As Americans head to the polls on Tuesday, control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance, an all-important chamber of government when it comes to the front lines of the war on gun rights.
Currently controlled by Republicans since 2014, going into the election the GOP counts 53 of the Senate's 100 seats as theirs, while Democrats and Independents who caucus with them hold the 47-seat minority. The bad news is that of the 35 seats on the ballot this cycle, 23-- about two-thirds-- are held by Republicans, giving the GOP more races to lose.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his party has a "50-50" shot at keeping the chamber with candidates in "dogfights all over the country."
With control of the body hinging on the GOP losing three or four seats, more bad news comes in the fact that nine currently-Republican seats are rated as being potentially in play by Cook's Political Report while only two Democrat seats have the same level of uncertainty.
Let us take a look at those 11 close races in 10 states that are up for grabs.
In the Yellowhammer State, Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, who won the election in 2016 to fill Jeff Sessions' seat, is facing a tough race against SEC football coach Tommy Tuberville, a household name in the South. While Jones has managed to duck endorsement of major gun control efforts in the Senate, touts his bipartisan voting record, and doesn't mention guns on his campaign website, he carries a D-rating from the NRA. Meanwhile, Tuberville has an A-rating based on a questionnaire and stands to skunk Jones at the polls, War Eagle style.
Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Martha McSally is facing off in a tough fight with Capt. Mark Kelly, a retired Navy astronaut and co-founder of the Americans for Responsible Solutions/Giffords gun control organization which has pumped millions into anti-gun efforts nationwide in the past decade. While Kelly has been low-key on gun control on the campaign trail in gun-friendly Arizona, McSally, a retired A-10 Warthog pilot, has called him out on it.
Another Republican incumbent, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, has hung his hat with sportsmen by shepherding the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act through Congress this year. The measure, signed by President Trump, stands to expand access to public lands, specifically those in line with hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor activities. Facing Gardner is former Gov. John Hickenlooper who signed numerous gun control laws while in office, including Colorado's controversial magazine cap limit which sent popular companies such as Magpul out of state. Hickenlooper has promised to bring such laws to Congress.
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican incumbent, is A-rated against Democratic contender Theresa Greenfield, who carries an F-rating from the NRA. While Ernst supports both the Hearing Protection Act and national reciprocity in addition to backing three successive Trump-nominated Supreme Court justices, Greenfield is strongly endorsed by gun control groups.
While Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins was the only member of the GOP to cross the aisle and vote against the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, she still carries a B-rating from the NRA. Facing her in a tight election is F-rated Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, a Democrat who is backed by Michael Bloomberg's Everytown anti-gun group.
Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis is A-rated, supports pro-Second Amendment bills, and has a voting record both in Congress and in the North Carolina state legislature of preserving concealed carry expansion rights. Tillis is on the ballot against Democrat Cal Cunningham, who has been endorsed by Everytown.
The standard-bearer for the Republican-led effort to approve President Trump's more than 300 federal judicial nominations over the past four years, including three Supreme Court Justices, is U.S. Sen. Lindsay Graham who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. A co-sponsor of the national concealed carry reciprocity act, Graham has been an underdog in a fight against Democrat candidate Jaime Harrison who has raised an unprecedented $57 million in campaign cash. Among those helping Harrison smash congressional fundraising records is Everytown and Giffords who have resoundingly endorsed the former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.