The better part of two years is several lifetimes in American politics but I want to take a look at what the Senate races will look like in 2022. Let’s explore.
Between retirements (which we will briefly discuss below), scandals, deaths and other circumstances (some of which we will also touch on below) the only thing certain about the 2022 Senate races is that it will change. At this point the Republicans will have to defend 20 seats and the Democrats 14. Advantage: Democrats.
Now all seats are not equal so we have to look at some of the more questionable or vulnerable ones. I feel the Republicans have as many as 6 seats that could be vulnerable. Richard Burr is retiring in North Carolina which is a purple state. At this point the GOP primary looks to be a wild affair. Chuck Grassley of Iowa (another swing state) will be 89 on Election Day 2022 so a retirement there wouldn’t be a shock and a Republican other than Grassley would be vulnerable. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rob Portman of Ohio and Marco Rubio of Florida are all up in purple states making them vulnerable; of late Florida and Ohio are purple but leaning red. Pat Toomey is retiring in Pennsylvania so that seat looks very vulnerable. The saving grace for the Republicans may be that 2022 is a mid-term and Democrats traditionally have a turnout problem in mid-term elections.
Before I leave the GOP I have to cover two other seats that are interesting to me. John Kennedy is up in Louisiana. Normally I would say he is close to a sure bet. However, I don’t know what the backlash to or repercussions of his vote to contest the 2020 election will be. In any event that seat is likely to remain Republican.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska presents a unique situation. I don’t see her getting knocked out in November of 2022 but there is the outside chance she will declare herself to be an independent and caucus with the Democrats. Murkowski won her last term as a write-in; she really doesn’t need the Republican ballot line. (Joe Manchin of West Virginia switching parties – no independent for Joe – is also a possibility if you are looking at that aspect of the near term Senate future.)
I see four possible vulnerable Democratic seats at this point. Maggie Hassan is up in New Hampshire which is the only real swing state in New England. At this point I’d say she ends up winning but it won’t either be easy or by a huge margin. Patrick Leahy will be 82 on Election Day 2022 so retirement is a distinct possibility. It’s difficult to envision Vermont electing a Republican to the Senate but a Leahy retirement would open up the race somewhat.
Mark Kelly in Arizona and Raphael Warnock in Georgia will be running for a full term in swing states. That is not a recipe for complacency. I think an interesting factor will be at play in Georgia in that I feel Stacey Abrams will be running for Governor. That should assure a large African-American voter turnout which will favor the Democrats. Watch for Georgia Republicans (and it will not only be in Georgia) to institute as many voter suppression actions as possible between now and the fall of 2022. It will be interesting to see if Georgia gets rid of its Jim Crow era 50% or runoff rule in the wake of it costing it David Perdue and in the process the Senate.
A last wild card on the Democratic side before I go is Alex Padilla in California. That seat is a secure as any and will be occupied by a Democrat in 2022; I’m just not sure it will be occupied by Padilla. The “Democratic bench” is extremely deep in California and I could see a primary challenger(s). In fact California has a modified jungle primary system and I could see the two finalist both being Democrats.
At this point the biggest difference between 2022 and 2020 is that an obvious flip (i.e. Doug Jones) isn’t apparent. There is a long way between here and there but at this point the numbers look good for the Democrats.
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