Why the Democrats aren’t entirely doomed in 2022
50–50. That’s the Senate makeup after January’s Georgia runoffs that saw historic victors as Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock were elected as the first Jewish and Black people to represent Georgia in the Senate. The Democrats, after polling suggested that they would expand their majority, lost a net of 11 seats (possibly 12 with NY-22 still undecided).
We’re set to get new districts drawn as a result of the 2020 Census. Since Republicans control 27 Governors’ Mansions while the Democrats control 23, Republicans are likely able to draw maps that are favorable for them. At this point, I’d go as far as to say that House control in 2022 is likely Republican.
With vulnerable incumbents like Tom Malinowski, Cindy Axne, Lauren Underwood, Abigail Spanberger, Angie Craig, Haley Stevens, Ron Kind, Carolyn Bourdeaux, Tom O’Halleran, and others, potentially being drawn into bad districts, Republicans are highly favored to take back the lower chamber. Meanwhile, despite the narrow majority that Senate Democrats hold in the upper chamber, they still have a fighting chance to keep control.
There are 9 battleground Senate races up for grabs: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Not surprising, all of which are typical presidential battlegrounds. In this article, I’m going to make the case that while Republicans may be favored in the Senate, it’s not entirely over for Democrats.
In Arizona, incumbent Senator Mark Kelly (D) is up for his first full term. In 2020, Senator Kelly won a special election to serve the rest of the late Sen. John McCain’s full term. Kelly defeated appointed Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to finish out McCain’s term until the special election could be held. McSally, in 2018, ran for the Senate against now-Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and narrowly lost. Just a few weeks after losing, McSally was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to temporarily serve in McCain’s old seat. Senator Kelly is favored for two reasons: Arizona’s leftward trend and the lack of strong Republican candidates on the bench. Arizona flipped from Republican to Democrat for the first time since 1996 when it voted for Bill Clinton. Part of this had to do with former President Donald Trump’s (God that has a nice ring to it) incessant pettiness with John McCain.
The Arizona GOP doesn’t have very many candidates. Popular incumbent Governor Doug Ducey, who is term-limited in 2022, has declined to run despite reportedly being begged by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to run for the seat. Aside from Ducey, there aren’t very many contenders that reasonably have a chance. The prospective candidates include Kirk Adams, Joe Arpaio, Barbara Barrett, Andy Biggs, Jan Brewer, Paul Gosar, Eileen Klein, Debbie Lesko, Martha McSally, David Schweikert, Tiffany Shedd, Kelli Ward, and Kimberly Yee. It’s my opinion that none of these individuals would have a reasonable shot at defeating Mark Kelly.
Specifically, a candidate like Kelli Ward would be a dead giveaway to Senator Kelly. Ward, under her tenure as Chairwoman of the Arizona GOP, has moved the party further and further to the right, alienating key voting blocs, censured former Senator Jeff Flake, Governor Doug Ducey (for refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and Cindy McCain. Ward is a divisive figure who has no place in politics, to begin with, let alone the United States Senate. Lean D.
Next is Florida where incumbent Senator Marco Rubio is going for his third term in the U.S. Senate. Rubio is a broadly popular figure, has appeal to Cuban and Hispanic voters, a group most Republicans struggle with. It’s for this reason Rubio was a viable presidential candidate in 2016 and will likely be a viable candidate in 2024. Rubio shouldn’t fear losing re-election in the general, rather, he should only fear losing a primary election. Rumor has it, former First Daughter Ivanka Trump is mulling a primary challenge to Rubio. I, personally, doubt she’ll actually run. If Rubio can get through the primary, he’s a lock for re-election. The Florida Democratic Party is in shambles. The only viable candidates: Nikki Fried, Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy, or Val Demings either A) aren’t interested or B) in the case of Charlie Crist, have run and lost to Rubio before. If Rubio gets through the primary, I’d go as far as to say that Florida will go to Likely R.
In Georgia, we have the same situation as Mark Kelly. Sen. Raphael Warnock was elected to fill out the rest of Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. Now, Warnock is up for a full 6-year term. Just like Arizona, Warnock is favored due to A) Georgia’s leftward trend and B) the lack of competent GOP candidates.
Warnock isn’t the most popular figure in Georgia but he’s certainly more popular than others in the state. The GOP bench of potential candidates includes Doug Collins, Vernon Jones, Kelly Loeffler, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and B.J. Pak.
Just like Arizona, there’s one crazy candidate that has no business in statewide politics. For Arizona, that’s Kelli Ward. For Georgia, it’s Marjorie Taylor Greene. Greene has supported statements on FaceBook that suggest killing Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi, has refused to wear a mask, is a believer of the QAnon conspiracy theory, and is just an all-out kook. An easy win for the Georgia Democrats if MTG is the nominee. Lean D.
After Georgia, we have the perennial battleground state of Nevada. Nevada’s incumbent Senator, Catherine Cortez Masto (D) is moderately popular. The only reason I include her race in this is because of former Governor Brian Sandoval (R). Sandoval has crossover appeal to Republicans and Democrats, was re-elected with over 70% of the vote, and if he runs, would give Senator Cortez Masto a run for her money. The problem is, aside from Sandoval, there aren’t very many viable candidates. Sandoval has signaled he’s unlikely to run but has kept his options only. For now, I rate this race as Lean D, but if Sandoval jumps in, I’d make it tossup or even Tilt R.
The Granite State, New Hampshire, another perennial swing state. Incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan (D) was elected in 2016 by a small margin of around 1,000 votes, defeating then-Senator Kelly Ayotte (R). Ayotte is apparently considering running for state office. However, if the New Hampshire GOP is smart, they’ll have incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) run for the Senate and have Ayotte run for Governor. Sununu was just re-elected in 2020 by 32 points while President Biden swept the Granite State. Sununu is one of the most approved Governors in the Nation. Governor Sununu’s net popularity is far higher than Senator Hassan’s. If Sununu takes the plunge (a close political advisor has said he likely will run), Hassan will be shaking in her boots. If Sununu runs, it’s a pure tossup. Therefore, I’m rating it as Tossup.
North Carolina is peculiar. Incumbent Senator Richard Burr (R) isn’t running for another term after allegations of insider trading. Running to replace him, on the GOP side, the frontrunners are former Congressman Mark Walker and potentially Lara Trump. On the Democratic side, State Senator Jeff Jackson is hoping to clear the field. Jackson could make it competitive. However, 2022 is expected to be a Republican year and North Carolina did just vote to give former President Donald Trump another 4 years in office, albeit narrowly. If Walker wins the nomination, he’ll probably keep the seat red. However, if Lara Trump runs and wins the nomination, Jackson may just flip the seat for the Democrats. I don’t think that Lara Trump will run, but that’s just me. It seems to be up to the flip of a coin on whether or not Trump will run. For now, the race is Lean R.
One of my favorite U.S. Senators broke my heart on Monday when he announced he wouldn’t seek a third term. Rob Portman is a moderate Junior Senator from Ohio, former Congressman, and former Bush administration official. With Portman not running, the race to replace him is wide open. Republicans are widely favored, especially now that radical Congressman Jim Jordan has announced he will not run for the Senate. The Democratic bench includes Tim Ryan, Amy Acton, Michael Coleman, Joyce Beatty, Nan Whaley, Kathleen Clyde, John Cranley, Tavia Galonski. Also on the bench, potentially, wife to senior Senator Sherrod Brown, Connie Schultz, and basketball legend LeBron James. It truly doesn’t matter who the Democrats nominate. Ohio has moved hard to the right in the last nearly 10 years. Essentially, whoever wins the GOP primary will likely be elected the new Senator. GOP frontrunners include Frank LaRose, Josh Mandel, Jim Renacci, Steve Stivers, Brad Wenstrup, and Dave Yost. This race is Likely R.
The biggest battleground on the map is Pennsylvania. Incumbent Senator, another one of my moderate favorites, Pat Toomey is retiring. There are a WHOLE lot of candidates. On the Democratic side, the frontrunner is Lt. Governor John Fetterman. There are plenty of others that want to challenge Fetterman, but he’s definitely the favorite for the Democratic nomination. On the GOP side, the frontrunners are Ryan Costello, Guy Reschenthaler, and Donald Trump, Jr. Just like Georgia and Arizona, there’s one token GOP candidate that would hand the race to the Democratic Party. For Pennsylvania, it’s Trump, Jr. You may notice that all 3 Trumps mentioned in this article (Ivanka, Don Jr., and Lara) have never lived in the states they may run for Senate in. Just something to keep in mind.
If we eliminate Trump, Jr., there remains 2: Ryan Costello and Guy Reschenthaler, both of which I think have a good chance at winning. As for the GOP nomination, who knows he will win. One thing, however, is for sure. This race is a Tossup.
The Badger State, Wisconsin, another perennial battleground state is up for grabs. Incumbent Senator Ron Johnson has flirted with retiring. During his campaign in 2016, he pledged that 2016 would be his last race. However, he’s said he’s undecided on whether or not he will in fact run for a third term. If Johnson retires, GOP Congressmen Mike Gallagher, Bryan Steil, and Sean Duffy are all frontrunners. My personal pick, if Johnson retires, is Congressman Mike Gallagher. Gallagher is well-positioned to win Trump voters and moderates.
For the Democrats, frontrunners include Mandela Barnes and Ron Kind. Kind is better-positioned to win Trump-Biden voters and moderates in general. Both Barnes and Kind have an equal shot at the nomination. Kind, however, may just run to avoid defeat in his own House district. As election after election goes by, Kind’s seat gets closer in closer. What used to be a reliable, solid blue district, voted for former President Trump both times. Kind only won by <2 points.
But even if Johnson does run, he’ll be favored. Wisconsin is a peculiar state but has steadily been trending towards the Republicans (aside from 2020 when it voted for President Biden). Lean R.
If everything goes as I’ve predicted, here’s how the Senate map looks as of now (courtesy to the great folks at 270towin).