Articles

The GOP’s 2024 Senate Opportunities

March 09, 2023
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Every fish gets its turn in the barrel. That goes for both Republicans and Democrats.

Senate Republicans got their turn in 2022, when 21 of their seats were up, compared with 14 Democratic seats. No Democratic seat was in a state Donald Trump carried in 2020, while two GOP seats were in states Joe Biden won—Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Republicans lost the Pennsylvania seat, left open by the retirement of Sen. Pat Toomey, and couldn’t offset that with a pickup in Arizona, Georgia or Nevada. That gave Democrats control of the Senate, 51-49.

But in 2024 Senate Democrats will be on the defensive, with 23 seats up while Republicans have 11. Democrats face an uphill struggle, though how difficult is yet to be determined.

Democrats don’t have a realistic shot at winning any Senate seats up in 2024 now held by Republicans. Ten are in states Republicans have won by big margins for a quarter-century—Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming—and the remaining seat is in Florida, which has recently moved solidly into the GOP column.

By comparison, three Democratic Senate seats are up in states where Republicans are on a presidential winning spree. The GOP has carried West Virginia and Montana the last six presidential races and Ohio in four of six. Mr. Biden is likely to do about as badly next year in those states as he did in 2020. (He lost West Virginia by 39 points, Montana by 16, and Ohio by 8.)

Democrats do have two advantages in these three states in 2024: The incumbents are battle-tested, and they will likely outspend their GOP opponents massively. 

In West Virginia in 2018, Sen. Joe Manchin eked out a second-term win by 3.3 points over Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Money played a role. Not including super PAC spending, Mr. Manchin spent nearly $8.9 million to Mr. Morrisey’s almost $5.6 million, according to the campaign-finance monitoring site Open Secrets. Mr. Morrisey remains attorney general and is interested in running, as is Rep. Alex Mooney, but if popular Gov. Jim Justice runs, he would immediately become the favorite and give the Republicans a great shot at flipping the seat. 

In Montana five years ago, Sen. Jon Tester beat State Auditor Matt Rosendale by 3.5 points after outspending the Republican $20.5 million to $5.5 million. Mr. Rosendale has since been elected to the House but hasn’t become a better candidate or fundraiser. The GOP will need a different standard-bearer to be confident of beating Mr. Tester.

Then there’s Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who has worked hard to hold on to the non-college-educated whites whose shifting allegiance turned this quintessential swing state red. He beat Republican Rep. Jim Renacci in 2018 by 6.8 points, spending $27.8 million to Mr. Renacci’s $4.6 million.

All three incumbent Democrats are wily campaigners but beatable. The road to a victory starts with Senate Republicans getting high-quality candidates to run. While primaries can be healthy, GOP leadership must also help avoid highly divisive contests that leave the party split, exhausted, broke and with a freakish nominee. 

Six other Democratic seats could be at risk in 2024. Four are in states Republicans won in 2016 but lost in 2020—Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Two others are in states that Democrats only narrowly carried in recent White House contests—Minnesota and Nevada.

Every fish gets its turn in the barrel. That goes for both Republicans and Democrats.

Senate Republicans got their turn in 2022, when 21 of their seats were up, compared with 14 Democratic seats. No Democratic seat was in a state Donald Trump carried in 2020, while two GOP seats were in states Joe Biden won—Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Republicans lost the Pennsylvania seat, left open by the retirement of Sen. Pat Toomey, and couldn’t offset that with a pickup in Arizona, Georgia or Nevada. That gave Democrats control of the Senate, 51-49.

But in 2024 Senate Democrats will be on the defensive, with 23 seats up while Republicans have 11. Democrats face an uphill struggle, though how difficult is yet to be determined.

Democrats don’t have a realistic shot at winning any Senate seats up in 2024 now held by Republicans. Ten are in states Republicans have won by big margins for a quarter-century—Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming—and the remaining seat is in Florida, which has recently moved solidly into the GOP column.

Read More at the WSJ

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