Republican Jason Lewis challenges Sen. Tina Smith in Minnesota

  • Democratic Sen. Tina Smith is running for a full term in the US Senate against Republican Jason Lewis in Minnesota. 
  • Smith was appointed to former Sen. Al Franken's US Senate seat when he resigned from office in December 2017 and won a 2018 special election to serve out the rest of Franken's term until 2021. 

  • Lewis, her Republican opponent, is a former talk radio host who previously represented Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District for one term.
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Democratic Sen. Tina Smith is running for a full term in the US Senate against Republican Jason Lewis. 

The candidates:

Smith, Minnesota's former lieutenant governor, was appointed to former Sen. Al Franken's US Senate seat when he resigned from office in December 2017 and won a 2018 special election to serve out the rest of Franken's term until 2021. 

This fall, Smith is running for her first full term for the seat. She currently serves on four US Senate committees including the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). 

In the Senate, she's heavily focused on healthcare issues, including expanding coverage, reducing prescription drug costs, and combatting the opioid crisis in Minnesota. 

Smith's opponent, Lewis, is a former talk radio host who previously represented Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District in the suburbs southeast of the Twin Cities area for one term from 2017 to 2019. He was unseated in 2018 by Democratic challenger Rep. Angie Craig. 

Lewis' campaign message has focused on revitalizing Minnesota's economy, particularly the mining communities in the state's Iron Range, protecting the 2nd Amendment, and supporting law enforcement. 

The stakes:

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 President 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, winning that 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). 

In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats flipped two Republican-controlled seats, the 2nd and 3rd Districts, in the Twin Cities seats, but lost control of two seats in rural Minnesota, the 1st District in the Southern part of the state and the 8th District in the mountainous Iron Range region in Northern Minnesota. 

This year, Republicans hoping to build on their gains in 2018 in rural areas and are aiming to target Minnesota in both the electoral college and the Senate, but the state is still expected to favor Democrats. Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads Trump by over six percentage points on average in polls of the state, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling average. 

The money race: Smith has substantially outraised and outspent Lewis in the cycle so far, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. She's brought in $10 million, spent $4.6 million, and has $5.8 million in cash on hand compared to $2.4 million raised, $1.5 million spent, and $992,607 in cash on hand for Lewis. 

What the polling says: The most recent poll of the race conducted by The New York Times and Siena College showed Smith ahead of Lewis by nine points, 49% to 40%. Another survey conducted by SurveyUSA from September 4 to 7 showed Smith leading Lewis by 11 points, 47% to 36%. A previous poll conducted by Public Policy Polling September 3 to 4 showed Smith leading Lewis by eight points, 49% to 41%. 

What some of the experts say: The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections rate the race between Smith and Lewis as "safe Democratic" while Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics rates it "likely Democratic." 

According to FiveThirtyEight, Smith has a 92% chance of winning her reelection bid in November. Smith is expected to receive 55% of the popular vote, or 13% more than Lewis.

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