Incumbent GOP Senators Face Tight Races That Could Reshape Senate

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks with members of the media on Oct. 22, 2019, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

HAMDEN, Conn. (CN) — Three longtime Republican senators who are key to the party’s grip on the Senate this fall are in trouble, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Thursday. 

The poll contained disappointing numbers for Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. 

Poor showings by the three in November could help hand the Senate back to Democrats, who lost their majority there in 2014. 

Collins, who is seeking a fifth term, is trailing her opponent, Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, by 47% to 43% with 6% undecided. 

The poll showed Graham, who is seeking a fourth term, tied with Jaime Harrison, a Black lawyer and associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee, at 44% apiece.  

McConnell was clinging to a 5 percentage point lead over Amy McGrath, the first female Marine to fly a combat mission. In his last election, McConnell cruised to victory with a 16-point margin. 

These results will induce “high anxiety for the GOP,” said Quinnipiac University polling analyst Tim Malloy. “Three GOP Senators who easily won their last reelection bids are looking over their shoulders less than three months from Election Day.” 

Real Clear Politics currently gives Republicans a 46- to 45-seat advantage in the Senate with 9 toss-up states, including Maine and South Carolina. It rates Kentucky as “likely” Republican, though, and the poll suggests that McGrath has now moved well within striking distance. 

Polling in Kentucky this year has been confusing. A Morning Consult poll released earlier this week showed McConnell up by a commanding 53% to 36%. But several other polls have suggested that McGrath is only a few percentage points behind. 

The Quinnipiac survey suggests that McConnell is slightly less popular in Kentucky than Trump, running behind the president by about 3 percentage points, while McGrath is more popular than former Vice President Joe Biden by a similar margin. 

In Maine, although Collins is a centrist who often disagrees with her party — she has sided with President Trump only two-thirds of the time — she became a lightning rod for Democrats because she cast a deciding vote to put Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Millions of dollars have flooded into her small state from all over the country in an effort to defeat her.  

The Quinnipiac poll is the first to be released since Gideon won the Democratic primary on July 14.   

In the poll, Collins was viewed favorably by only 42% of Mainers and unfavorably by 49%. Gideon was seen favorably by 40% and unfavorably by 35%. 

One bright spot for Collins is that 23% of voters said they didn’t know enough about Gideon to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion, which means Collins still has an opportunity to define her opponent in a negative light. 

Collins’ advertising has painted Gideon as risky and untested. Gideon has lived in Maine since 2004 and has been a state representative since 2012. By contrast, Collins has been in the Senate since 1997 and her family has operated a lumber business in Caribou, Maine since 1844. 

In South Carolina, the Quinnipiac poll comes on the heels of several other polls showing Harrison within easy striking distance of Graham. 

Harrison has raised $30 million for his campaign. As in Maine, much of the money has come from out-of-state as Democrats nationwide targeted a senator who backed Kavanaugh. 

Also similar to Maine, the Democratic challenger is still unknown to many. Some 37% of Palmetto State voters said they don’t know enough about Harrison to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion. 

And as in Kentucky, Trump is slightly more popular than the Republican senator. Graham has supported the president’s policies in office but famously called him a “race-baiting, xenophobic bigot” during the 2016 election.  

In the presidential race, the poll shows Trump beating Biden by 9 points in Kentucky and 5 points in South Carolina, but losing by 15 points in Maine. 

Those figures are a big contrast to 2016, when Trump won Kentucky by 30 points and South Carolina by 14, and lost Maine by only 3 points.

%d bloggers like this: