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The 2022 Senate races were more than successful for Democrats. Despite having an unfavorable map, they defended very competitive seats in Nevada, Arizona and Georgia. Despite polls showing otherwise, they managed to retain all of their seats and even had the luxury of flipping Pennsylvania, capturing a 51-49 majority. However, if Chuck Schumer raises his head and looks ahead to 2024, he has every reason to worry: he could lose as many as 8 seats.
The Senate map in 2024 smiles on the Republicans. Of the 34 seats that will be up for grabs, only 11 belong to the GOP. As if that weren’t enough of an advantage, they have almost no vulnerable seats. Prior to 2022, some Democrats looked fondly at the seats held by Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rick Scott (R-FL), but the midterms cleared the way for the re-election of both.
On the other side of the street, the caucus led by Chuck Schumer will have to defend 23 seats (twenty Democrats and three independents). Far from being a friendly map, it will have to defend 8 competitive seats tooth and nail. West Virginia, Montana, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan will threaten Joe Biden’s first real majority in the Upper House.
West Virginia: Joe Manchin has the state on edge
Reading the list of competitive states, this is possibly the first one that one can assume as lost for the Democrats. After all, Donald Trump carried the state by 38.9% in 2020 and Senator Shelley Moore Capito did the same by 43%. However, Manchin always managed to dye the state blue once every six years.
After winning the seat in a special election in 2010, he was elected to a full term in 2012 and did the same in 2018, by a close 49.6% to 46.3%. While he has not yet decided whether he will run again, the moderate Democrat knows full well that the Democrats’ only chance in the state is with his name on the ballot.
Adding further aggravation for Manchin, the election will take place in the same year as the presidential election. In other words, if the Republican candidate repeats Trump’s margin in 2020, the Democrat should get nearly 40% of the electorate to vote red for president and blue for Senate.
Great opportunities for the GOP in Montana, Ohio and Arizona
Regardless of the candidates, both states would appear to be easy prey for the Republican Party. While Montana has elected Democrats in the near past, the coincidence with the presidential election will make Jon Tester’s path to re-election much steeper. Trump carried the state by nearly 17% in 2020 and the new (or old) Republican nominee could well help get the challenger across the finish line.
While the senator is not exactly the most moderate in the upper chamber, compared to, for example, Manchin himself or Kyrsten Sinema, he has managed to remain popular with Montana voters. Indeed, he boasts the most popular incumbent among those seeking re-election in 2024.
On the other hand, it would be a virtual miracle if the Democrats retain Ohio. Trump won twice by 8% and, despite not winning many key states in the 2022 midterm elections, their Senate candidate won by 6.1%. That appears to be the Republicans’ floor in the state and there is a good chance that all of their candidates will exceed it in 2024.
So far, only Matt Dolan has announced his intention to challenge Sherrod Brown, who took office in 2007. Dolan could be described as a Governor Mike DeWine-style candidate and confessed that he was the first to announce his candidacy to gain more name recognition.
In Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema’s switch to independent gave a strong kick to the electoral board. Two possible scenarios coexist here. Although unpopular among Democrats, the senator could well capture the independent vote to prevail in a general election against candidates from both parties. However, there is a good chance that a Republican will take advantage of the fragmentation of the Democratic vote and end up reclaiming a seat that belonged to the GOP for 40 years.
A rematch for Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania?
Many political analysts agree that the GOP was only 900 votes away from winning Pennsylvania in 2022. Although Fetterman defeated Oz by nearly 300,000 votes, 900 was the number of votes by which McCormick lost the Republican nomination in that election.
Both conservatives, such as Senator Ted Cruz and Ben Shapiro, and progressives, such as election analyst Ethan Kelly, agree that McCormick would have won that election had he been the nominee. Therefore, the door was left wide open in case he wants to seek a rematch in 2024.
Fortunately for Republicans, the former George W. Bush administration official seems to have clear intentions of returning to fight for a seat in the Upper House. He demonstrated this with the announcement of his new book, Superpower in Peril: A Battle Plan to Renew America, which will take him around Pennsylvania throughout 2023.
This time around, his opponent will be a much tougher nut to crack. Bob Casey Jr. is practically an institution in the Keystone State. The son of former Governor Bob Casey, he has held several statewide offices and will be seeking his fourth consecutive term in the Senate.
Uncertainty in Nevada, Wisconsin and Michigan
The GOP is favored in two of these three seats and one of them is Nevada. After the frustration with Adam Laxalt in 2022, who led in the polls until Election Day but ultimately ended up losing by a few thousand votes, Republicans will once again be pointing all guns at the “Silver State.” With a one-term incumbent and the momentum of a presidential year, Republicans just need a strong enough candidate to, once and for all, materialize the polling advantage on Election Day.
The second state in question is Wisconsin, where both parties have recorded victories in recent years. Joe Biden carried the state by a mere 0.2% in 2020, while Ron Johnson won re-election in 2022 by 1%.
Particularly, the seat held by Tammy Baldwin has been very elusive to Republicans, who have not held it since 1957.
The last competitive state on this list is Michigan, where incumbent Debbie Stabenow announced she would not seek re-election, complicating the Democrats politically and on funding issues. However, logic would indicate that Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s popularity will be enough to propel a competitive candidate and retain the seat.
In short, the Democrats will find it very difficult to hold on to the Senate majority won in 2022. With the current scenario, if the Republicans learn from their mistakes and nominate competitive candidates, it would only remain to be seen what the margin of the new Republican majority in the Upper House will be.
Joaquín Núñez es hincha de Racing Club de Avellaneda y licenciado en comunicación periodística por la Universidad Católica Argentina. Se especializa en el escenario internacional y en la política norteamericana // Joaquín Núñez is a fan of Avellaneda's Racing Club and has a degree in journalistic communication from the Universidad Católica Argentina. He specializes in the international scene and American politics.