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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine,(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

This is the first of four articles in a series looking at the 2020 Senate races by geographical region, starting with the Northeast which, for analysis purposes, this writer has included West Virginia.  There are seven Senate races in this area with five of those seats held by Democrats.  The races will be presented in alphabetical order by state with the incumbent’s (if they are running or if still undecided) approval rating in parentheses (courtesy of Morning Consult) along with their disapproval rating.  For example, if 42% approve and 28% disapprove, it will appear as (42/28).

DELAWARE

Democratic incumbent Chris Coons (52/29) seems destined for another term in the Senate.  Thus far, there are no primary opponents and no Republicans have declared their candidacy.  Delaware holds a late primary, so there is still plenty of time to recruit a GOP challenger.  The problem is that the Republican bench in Delaware is very thin.  Although this writer believes someone will emerge, it will likely be in a losing effort.  The key to Delaware is picking up enough votes in the central part of the state.  The vote turns conservative as one moves further south through the small state.  Even still, the population center is in the north near Wilmington which is staunch Democratic territory.  Prediction: Democrat hold.

MAINE

Like or hate her, Susan Collins (52/39) is the GOP’s best chance at this point to keep this seat in Republican hands.  Collins has not announced her intentions for 2020 yet.  There are some rumors that she will retire from the Senate in anticipation of a gubernatorial run in 2022.  Two Republicans are not waiting- police officer Derek Lavasseur and perennial candidate Max Linn.  On the Democratic side, they believe they have found their prime candidate in state house speaker Sara Gideon who will, at this point, face two lesser known Democrats in the primary.  However, the potential entry of Zack Ringlestein or Congresswoman Chellie Pingree could upset that apple cart.

Should Collins run for reelection, it will be interesting to see how her vote on the Kavanaugh confirmation plays into the equation.  Remember that Collins faced some threats in Maine and at her home in DC which seems to have garnered her some sympathy.  And, of course, there is that elephant in the room- Trump.  Surprisingly, he currently holds a 41% approval rating in Maine which is rather good for a Northeastern state, all things considered.  Prediction:  GOP hold with Collins in a close race.

MASSACHUSETTS

Ed Markey (51/29) is the Democratic incumbent and first won a special election in 2013 to replace John Kerry who became Secretary of State.  He then won the seat outright in 2014 taking 62% of the vote.  He currently faces two primary opponents.  Thus far, two Republicans have declared their candidacy and it isn’t looking good.  First, there is scientist Shiva Ayyadurai whose family left India when he was seven.  This is a Republican candidate who seems to have grabbed the hand lotion and tissues as he read AOC’s Green New Deal and pledged $100 million towards it.  Second, there is Tiffany Williams, a black LGBTQ activist who is news director for an organization called “Crime Tracker.”  With the right set of circumstances and the right candidate, voters will vote Republican.  Remember Scott Brown?  They also have a Republican governor with high approval ratings.  The GOP is not going to get a fire breathing conservative elected in Massachusetts.  In a state where Trump has a 31% approval rating, the chances of any GOP victory here are zilch.  Prediction: Democrat hold.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Perennially, besides perhaps Wisconsin or Iowa, this is one of the toughest states to prognosticate.  Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (52/31) sports some great approval numbers well above the threshold for reelection (things start to get dicey below 45%).  Thus far, the only Republican who has declared their candidacy is retired Brig. General Daniel Bolduc.  Unlike their neighbor, Massachusetts, there are potential names that could enter the mix if they so choose.  Among them are former Senator Kelly Ayotte, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and William O’Brien, former speaker of the state house.  O’Brien has expressed the most interest.  Trump has a 39% approval rating in the state which could be a potential drag on any Republican candidate, especially given Shaheen’s high approval rating.  One person who would have given her a real run for the money would be current Governor Chris Sununu who enjoys high approval ratings.  However, he has opted for another run for Governor (New Hampshire, like Vermont, holds gubernatorial elections every two years).  Prediction:  Democrat hold in a closer than predicted race.

NEW JERSEY

March 20, 2020 is a big date in the Garden State.  That is the filing deadline for major party candidates and incumbent Democratic senator and presidential wannabe Corey Booker (47/33) is up for reelection.  He cannot appear on the primary ballot for two offices, so his fate as a senator rests on the success of his presidential campaign.  Booker is not really gaining traction on the presidential campaign trail with his thunder being stolen by others, mainly Kamala Harris.  By March 20, it is likely that Booker will fail to win any primaries on the presidential front (unless something seriously changes), he will drop out and run for reelection to the Senate.  Regardless, one Democrat is not waiting- Lisa McCormick, a fire breathing self-described “progressive activist” in the Elizabeth Warren mold.

For the GOP, three candidates have declared their candidacy- Tricia Flanagan, a pro-life, pro-gun conservative, Natalie Rivera (little information), and businessman Hirsch Singh, who seems more concerned with people mispronouncing or misspelling his name at this point.  The point is, at this juncture, none of these candidates have name recognition in the state.  None of them really have political experience (not necessarily a bad thing).  Most importantly, none of them have a chance against Booker.

What should concern Booker is that 33% disapproval rating among New Jersey residents.  The northern part of the state- mainly the NYC suburbs- is the population center of the state and the key to electoral victory.  A Republican does not have to win this area outright to prevail, but they have to have a better-than-history showing to prevail.  The fact is that Booker somewhat struggled the last time out against a relative unknown.  One person who could have seriously challenged Booker was Tom Kean, Jr., the son of a popular former Governor, but he has opted for a House run in 2020.

Note: an open race, should Booker stay in the presidential sweepstakes, would totally alter this analysis.  It would be interesting to see a McCormick versus Flanagan matchup.  Prediction: Booker or no Booker, Democrat hold.

RHODE ISLAND

Democrat Jack Reed (49/27) is up for reelection and running.  He is the more quiet of Rhode Island’s Senators with Sheldon Whitehouse being the grandstander.  Holding one of the latest primaries in the country, there is certainly time for the GOP to find a potential candidate.  Even if they do, this is a state that has gone so far Left there is no reason for optimism here.  The saving grace is that because they have gone so far Left, they have lost population and are expected to lose one of their two House seats after the 2020 Census.  That should count as a GOP victory in Rhode Island in 2020.  Prediction:  Democrat hold.

WEST VIRGINIA

The final entry in this article is West Virginia, one of the strongest pro-Trump states in the country (58% presidential approval).  Republican incumbent Shelley Moore-Capito (48/30) is running for another term.  Paula Jean Swearengin, who challenged Joe Manchin in 2018 running from the far Left, is the only declared Democratic candidate.  Unless someone more moderate enters the race, this should be a GOP victory of landslide proportions.  Richard Ojeda, who ran and lost in the 3rd District midterms, and former West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin are two possibilities.

West Virginia has turned into one of the most reliable GOP states in the country.  They will, however, on occasion select a Democrat.  Current Governor Jim Justice was elected as a Democrat, then changed party affiliations.  Robert Byrd was a long serving Democratic Senator as was David Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, the other Senator, is a Democrat.  So, although Moore-Capito has the leg up here given the propensities in West Virginia and her incumbent status, nothing is a sure thing.  Prediction: GOP hold.

Tomorrow: The Midwest