2020 Election Guide
The 2020 presidential election is sure to be one for the history books. Incumbent President Donald J. Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence (R) are running for reelection against former Vice President Joe Biden (D) and running mate Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA). Several factors will determine which candidate will take office in January, but the coronavirus pandemic is sure to play a key role in the outcome. As we approach the 2020 general election, it is helpful to look at the most recent presidential election’s outcome:
(Source: Federal Elections 2016, Federal Election Commission)
(Source: Federal Elections 2016, Federal Election Commission)
Despite President Donald Trump losing the popular vote (Clinton 48.18%, Trump 46.09%), he won the electoral college (270 electoral votes are needed for a candidate to win), securing the oval office (Federal Election Commission). With several states looking like a toss-up, the outcome of this upcoming election is unclear. To view historical election outcomes and 2020 projections, see the resources below:
About General Elections:
2020 Presidential Election:
On January 20, 2021, either incumbent President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden will take the oath of office. It is unclear if the country will have a Congress that is Republican-controlled, Democrat-controlled, or split like it is now. With only a few months until the election, various forecasts tracking all House of Representatives races strongly indicate that the Democrats will retain control. But, in the Senate, it could go either way with roughly a third of the chambers’ seats up for grabs, the majority of which are currently held by Republicans.
House of Representatives
Each of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives is up for election every two years. Assuming there are no vacancies and no members from a third party, then Democrats or Republicans need a minimum of 218 seats to ensure control of the House of Representatives. Following the 2018 midterm elections, in which Democrats gained a net total of 41 seats, the Democrats took majority control of the House of Representatives with a total of 232 seats to Republicans’ 198. One seat is held by Justin Amash (L-MI) and four other seats are currently vacant. Three were held by Republicans and one by the later Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Given Democratic voters’ enthusiasm to turn out in November against President Trump, a significant political realignment would be necessary to threaten the Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives. However, there are several incumbent House members in extremely close races and will be fighting for their political lives in November. Several of those close races are highlighted below.
About House of Representatives Elections
2020 House of Representatives Elections
(Source: Cook Political Report)
House Races to Watch
A term for a Senate seat runs six-years long, and every two years, approximately one-third of the 100 seats are voted on. For the 2020 elections, 35 Senate seats will be voted on. Republicans currently hold a 53-seat majority in the Senate, while 45 seats are held by Democrats. Rounding out the 100 seats, there are two independents – Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Sen. Angus King (ME) who both caucus with the Democrats. In short, consider the Democrats to have 47 seats.
Unlike in the House of Representatives, the battle for Senate or majority control is squarely up for grabs, with 23 of the 35 Senate seats in-cycle this November are held by Republicans. For Republicans to hold onto the Senate majority, they need a net loss of no more than two seats. For Democrats to win control, they will need a net gain of four seats. If the Senate configuration ends up in a 50-50 split, which is highly possible this cycle, the tie goes to the party that also wins the White House as the vice president serves as president of the Senate and tiebreaking vote. While losing control of the Senate was once considered unlikely for Republicans, Democrats have both shown gains in states that were previously considered up-for-grabs and put new states firmly on the map, expanding their path to a majority and potential unified control of government in 2021.
About Senate Elections
2020 Senate Elections
(Source: Cook Political Report)
Senate Race to Watch
- Democratic incumbent Roy Cooper is facing off against his Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forrest following the hotly contested 2016 gubernatorial election in North Carolina. Cooper, former longtime attorney general in the state, narrowly defeated the previous incumbent last time out in race that went to a December recount. Since then, the state has further moved from a once red to solidly purple state, rated by Cook Political Report as R+3. Moreover, Cooper has topped every poll since March with a double-digit lead and Democratic primary voters outnumbered Republicans by more than 2:1. However, with Trump on the ballot in a state that he won in 2016, it may be hard to accurately gauge the number of Trump-only voters that show up in November.
- With current Governor Steve Bullock term limited and running for Senate, Montana hosts the only open and competitive gubernatorial race in the country. Coming out of the June 2 primary, Democrats have Lieutenant Governor and former Montana Senate President Mike Cooney to square-off against Greg Gianforte, the state’s at large congressman and 2016 Republican nominee for governor. While having lost in 2016 by 4% to governor Bullock, Gianforte is benefitted by his election to statewide office and the increased name ID coming with that. The race is shaping to be just as competitive as its senate counterpart, as Montanans have continuously shown their willingness to split a ticket.
- With the state’s filing deadline still up ahead, the race for New Hampshire governor is still in its infancy. However, with the state’s notoriety for both purple voting and ousting incumbents, the race is one to watch regardless of the results of who ends up winning the Democratic nomination on September 8. Incumbent Republican Governor Chris Sununu boasts the fifth highest approval rating among governors at 59% which may be enough to nullify any negative effects stemming from sharing a ticket with Donald Trump. While still early in the process, the two declared Democratic candidates are state Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes and Executive Councilman Andru Volinsky.
- Phil Scott, the incumbent Republican governor, will face off against Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman who won the Democratic nomination in a crowded primary field on August 11, 2020. Zuckerman defeated former education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe and two lesser known Democratic candidates. Scott cruised to his party’s nomination to seek his third, two-year term as the state’s governor. Scott, whose handling of the state’s coronavirus pandemic has been been widely praised, leads Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman by over 20% in polling.
- Arizona Democrats, not having had control of a chamber in the state legislature since 1992, made tremendous gains in the state house in the 2018 election. Down four seats in the state senate and two in the house, the question of whether Donald Trump’s reappearance on the ballot will be enough to slow the party’s momentum is serious enough to put both chambers in the toss up category. With Republican Governor Doug Ducey in office through 2022, impact of a flipped house may be dulled. However, significant changes this November could be enough evidence to anchor the many pundits predicting long-term demographic and political changes for the state.
- While Alaska’s Senate is firmly Republican, the state’s House of Representatives is one of the most unique in the country in that it is controlled by a bipartisan coalition comprised of 15 Democrats, 6 Republicans, and 2 Independents. Though Republicans have a nominal majority of members, trouble selecting a unifying speaker of the house has denied the party control of the chamber, opening an opportunity for moderate party members and independents to join ranks with Democrats. While Republicans are nearly certain to maintain their numerical majority, the main question will be whether or not enough consolidation has occurred since 2016 to return power to the GOP.
- In addition to Alaska, Minnesota is the only other state that has each party control one chamber of the legislature. With the state's Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party slated to take advantage of Trump’s presence on the ballot, many believe that they may be able to overcome their 3-seat deficit in the state Senate. However, while the House is in control of DFL, it is only slightly so – putting both Chambers in play for a potential shakeup with each party having a chance at consolidation.
- The notorious variability in New Hampshire’s elections extends fully to the statehouse where a 4-seat Democratic majority has the chance to be flipped back to the GOP after a short two years. While the statehouse is largely seen to be a harder grab, a GOP senate in conjunction with current Governor Chris Sununu retaining power could spell a longer period of Republican control. With that said, New Hampshire’s fickle voting nature makes the race nearly impossible to predict with a high rate of non-partisan voters and ballot splitting.
For further questions about NACD’s 2020 Election Guide please contact Erin Getz, Coordinator of Government Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.