This cycle, McSally is running to hold her position against Democrat Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut who raised $11 million in the first three months of 2020. McSally reported raising $6.4 million in the same period and trails Kelly in recent polls.
Democrats aren’t solely focused on the core four states: They’re also watching Republicans trying to hang on to seats in Georgia, Iowa, and Montana—and an open race for a seat in Kansas.
If Moskowitz, the political analyst from UVA, is right about his predictions concerning straight-party voting, both parties will be watching to see how the presidential candidates fare over the next three months: “Down-ballot Republicans will be strapped to Donald Trump, as Democrats will be to their nominee.”
BEYOND THE MOVING PIECES on electoral maps, another question looms: What’s at stake in the outcome of the Senate election?
That partially depends on the outcome of the presidential election. If the GOP does manage to maintain control of the Senate even with a Biden victory, the party could exercise “the power of prevention,” according to political analyst Kyle Kondik.
Kondik notes Republicans could block most of Biden’s judicial nominations, including nominations to the Supreme Court.
If Democrats win a narrow Senate victory and a Biden presidency, they would still face difficulty passing some pieces of major legislation: In the Senate, it usually takes overcoming a 60-vote threshold to pass major bills that don’t involve spending.
Still, Democrats did use a process called budget reconciliation to bypass the 60-vote threshold and pass key portions of the Affordable Care Act. In 2017, Republicans used the process to pass tax cut legislation.
That means Democrats could try to use the process to pass legislation with spending attached. Democratic spending priorities include universal healthcare or an expansion of Obamacare. Analysts say universal healthcare could cost more than $30 trillion over 10 years. Biden has also proposed spending some $1.7 trillion on a climate change plan. His plan to underwrite two years of community college tuition for American students would cost at least $750 billion over 10 years.
Whether or not major legislation passes, Democrats would be able to approve judicial appointments with a simple majority: Democrats changed the Senate rules in 2013 to eliminate the filibuster on most federal judicial nominees. In 2017, Republicans changed the rules to allow a simple majority also to proceed on Supreme Court nominations.
A handful of Democratic senators have advocated abandoning the 60-vote threshold on major legislation as well—a move some call “the nuclear option” because of its power to allow a simple majority of the party in power to pass laws far more easily.
In 2018, President Donald Trump urged Majority Leader McConnell to use the “nuclear option” to pass legislation funding a border wall. But senators on both sides of the aisle have long resisted calls to allow a simple majority to gain nearly unfettered power in passing legislation, realizing neither party stays in power forever: What might seem good for the goose may not seem as good for the gander whose own party is no longer in control.
But as the presidential elections approach, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is leading an effort to push Democrats to abandon the 60-vote threshold on legislation if the party gains control of the Senate in November.
Other prominent Democratic senators have said they still don’t favor changing the threshold. But depending on the political climate, it may be tempting: Democrats would only need 51 votes to change the rules.