DemDaily: The 2024 Senate Landscape

January 17, 2023

The campaign cycle is now underway, with incumbents and candidates already announcing their intentions for the 2024 Senate elections.

While Democrats prevailed against political headwinds in 2022, expanding their razor-thin majority in the US Senate to 51-49, the landscape of 2024 presents more daunting challenges.

34 of the 100 US Senate seats are up for election in 2024, with Democrats defending 23 seats, including three Independents that caucus with the Democrats. Republicans will be defending 11 seats, including one special election that will be held concurrent with the regularly scheduled November 5, 2024 elections.

In addition to defending twice as many seats as the GOP, Democrats are attempting to hold onto critical battleground states -- in the same year as the 2024 presidential contest.

The 2024 map also provides Democrats scant pickup opportunities to counter their seats up in battleground and GOP-dominant states.

To date, three incumbents have announced their departures. Indiana Senator Mike Braun (R) announced he would be leaving the upper chamber to run for Governor in 2024, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) announced her retirements January 5th in the crucial swing state of Michigan.

A third seat, vacated by Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse (R) January 8 to become President of the University of Florida, will go to a special election, concurrent with the November 5, 2024 general. Former Governor Pete Ricketts (R), who was appointed interim Senator through 2024, will be running for a full term to the seat.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D), 89, is widely expected to not seek re-election but has yet to declare her 2024 plans. Undeterred, Congresswoman Katie Porter announced her bid for the seat January 10, and a host of other potential Democratic contenders are waiting in the wings, including Congresspersons Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee and, potentially, Ro Khanna.

In another blue state, three-term Maryland Senator Ben Cardin (D), 79, is expected to make a decision about reelection by the end of March.

Others who have yet to disclose reelection plans include Tom Carper (Delaware), Angus King (Maine), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island) and Bernie Sanders (Vermont) -- all considered safe seats.

Among the undeclared battleground races, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, 64, a former Governor and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vice presidential running mate, is expected to run for a third term. Although Biden won the Commonwealth by over 10% in 2020, Republican Glenn Youngkin (R) flipped the governor’s mansion red in 2021 for the first time in over a decade.

A September 2022 Center for Leadership & Media Studies/UMW survey showed Kaine with 41% to Youngkin's 39% in a hypothetical match-up, although Youngkin's sights appear to be set on the GOP presidential nomination.

While there are no Republican incumbents up for election in 2024 in states that President Joe Biden won in 2020, there are three states -- Montana, West Viginia and Ohio -- that Donald Trump won in 2016 and 2020.

Democrats are also on edge waiting for the official word from two red-state Senators: Jon Tester (Montana) and Joe Manchin (West Virginia).

Tester, 66, first won election in 2006 by unseating Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. He has been reelected twice, albeit by single digits, in a state that Donald Trump won by 57% in 2020. A top GOP target, Tester, who is Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has given indications that he will run again.

Manchin, first elected in a 2010 special election to succeed the late Senator Robert Byrd (D), was reelected in 2018 by just over 3%. Although the centrist has drawn the ire of national Democrats for regularly siding with the GOP on swing votes, Manchin is likely the only Democrat who could hold onto the otherwise conservative Mountain State that has voted Republican in the last six presidential elections.

Of the thirteen Democratic Senators who have announced their reelection bids, five hail from key presidential battleground states and are expected to be heavily contested.

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema officially left the Democratic party to become an Independent in December amid concerns about drawing a Democratic primary challenger who might have the backing of the state Democratic Party enraged over her centrist votes.

In the newly established swing state, which Biden narrowly won by under 11,000 votes in 2020, splitting the moderate vote between Sinema and a Democrat (likely Congressman Ruben Gallego) increases the odds for the GOP.

In Nevada, which witnessed one of 2022's closest Senate races, first-term Senator Jacky Rosen is facing her first reelection. Although a proven campaigner who unseated incumbent Dean Heller (R) in 2018, she is expected to draw tough opposition.

In Ohio, three-term incumbent Sherrod Brown survived his last reelection in 2018 with 53.4%, but the Buckeye State has become increasingly conservative, giving Trump victories in 2016 and 2020. Popular Congressman Tim Ryan (D) waged a formidable Senate campaign against political newcomer and author J.D.Vance in 2022, losing 47% to 53%.

The perennial swing state of Pennsylvania delivered the only flip of the 2022 election cycle with the victory of now-Senator John Fetterman (D), but Republicans will be pushing to nominate a stronger candidate against three-term incumbent Bob Casey Jr.

Incumbent Tammy Baldwin will be seeking a third term as Wisconsin's junior Senator in a must-win state for Republicans in the 2024 presidential election. Although Baldwin won her 2018 reelection by 11%, Biden carried the state by less than 1% in 2020, and senior Senator Ron Johnson (R) just won reelection with 50.4% in 2022.

The outcome of all these seats will rest on the candidates chosen by Republicans, who are still wrestling with the influence over their party of former President Donald Trump -- who is, for now, running for president at the top of the ticket in 2024.

Deference to ultra-right Trump-backed candidates cost the GOP their chance at flipping the Senate in 2022. If the Speaker of the House election, which was held captive by 20 "MAGA Caucus" members for four days, is any indication, then Trump's brand still carries weight.

We can only hope so.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Ballotpedia, The Hill, Bloomberg, USNews, Washington Post

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