Sen. Doug Jones, the lone Democratic Senator from the Deep South, is running against Tommy Tuberville in Alabama.
Jones narrowly won a December 2017 special election to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions, but now faces much tougher odds against Tuberville.
Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach, has earned President Donald Trump's endorsement, and easily defeated Sessions in a July runoff.
Sen. Doug Jones, the lone Democratic Senator from the Deep South, is running for a full term against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.
Jones, a former federal prosecutor, narrowly defeated scandal-plagued Republican candidate Roy Moore in a hotly-contested December 2017 special election to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions, who left the seat to become Trump's attorney general.
Jones is possibly best-known for successfully prosecuting the four white supremacists responsible for bombing a church and killing four girls in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
Tuberville, who has previously coached for Auburn University and the University of Cincinnati, defeated Sessions by a 20-point margin in the July 14 primary runoff to officially become the GOP nominee.
A political newcomer, Tuberville ran his campaign largely on a platform on standing in lockstep with Trump. And partly thanks to Trump's complicated and fraught history with Sessions, he earned Trump's powerful endorsement in the runoff.
In addition to winning back the White House, regaining control of the US Senate for the first time since 2015 is a top priority for Democrats, and would be a major accomplishment towards either delivering on a future president Joe Biden's policy goals or thwarting Donald Trump's second-term agenda.
Currently, the US Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents that caucus with Democrats. Democrats need to win back a net total of four seats to have a 51-seat majority (if Biden wins, his vice president would also serve as president of the Senate and would be a tie-breaker vote).
And now, the US Senate is gearing up for a high-stakes confirmation battle to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 from pancreatic cancer on September 18. Within hours of her death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pledged that Trump's nominee for the high court would receive a vote on the floor of the Senate, and Trump said the day after that he would name a replacement "without delay."
Ginsburg's death threw a stick of dynamite into an already supercharged election shaped by both a deadly pandemic that has so far claimed over 200,000 American lives, and a national reckoning around race after several high-profile deaths of Black Americans in encounters with police.
Alabama's Senate race is a rare bright spot in an otherwise tough campaign year for Senate Republicans.
Jones pulled off a miracle with his 2017 win, and faces a much tougher path to re-election than he did three years ago and with far less help from outside groups.
Tuberville may benefit from Trump's endorsement, and from having no legislative record to attack, and importantly, not facing any major scandals or accusations of sexual misconduct.
The money race
Jones has amassed a sizeable cash advantage over Tuberville, who only won his runoff in July.
Jones has raised $24.5 million so far this cycle, spent $18.8 million, and has $7.9 million in cash on hand as of September 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Tuberville has raised $6.7 million and has around $1.7 million in cash on hand.
What the polling says
A recent poll of the race conducted by Auburn University at Montgomery found Tuberville leading Jones by a comfortable 12 percentage point margin, 54% to 42%.
Another survey conducted by Morning Consult from September 11-20 found Tuberville leading Jones by 18 points, 52% to 34% among likely voters.
A recent internal poll conducted for Tuberville's campaign by Moore Information found Tuberville ahead of Jones by 15 points, 55% to 40%, while an internal poll conducted for Jones' campaign by FM3 Research found Jones leading Tuberville by one point, 48% to 47%.
What experts say
The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections rate the race as "leans Republican" while Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics rates it "likely Republican."
FiveThirtyEight's US Senate forecasting model shows Tuberville with a 76% chance of defeating Jones in November. While the forecast predicts a victory for the football coach, Tuberville is only forecasted to win 53% of the popular vote share.
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