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Overview of the 2024 Senate Map which looks drastically better than 2022

by | Feb 15, 2023

By Karen Cross, NRL Political Director, Editor’s note. This appeared in the February issue of NRL News.

Please share the entire 50-page edition with your friends and family.

Believe it or not, it is not too early to start looking ahead to the 2024 Senate races. Following the 2022 elections, Democrats hold a slim one-seat majority in the Senate. That means Republicans need to net at least two seats in 2024 to retake the majority and put the agenda in pro-life hands. While that will be hard-fought effort, the good news is that the 2024 Senate map looks drastically different from 2022.

The 2022 Senate map offered Republicans their only pickup opportunities in states that President Joe Biden carried in 2020 such as Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Nevada. While trying to unseat incumbents in those states, Republicans were also tasked with defending seats in Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, and more. Ultimately, the 2022 elections yielded a net loss of one seat for Republicans. 

The 2024 map has Democrats defending more seats than the Republicans (23-11) and it gives Democrats few opportunities to expand their narrow majority. While much can change based on retirements, primaries, campaign blunders, and other unforeseen factors, most political pundits currently pin the Democrats’ best hopes to pick up seats on the races in Florida or Texas, states which President Trump carried twice. 

On the flip side, Republicans have multiple paths to the majority in 2024.

Montana

At the top of the list according to most political pundits is Montana where pro-abortion Senator Jon Tester (D) is up for re-election. While Montana is often considered a red state, at least in presidential races, it is worth remembering that Montana voters have elected Tester three times before—in 2006, 2012 and 2018. They also elected a Democrat governor as recently as 2014. However, President Trump carried the state by commanding double-digit margins in the last two presidential elections. If Senator Tester wants to hold on for another term, he will require the crossover votes of a considerable number of Montana Republicans.

West Virginia

In West Virginia, Senator Joe Manchin is up for re-election. He bears the distinction of being the only Senate Democrat to vote against the so-called Women’s Health Protection Act, a radical bill that would enshrine unlimited abortion in federal law and strike down existing state-level protections for unborn babies and their mothers like parental involvement and informed consent measures. Senator Manchin has also voted to defend the Hyde Amendment to ensure American tax dollars are not used for abortions through many federal programs. For these reasons, some pro-abortion Democrats are clamoring for a primary challenge. But without Manchin as the Democratic nominee, it is highly likely that a Republican will take the seat in the general election. For perspective—Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden garnered less than 30% in 2016 and 2020 respectively.

Pro-life Congressman Alex Mooney has already announced that he will seek the Republican nomination to run for the seat. Several other West Virginia Republicans are rumored to have Senate ambitions, including current pro-life Governor Jim Justice and pro-life Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, who ran and lost to Manchin in 2018. Manchin himself has not declared that he will seek a third term.

Michigan

Democrats’ chances in Michigan were dealt a blow in January when pro-abortion incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) announced that she will not seek re-election in 2024. Stabenow, who is currently 72 years old, won her fourth term in 2018 by over 275,000 votes (or 7%), her closest margin of victory since 2000 when she first won the seat by less than 68,000 votes. 

President Trump carried Michigan by a narrow margin in 2016 while President Biden won the state by a similarly narrow margin in 2020. With no incumbent on the ballot, the race for this Senate seat could turn into one of the most competitive in the country. Expect both parties to pour major resources into winning it. 

Arizona

In the last few election cycles, Arizona has been favorable territory for Democrats. Republican Senate candidates went down in defeat in 2018, in the 2020 special election, and in 2022. President Biden carried the state in 2020 and a pro-abortion Democrat was elected governor in 2022. But the winning streak for Democrats may be over. Last month, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who is up for re-election in 2024, announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an Independent. 

While Sinema’s record on abortion mirrors that of her pro-abortion Democrat colleagues, she has developed a reputation on Capitol Hill for her unwillingness to toe the party line. As an independent, she puts Democrats in a difficult predicament. Democrats will have to choose whether to rally behind a registered Democrat and risk splitting their left-leaning base of voters between their nominee and Sinema thus paving the way for a potential Republican win in a three-way race, or fall in line behind the unpopular Sinema who, in the views of many Democrats, would still be preferable to a Republican. But even in a head-to-head race between Sinema and a Republican, Republicans have a real shot at flipping the seat.

Ohio

In Ohio, after failing to pick up an open Senate seat and losing the gubernatorial race by double digits in 2022, Democrats have to be worried about Senator Sherrod Brown’s re-election chances in 2024. In previous cycles, Senator Brown handily defeated Republican challengers, but the state has become significantly redder over the years. 

Brown’s last re-election was in 2018, which is considered by many to be a “blue wave” year in which Democrats performed at their highest watermarks. Once considered one of the most competitive battleground states, Ohio went for Trump by nearly ten points in both 2016 and 2020. Republican Governor Mike DeWine won re-election in 2022 by a margin of 62% to 37% against a well-funded, EMILY’s List-endorsed Democrat. Senator Brown has defied trends before but if Republicans turn out in 2024 like they did in 2016 and 2020, there may be little he can do.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was a key battleground state in the last two presidential elections and held one of the most contentious Senate elections of the 2022 cycle. In 2024, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D), who is currently battling prostate cancer, is up for re-election but has not yet announced his intentions to run for a fourth term. Despite Pennsylvania’s status as a swing state, Senator Casey has never faced a tough challenge for re-election. His closest margin of victory was in 2012 when he won by over 7 points. 

Casey’s political strength is largely derived from his reputation as moderate, something inherited from his father Bob Casey, Sr., the popular former governor, and pro-life Democrat. However, Senator Bob Casey, Jr., has long since abandoned moderation on the issue of abortion. Casey can no longer call himself a “pro-life Democrat” after voting for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would enshrine unlimited abortion in federal law and policies, and even strike down state-level protections for unborn children and their mothers. (This would include state-level protections signed into law by his father in the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act.) Senator Casey has also voted on numerous occasions in favor of using tax dollars to pay for abortions. His embrace of the abortion extremism of the modern Democratic Party could make him more vulnerable to a Republican challenger than in cycles past.

Nevada

In Nevada, Republicans have a chance to win back the Senate seat they lost to pro-abortion Democrat Jacky Rosen in 2018. In 2022, Adam Laxalt (R) fell just short in the Senate race, but Republicans were successful in flipping the governorship with Joe Lombardo defeating incumbent pro-abortion Democrat Steve Sisolak. Donald Trump just narrowly lost the state in the last two presidential elections. Senator Rosen holds a 0% rating from National Right to Life and supports a policy of unlimited abortion for any reason until birth as well as taxpayer funding of abortion.

Wisconsin

Democrats are probably in a stronger position in Wisconsin, where pro-abortion Senator Tammy Baldwin is seeking a third term, than they are in other Rust Belt states like West Virginia, Ohio, or Michigan, but Baldwin may have a race on her hands if Republicans can nominate a strong challenger. Wisconsin will also be one of the hardest fought battlegrounds in the presidential race at the top of the ticket.

Virginia

Longshot pickup opportunities for Republicans include Virginia where Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, is up for re-election. Senator Kaine holds a high approval rating. However, while Joe Biden carried Virginia by nearly ten points in 2020, Republican Glenn Youngkin managed to win the 2021 gubernatorial race by two points—a twelve-point swing from D to R in just one year. 

On the flip side, the only states where Democrats could realistically go on offense (currently) include Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Texas.

Florida

In Florida, pro-life Senator Rick Scott is up for re-election. He narrowly won the seat by about 10,000 votes in 2018, defeating incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. However, after both Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) sailed to re-election with nearly twenty-point victories in 2022, Democrats should probably think twice before pinning their hopes of preserving or expanding their Senate majority on Florida.

Indiana

Indiana will have an open seat up for grabs in 2024. Pro-life Senator Mike Braun (R), who currently holds the seat, has announced a gubernatorial bid. Pro-life Congressman Jim Banks has thrown his hat in the ring. Other candidates are also expected to run. A Republican is certainly favored in a general election in Indiana, but a lot can go wrong in a Republican primary. Democrats have seized upon weak or problematic GOP nominees in the past, sometimes even working behind the scenes to help elevate whichever candidate they perceive as the most beatable. It is worth remembering that a Democrat held this seat prior to Braun’s victory in 2018. 

Missouri

The Missouri Senate race was relatively competitive six years ago when pro-abortion incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill was seeking re-election. Pro-life Republican Josh Hawley ultimately won the 2018 race by six points. As he seeks a second term, there is little indication that Missouri will return to being competitive. President Trump easily carried the state in the 2020 presidential election and pro-life Republican Eric Schmitt won an open Senate seat in 2022 by a 13-point margin over a top Democrat recruit, Anheuser-Busch heiress Trudy Busch Valentine.

Texas

Democrats have been eyeing Texas for decades at this point. They have long argued that demographic shifts in the state make Texas going blue an inevitability. Democrat Beto O’Rourke did come close to defeating incumbent Senator Ted Cruz (R) in 2018, but Cruz ultimately prevailed. In 2022, Republican Governor Greg Abbott beat back a challenge from O’Rourke and won re-election by 11 points. (1990 was the last time that a Democrat won a gubernatorial race in Texas and 1993 was the last year that Texas had a Democrat Senator.) 

Senator Cruz is in a stronger position now than he was in 2018 when he was just two years out from a presidential bid that pitted him against Donald Trump. In 2018, he was running in a blue wave year against a well-funded, then-star of the Democratic Party. Beto O’Rourke is certainly in a much weaker position, having now lost a Senate race (2018), a presidential race (2020), and a gubernatorial race (2022). The Democratic bench in Texas from which to pull candidates is small with the party holding no statewide offices and just a handful of seats in the Texas Senate. 

Other Republican seats up this cycle are not promising for Democrats. These seats – considered safe by political pundits —  include Senator Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Senator Roger Wicker in Mississippi, Senator Deb Fischer in Nebraska, Senator Kevin Cramer in North Dakota, Senator Mike Rounds in South Dakota, Senator Marsha Blackburn in Tennessee, Senator Mitt Romney in Utah, and Senator John Barrasso in Wyoming. There will also be a special election in Nebraska where newly appointed Senator Pete Ricketts will run to complete the remainder of former Senator Ben Sasse’s term.

Even further longshot goals for Republicans include unseating Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) in Minnesota, Senator Martin Heinrich (D) in New Mexico, and Senator Angus King (I) in Maine, all of which are considered safe by political pundits. Democrat seats in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont seats are considered safe as well.

As always, much can change depending on the outcomes of the primary elections, which will be determined earlier in 2024 due to the presidential election. The electability of the candidate who wins the primary weighs heavily on the November election results.

Stay tuned. It’s going to be an eventful election year!

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