2020: Battle for the 117th Congress and the States                                                    
 Details: U.S. Senate  |  U.S. House  |  Governors 

                                                     this page revised Dec. 4, 2022

Campaigning in a Time of Pandemic (+)
The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak first appeared in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019, and took hold in the United States in the second week of March.  Amid restrictions on gatherings and shutdowns, the pandemic affected all aspects of campaigning.  Candidates were reduced to doing virtual events, campaign staffs worked remotely, and door-to-door campaigning was curtailed.  Coronavirus swept aside discussion of other issues, some primaries were postponed, and officials made other adjustments to ensure that voting was safe.  Campaigns and candidates had to adapt, for example holding socially distanced and Zoom events.  As a broad generalization, Republicans were more willing to push back against restrictions than Democrats.  For example, at the presidential level, Trump resumed his large rallies, while former Vice President Biden did very controlled events with small numbers of socially distanced attendees.  One can make a good argument that Biden would not have been elected were it not for the pandemic.  The pandemic swept aside the Trump campaign's playbook of touting economic growth, and it also limited people's exposure to Biden, who was a poor campaigner.  Outcomes of some downticket races were likely affected as well.

U.S. Senate

Republicans were defending 23 seats compared to 12 for Republicans.  Two of the seats held by Republicans were filled by appointed Senators up in special elections (AZ, GA).  Many Senate races were to an extent about President Trump.  Republicans, led by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, aligned with Trump on most issues and achieved particular success in confirming conservative judges.  Democrats had high hopes they would be able to reclaim the majority as part of a repudiation of Trump.  They pointed to half a dozen or more seats in play; even "red" states such as Kansas, Kentucky and South Carolina were seen as competitive.  Democrats also enjoyed a significant cash advantage.  When the results were tallied after Nov. 3 Republican candidates prevailed in most of the targeted races, and, pending the results in Georgia, seemed very likely to hold the majority.  However, Jan. 5, 2021 runoffs in Georgia produced a stunning result as Democrats won both seats.  With incoming Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote, this gave Democrats effective control of the Senate for the 117th Congress.  Open Secrets reported that "nine of the 10 most expensive Senate races of all time happened in 2020" (>).  details 

U.S. House
Democrats held on to control of the House but with a
narrow majority; at the time of the opening of the 117th Congress, Republicans pared the Democrats' majority to  just 11 seatsThree times as many Republicans as Democrats were retiring from the 116th, giving Democrats more opportunities for open seat pick ups.  Open Secrets reported that the most expensive race occurred in NM-2 (Southern NM) at $37.3 million (>); Yvette Harrell (R) defeated freshman U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D). The closest race occurred in IA-2 (SE Iowa) where Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) defeated Rita Hart (D) by six votes; Hart contested the result but ultimately withdrew her challenge.  Building on the record number of women candidates who ran for House in 2018, even more women ran in 2020 (+).  As of Jan. 1, 2021 the freshman class included 45 Republicans and 15 Democrats (>).  In the new Congress, 101 of the 433 Members of the House (two vacancies) were women, comprising 88 Democrats and 13 Republicans.  details   

Just 11 seats were up.  Republicans flipped Montana.  details

State Legislatures [NCSL]
The National Conference of State Legislatures reported Republicans achieved modest gains:
Before the Midterms:
Republicans controlled both chambers of the state legislature in 29 states, Democrats controlled both chambers in 19 states, control of the legislature was divided in one state (MN).  Nebraska is unicameral and nonpartisan.  Of 1,972 Senators, there were 1,051R, 857D, 52O and 12v; of 5,411 House members there were 2,769R, 2,579D, 30O and 33v. 
As of Nov. 11:
Republicans controlled both chambers of the state legislature in 30 states, Democrats controlled both chambers in 18 states, control of the legislature was divided in one state (MN).  The change is the result of Republicans flipping both chambers in New Hampshire.   Of 1,972 Senators there were 1,069R, 851D and 52O; of 5,411 House members there were 2,930R, 2,451D and 30O.