Lesson Plan: 2020 Elections: Competitive Senate Races

Competitive 2020 Senate Elections

Charlie Cook, editor of Cook Political Report, talked about the 2020 Senate races and what each party needs to do in order to win/maintain control of the Senate.


The 2020 elections will take place on Tuesday, November 3. A total of 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be up for grabs. This lesson has students look at recent polling and analysis to identify competitive Senate elections around the country. Included in this lesson are campaign ads and breakdowns of these competitive Senate races. Students will be able to identify pathways for both the Democrats and the Republicans to win majorities in the Senate and evaluate the likelihood of each. This lesson works well with classes with one-to-one devices and can be adapted for use in flipped classrooms.



    To begin class, review or introduce the following vocabulary terms that will be used throughout the lesson. Students will need to understand these terms to be able to analysis campaign ads and analysis in the lesson.

    • Incumbent

    • Partisan

    • Polling

    • Toss-up

    • Voter Turnout

    Introduce the 2020 Senate races by having the students view the video clip linked below. Have them answer the questions associated with each video clip. Review the answers and check for understanding before continuing to the application portion of the lesson. Students can access all video clips and activities using the handout linked below:

    Handout: 2018 Midterm Election- Competitive Senate Races (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip: 2020 Senate Elections (3:18)

    • How many Senate seats are up for election in 2020?

    • How many seats would the Democrats need to control the Senate?

    • How many seats would the Republicans need to control the Senate?

    • What is meant by a toss-up?

    • What Senate races are considered toss-ups in 2020?

    As a jigsaw activity or individually, assign the following Senate races to either individual students or small groups. Have them watch the assigned videos. Using the handout linked below, have them complete the chart based on the video and polling data from 270toWin . This can be adapted so each student completes the chart individually. Students will make predictions on who will win each of these competitive races.

    Handout: 2018 Midterm Election- Competitive Senate Races (Google Doc)



    If using a jigsaw to divide up the races, have the students present their information and record the information and predictions for each of the competitive Senate seats. Using the following resource from 270toWin, students can manipulate the interactive map to record the results. Indicate the predicted winner on the map by clicking until it is either red or blue. Track how each state impacts the total tally at the top. Discuss the results with the class. If students are completing this individually, students can record their predictions on the interactive map themselves and share the link with other through email.

    WEBSITE: 270toWin 2018 Senate Election Interactive Map


    As a summative assessment, have the students write a response to the following questions:

    • What races would Democrats need to win in order to control the Senate? How likely do you think this is to occur?

    • What races would Republicans need to win in order to maintain control of the Senate? How likely do you think this is to occur?

    Competitive House Elections- Using the 270toWin 2020 House Election Interactive Map work with the map and develop a pathway for the Democrats to maintain control of the House and a pathway for the Republicans to win control of the House. For each pathway, explain the likelihood of this.

    Campaign Manager- Imagine that you are a campaign manager for one of the candidates in the competitive Senate races mentioned in the lesson. Develop a plan to win the election. Discuss the issues and strategies that will get your candidate elected.

    National Party Strategy- The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are organizations that seek to elect their parties' candidates to the Senate. Pick one of these organizations and develop a nationwide strategy for winning control of the Senate. In your strategy include information about the following:

    • Which states to focus on and why

    • Which issues to emphasize and why

    • Other strategies for winning control of the Senate
  • Additional Prompts-

    • What is the impact of the presidential race on competitive Senate races?

    • How can the staggering of Senate elections impact the party make-up of the Senate?

    • How does geography impact the control of the Senate?

    • Discuss the usefulness of national polls in predicting the 2020 Senate elections.

    • Explain the factors that cause the party make-up of the Senate and the House of Representatives to be different.

Additional Resources


  • Appointed
  • Election Cycle
  • Fundraising
  • Incumbent
  • Moderate
  • Partisan
  • Polling
  • Senate
  • Toss-up
  • Voter Turnout


Campaigns & ElectionsLegislative Branch


High SchoolUniversity