Between now and Election Day 2024, the electoral landscape will undergo a near-constant churning of factors. But one thing Senate Democrats can count on is that maintaining their Senate majority will be even more difficult than it was this midterm.
Senate Democrats not only have a bunch of incumbents up in many of the same battleground states that proved highly competitive this year, but they will also be defending seats in several very tough red states.
The Hill‘s list of the eight most vulnerable Democratic Senators included the following:
- Joe Manchin of West Virginia
- Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona
- Sherrod Brown of Ohio
- Jon Tester of Montana
- Jacky Rosen of Nevada
- Bob Casey of Pennsylvania
- Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
- Debbie Stabenow of Michigan
Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin—sound familiar? Each of those states proved to be critical battlegrounds this year, with Democrats prevailing in three of the four. But Democrat Mandela Barnes’ 1-point loss in the Wisconsin Senate contest (49.5% – 50.5%) was a real heartbreaker, even more so because incumbent Democratic governor Tony Evers managed to win reelection with 51.2% of the vote.
Barnes’ loss to sitting GOP Sen. Ron Johnson was at least partly a function of the benefits of incumbency. So defending Baldwin’s seat should prove easier than trying to topple Johnson in the closely divided Badger State. Baldwin won reelection in 2018 by a healthy 10-point margin with 55% of the vote. She has also typically enjoyed higher approval ratings than Johnson.
Many Democrats might also find themselves rooting for the downfall of The Hill’s No. 1 and 2 most vulnerable Democrats—Sens. Manchin and Sinema. But electorally speaking, the two candidates are not equivalent in any way. Manchin arguably has no business representing the ruby-red state of West Virginia as a Democrat, and he is surely Democrats’ best chance of keeping the seat should he choose to run again. That’s one more Democratic vote for majority leader, regardless of whether liberals like his politics or not.
Sinema, on the other hand, now holds a seat in a state that has voted Democrats into power at the top of the ticket in the last four statewide elections, including the 2020 presidential and special election (to fill deceased Sen. John McCain’s seat), and the 2022 Senate and gubernatorial races.
On top of the fact that Arizona has arguably evolved into a blue-leaning purple state, Sinema has no real base of support there after she spent the first two years of President Biden’s term alienating Democratic voters. Early this year, Civiqs found that just 8% of Democratic voters held a favorable view of Sinema—a number that is almost certain to attract a primary challenge. So Sinema may fall even before the general election.
Ohio is obviously tough territory, but Sherrod Brown has proven to be a Democratic anomaly there in the last several election cycles. Tester has also proven formidable in the deep-red state of Montana. Democrats should stand a chance in both contests, particularly if Republicans nominate another slate of looney-tune candidates.
In Nevada, Jacky Rosen will face her first reelection contest since winning the seat in 2018. It’s a fair bet, however, that Rosen will have a slightly easier path to victory than her Democratic counterpart, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, did this year since the ’24 atmospherics aren’t likely to be quite as harsh for Democrats as they were this cycle.
Certainly, no race is a sure thing, but of those eight Democrats, incumbent Sens. Casey in Pennsylvania and Stabenow in Michigan likely have the easiest path to reelection, barring some completely unforeseen hurdle. They are both relatively well-liked senators amid polarizing times in swing states where Democrats have notched some impressive wins in recent years. A lot still depends on the overall atmospherics, but both Democrats start the race with the benefits of incumbency and name recognition at their backs.
But all of these observations assume the eight Democratic incumbents will choose to run for reelection—which, frankly, isn’t a given. It’s quite possible that one or even several opt out, which would make a Democratic hold even harder in virtually every one of these contests.
Presently, Senate Democrats have the narrowest 50-50 margin possible, with Vice President Harris as the tiebreaker. But Democrats still have a chance to pad that margin by one seat during the Dec. 6th runoff in Georgia between Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and his GOP challenger Herschel Walker.
That Georgia contest is huge for multiple reasons, including the fact that having a 51st vote means Senate Democrats will be able to issue subpoenas without needing a single Republican vote—giving their committee probes far more teeth.
But winning in Georgia would also give Democrats at least a little breathing room in the upper chamber heading into 2024. Picking up even one seat this cycle would still be a damn fine outcome in a midterm year where Senate Republicans had already begun counting their chickens in January.
Early voting is already going strong in Georgia. You can help keep the momentum going and get out the vote from the comfort of your own home. Here are all the activities you can be involved with to help Warnock over the finish line.
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