DemDaily: Update on the Senate Landscape

March 16, 2023

The 2024 US Senate races are underway with nearly three dozen up in the pivotal presidential year.

While Democrats prevailed against political headwinds in 2022, expanding their razor-thin majority in the Senate to 51-49, the landscape of 2024 will see them defending twice as many seats as the GOP.

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 in Nebraska held concurrent with the regularly scheduled November 5, 2024 elections.

At this point, Democrats hold the majority of the top battleground contests -- all critical to the outcome of the presidential election next year.

The results of several races, however, will depend on the candidates who emerge from GOP primary contests.

In 2022, state Republican parties and primary voters, still under the influence of former President Donald Trump, chose ultra-right nominees who proved too unpalatable for voters in the general election.

That strategy cost the GOP their chance to flip the Senate and sweep the House. National leaders, loath to see a repeat of 2022, are struggling to quell the stranglehold Trump -- the leading Republican contender for president in 2024 -- has on the flanks of the party.

Update on the Landscape
: Incumbent 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, which censured Sinema over her opposition to changing Senate filibuster rules.

Four-term Phoenix-based Congressman Ruben Gallego, who announced January 23, has all but cleared the Democratic field. Sinema has filed papers to run, but has not formally announced.

Meanwhile, former GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs 50.3% to 49.6% in November, appears to be hedging her bets between challenging Sinema and vying to be Trump's VP running mate. The more likely contenders include Congressmen Andy Biggs and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.

California: While California is a safely blue state, the jungle primary will be among the most competitive and, undoubtedly, the most expensive. The race to replace retiring Senator Dianne Feinstein (D), who announced her retirement February 14, has expanded, now including Congresswoman Katie Porter, Congressman Adam Schiff, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who entered the race February 21.

Maryland: The safe Democratic seat may quickly become a top target if former GOP Governor Larry Hogan, who recently bowed out of the presidential contest, decides to enter the race. Hogan may be waiting on the decision, expected this month, of three-term Senator Ben Cardin (D), 79, on his reelection plans.

Michigan: In the historic battleground state, where four-term Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) is retiring, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D) has essentially cleared the Democratic field, with the unofficial support of Stabenow and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

On the Republican side, only state education board member Nikki Snyder has entered the race, with the state party in disarray after the controversial selection of election denier Kristina Karamo to lead the Michigan GOP.

Montana: Jon Tester, a moderate Democrat in a red state that Donald Trump won by 57% in 2020, announced his reelection bid February 22. Tester is widely seen as the only Democrat who can weather a GOP challenge in the highly competitive state.

Nevada: In the Silver State, which witnessed one of 2022's closest Senate races, freshman 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 the battleground state.

Potential GOP contenders include attorney and unsuccessful congressional candidate April Becker, Army veteran and 2022 Senate primary candidate Sam Brown, and Rick Harrison, star of the popular History Channel program Pawn Stars

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.

The Club for Growth is pushing Hamilton-based Congressman Warren Davidson to challenge Brown, but the Freedom Caucus member is viewed as less electable than State Senator Matt Dolan, who announced in January and whose family owns the Cleveland Guardians. Dolan finished third with 23.3% in the chaotic 2022 Republican primary won by now-Senator J.D. Vance.

Pennsylvania: Ultra-conservative State Senator and failed 2022 gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano is exploring a challenge to three-term Democratic Senator Bob Casey, as is former hedge fund executive and 2022 Senate candidate David McCormick, who is being heavily recruited by the NRSC.

The swing state delivered the only flip of the 2022 election cycle with the victory of now-Senator John Fetterman (D), and is an essential win for Democrats in the 2024 presidential.

Virginia: Senator Tim Kaine announced his reelection bid for a third term January 20. The former Governor and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate is considered a safe bet unless the GOP can recruit Governor Glenn Youngkin, who seems unlikely to leave his office for the Senate. The only Republican to announce thus far is Constitutional lawyer Jonathan Emord, who declared his candidacy on January 31 with the endorsements of former Congressmen Ron Paul and Barry Goldwater, Jr.

West Virginia: While the Mountain State, which has voted with the Republican nominee in the last six presidential elections, will not be a factor in the race for the White House, it will play a critical role in control of the US Senate.

Senator Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat and frequent swing vote for the GOP who was reelected in 2018 by 3.3%, is now facing the prospect of a challenge from popular Republican Governor Jim Justice, who is expected to announce in the coming weeks. Justice will first have to win a competitive primary, however, against conservative Freedom Caucus Congressman Alex Mooney, and potentially Manchin's 2018 opponent, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Wisconsin: In the perennial swing state, incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin, who was re-elected with 55.4% of the vote in 2018, has yet to draw official opposition in her bid for a third term. Potential GOP contenders include four-term Congressman and marine veteran Mike Gallagher. Whoever the Republican nominee is, they will have plenty of ground and financial support as Wisconsin, which Biden carried by less than 1% in 2020, is a must-win for the GOP in the presidential election.

DemDaily: CPAC Kowtows to Trump 3/6/23
DemDaily: Measuring Michigan 2/28/23
DemDaily: Red State, Blue State 2/27/23
DemDaily: The 2023 Election Calendar! 2/24/23
DemDaily: The Race to Replace Feinstein 2/15/23

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Sources: Ballotpedia, Axios, Wall Street Journal, Politico, Roll Call, New York Times, Milwaukee Sentinel

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