Even though the 2022 midterm elections were only a month ago, the campaign for 2024 has already begun. It’s too early to speculate who will be the Democrat or Republican party nominees for President, but we do know what the Congressional landscape looks like. In addition to President, every single U.S. Representative is up for election, and one-third of the Senate or 33 seats. Heading into a high turnout election cycle, we have an unpopular Democrat in the White House, a razor-thin albeit 51-49 Democrat majority in the Senate, and a 5-seat Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Arguably, all three are up for grabs, but the most consequential prize resides on the north side of Capitol Hill. Here’s a look at the Senate map heading into 2024.
Democrats are about to go back to playing defense as they try to hold onto 23 of the 33 seats up in 2024, some of which are in competitive battleground states. Of those, three Democrat incumbents are running in states that Donald Trump won in 2020 – Ohio, Montana, and West Virginia. Republicans will be playing pick up ball in these states and competing in others given the lack of resources needed to defend Republican held seats. The two Republican Senators who won by the slimmest margins in 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), also have the wind at their back as both states shifted to the right in the 2022 midterm elections. In other words, Democrats have no pick up opportunities on the horizon in 2024.
In addition, Sen. Kristen Sinema threw a curveball into Democratic plans when she announced earlier this month that she will be leaving the Democratic Party and filing as an Independent in her 2024 run. Such a move makes it even more likely that Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) runs for the Democrat nomination thus boosting the prospects of the Republican nominee.
On the other hand, Republicans enjoy defending a lesser number of seats in reliably red states. In fact, there are no Republican incumbents up for election in 2024 in states that President Joe Biden won. Republicans will be targeting Democrat incumbents in the battleground states of Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
There is also the factor of incumbents retiring or seeking other office. It’s very early, but so far, Republican Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) has announced he is not running for re-election in 2024, and is running for governor. Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN) who just finished a cycle as Chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Commission, announced he is considering running to replace Braun in the solidly red state. Other incumbents that are likely to retire include Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), who would be 91 and 81 years old in 2024, respectively. One possible retirement that could be competitive is Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) who was first elected to that seat in 2000 and who will be 74 years old in 2024.
When taken altogether, the Democrats face a daunting, unforgiving map that puts Democrats on the backfoot with essentially no pickup opportunities. Senate Republicans have already announced their next campaign chief, Sen. Steven Daines (R-MT) who will take over for Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) as the next Chairman of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee (NRSC). Daines is in a much more envious position then whoever Senate Democrats pick to be their next campaign chief, but given the uphill battle many are urging 2022 DSCC Chairman Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) to stay on the job.
As was true this past cycle, when looking at the Senate map in 2024, Republicans will have the wind at their backs. It remains to be seen if Sen. Daines will get the NRSC involved in Republican primary contests to ensure high caliber candidates, unlike his predecessor who stayed out of primary contests. It is absolutely essential for Republicans to nominate the strongest candidates possible who can win on Election Day if they are to have any chance of taking back the Senate in a high-stakes presidential election year. It’s still early, but the Senate map clearly favors the GOP but it’s up to them to win it.
Bob Carlstrom is President of AMAC Action
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