Democrats' odds of retaking the Senate just got a big boost

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Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has announced he's running for Senate, upping his party's odds of winning control of the chamber.

Mitch McConnell's grip on the Senate majority weakened Monday after Montana's Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock announced he would run for Senate in 2020.

The announcement increases the odds Democrats could win control of the upper chamber this November.

"I've always fought for the people of Montana. Together, we expanded health care, protected public lands, banned dark money in politics & more. Now I'm taking that fight to the US Senate," Bullock tweeted Monday morning announcing his bid.

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"Let’s make Washington work more like Montana."

Bullock is a top Democratic recruit who could help Democrats pick off a GOP incumbent as the party looks to pry the majority leader spot from McConnell's hands.

Bullock won reelection as governor of the state in 2016 by a more than 4-point margin over now-GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte — even as Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the state, 55% to 35%. That means he has crossover appeal in an otherwise deep red state.

Nonpartisan political handicappers already moved the race into more competitive territory, saying the race now leans Republican, rather than being a safe GOP seat.

"Defeating GOP Sen. Steve Daines won’t be easy for the Democrats but, at a minimum, Bullock's entry changes the math for control of the Senate and puts Republicans further on the defensive," Inside Elections' Nathan L. Gonzales wrote Monday.

Democrats need to net three seats to win back the Senate majority if they also win the White House. If Trump wins reelection, Democrats would need to net four seats.

A spate of new polling last week from Public Policy Polling found Democrats were already in good shape to oust four incumbent Republican senators.

The poll found the likely Democratic nominees in each state are currently beating incumbent Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Susan Collins of Maine, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Bullock's entrance now puts another competitive race on the map.

Of course, Democrats must also defend one of their own in heavily Republican territory.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) will be on the ballot in November, and will either face former Sen. Jeff Sessions or former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, who are locked in a runoff for the Republican nomination. Jones barely won a special election in the state in 2017 against Roy Moore, who was credibly accused of being a pedophile.

But Bullock's entrance is undoubtedly good news for Democrats, who were trying to convince Bullock to run after he dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

"Bullock's entrance gives Democrats more possible paths to a Senate majority," Jessica Taylor, a nonpartisan political analyst at the Cook Political Report, wrote.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.