Here are six races critical to Democrats’ ability to retain the Senate, in order of likelihood. The polls show that they are all very, very close.
Democrats seeking re-election in three swing states – Nevada, Arizona and Georgia – are the most vulnerable senators in the election this year. They’re all relatively new to the job, and although voters in those states chose President Biden over Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, they narrowly did so.
The Democrat: Senator Mark Kelly has an impressive resume: he’s a former astronaut, a prominent gun control advocate and the husband of former Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He is also one of the Senate Democrats’ top fundraisers, raising tens of millions of dollars for re-election. He is running for his first full term after being elected in 2020 to replace the late Republican Senator John McCain, flipping the seat. Of all the vulnerable Democrats on this list, Kelly is the most trusted Democratic strategist. He generally keeps his head down and away from the news and presents himself as a moderate. But Republicans point out that he votes almost exclusively with Democrats and Biden (unlike his fellow Arizona Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema).
The Republican: Blake Masters is one of the most controversial Republican Senate candidates in this year’s midterms. He embraced the call to deny the legitimacy of the 2020 election. (Biden won Arizona, but Republicans there have been particularly engaged in campaign misrepresentation, demanding repeated audits and pushing for major changes in the way elections are conducted in the state.) He also has a habit of making inflammatory remarks: For example, 15 years ago a month ago in an online discussion forum, he praised the words of a Nazi leader. He also pushed hard to the right on abortion, visibly trying to get back to the center as it became clear that voters were discouraged by more extreme ban proposals. (He became national news recently when his website no longer mentioned support for strict abortion bans.) And my colleagues at the Washington Post report that his top donors — former boss and tech baron Peter Thiel and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — fought over who should fund his campaign in his final months.
Suffice it to say, Republican agents are pessimistic about Masters flipping that seat. “The quality of the candidates has a lot to do with the outcome,” McConnell warned this summer. His super PAC went on to pull millions of Masters-only ads.
The GOP’s biggest flip flops on abortion
The Democrat: Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is the first ever Latin American senator, and she found her place in this election running as a lawmaker between Republicans and a nationwide ban on abortion. “There’s no question in my mind that Republicans in the Senate right now — some of them are writing a bill to further restrict abortion in this country,” she said in July. , reports Hannah Knowles of the Post. (It turned out to be prescient.)
But Nevada voters are notoriously difficult to go to the polls. Many in Las Vegas only live there for a few years or work long or irregular hours. And there are signs that the state’s large Latino population is no longer as inclined to vote Democratic as it once was.
The Republican: Adam Laxalt is a fairly well-known name in Nevada politics. He is the grandson of a former Nevada governor and served as the state’s attorney general. But he has opinions on the 2020 presidential election (he said it was “faked”) as well as abortion (his name is Roe vs. Wade a “joke”) which could be a mismatch for a blue-leaning state. He tries to broaden his appeal, saying he doesn’t support a federal abortion ban and talking nonstop about inflation, which has hit Nevada workers particularly hard.
The Democrat: Senator Raphael G. Warnock won a massive victory in 2021 in a runoff for a special election. He is now seeking the full six-year term. What happens when he is re-elected will tell whether his and Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia (alongside Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff) is something Democrats can replicate in the traditionally conservative state.
Warnock is Georgia’s first black senator and a prominent pastor. He is campaigning in rural areas on Biden’s bipartisan victories as more benefits for veterans. But his efforts to get Congress to pass a nationwide suffrage law — Republicans in Georgia passed one of the most restrictive election laws in the country after the 2020 election — failed, disappointing many in his base.
The Republican: Herschel Walker is another controversial Senate candidate. (Feeling a theme with Republicans and those toss-ups?) The domestic violence allegations against him are getting a lot of attention. In an advertisement, his ex-wife recounts “the first time he pointed a gun at my head”. (Walker does not deny the assault, saying he suffered from mental health issues.) There are questions about his business dealings, a charity he is involved with and whether he tried to hide the existence of three of his children. And then there are his blunders: “Don’t we have enough trees around here? he recently said of the fight against climate change. But Walker managed to win the support of top Republicans in the Senate and Trump for his nomination.
If the Democrats hold the three seats above (plus one more that tilts in their favor, Sen. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire), they can retain their delicate 50-50 majority. But they also have a chance to expand it by eliminating some Republicans. Here are some other races to watch:
The Republican: It’s an open seat, with Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R) retiring. GOP voters nominated Mehmet Oz, a star TV doctor who has Trump’s endorsement. He comes across as awkward on the campaign trail and has struggled to downplay his extreme wealth and questions about his Pennsylvania ties. Yet he’s a Republican in a state that voted for Trump in 2016 and almost did so again in 2020.
The Democrat: John Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, is an odd figure in politics: he’s bald, 6-foot-9, tattooed, and campaigns in a hoodie and athletic shorts. He supports policies that align him with the liberal wing of his party, like universal health care, which might be too liberal for this swing state. Another weakness may be that he suffered a severe stroke in primary, originally played it down, and then had to take months off to recover. But he was a savvy campaigner, and a new poll shows him narrowly ahead with Oz.
The Republican: Wisconsin is a tougher — but possible — win for Democrats. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is his party’s most vulnerable senator. He is the only Republican senator to run for office this year in a state that voted for Biden. He’s also dabbled in misinformation in the Trump era, from the coronavirus to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and it’s affecting his popularity in this swing state. (The Jan. 6 congressional committee revealed materials that showed Johnson’s staff tried to give Vice President Mike Pence a list of illegitimate voters that day. “Don’t give him that,” he replied. the Vice President’s staff.) In the past, observers have made the mistake of counting Johnson out prematurely, only for him to surprise almost everyone and win re-election.
The Democrat: Barnes is the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin. He is mostly liberal, young (35) and aims to be Wisconsin’s first black senator. Though he inspires liberals in the state, he also once posed in an “Abolish ICE” t-shirt, and a recent Marquette University Law School poll shows independent voters are drifting away. from Barnes.
The Republican: This is also an open seat, held by an incumbent Republican. JD Vance, a venture capitalist and author, has Trump’s endorsement but has earned a reputation for right-wing rhetoric. His campaign for that open seat struggled to gain momentum.
The Democrat: Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan has made inroads with independent voters, according to a recent poll, but he’s also a Democrat (who votes with Biden most of the time) in a state increasingly hesitant to elect Democrats across the country. State. Ohio, once considered a swing state, is increasingly seen as less competitive for Democrats — it voted for Trump twice.