a powerful speech. 

She is also the most bipartisan senator in America, yet has high unfavorable ratings in the state she’s represented more than 20 years. Her state’s adoption of ranked-choice voting also hurts Collins.

Sara Gideon is a career politician and quite progressive in a state that isn’t left wing outside its southeast corridor. As Speaker of the Maine House, she adjourned the state legislature in March to focus on her campaign. Gideon, who stumbled in last week’s debate, has a narrow lead.

Collins cast the lone Republican vote against newly-minted Justice Amy Coney Barrett Monday.

North Carolina

In a race that could determine overall Senate control, revelations of extramarital sexually suggestive messages by Democrat nominee Cal Cunningham surfaced earlier this month.

A military veteran, Cunningham based the most expensive campaign of the year on “truth, duty and honor.” The scandal gave freshman Sen. Thom Tillis fresh ammunition in the closing weeks of a race where polls show a tight race. Over 3.5 million North Carolinians already voted. Only 4.7 million voted in 2016.

Honorable mention goes to competitive races in MontanaNew HampshireSouth Carolina, and Michigan, which I reviewed on Sunday. 

Trump’s erratic behavior hurts some senators, so localizing races is key; anything that reminds voters of the national landscape in purple states probably doesn’t help Republican candidates.

But Kamala Harris’ double-dealing and self-deception, alongside Biden’s confusing answers on oil and non-answers on court packing — undoubtedly due to fear of the radical left — cannot help Democrats listed above.

About 75 million Americans (unfortunately) already voted.

Without editorializing too much, if you value constitutional governance and our republic’s survival, pray Republicans hold the U.S. Senate. If Biden wins the presidency, it may be our last line of defense.