Especially considering the developments of last week I thought it was a good time to take a look at the outlook for the 2024 Senate races.
Let’s “set the table” first. The current Senate is 48+3=51 to 49. There are 48 Democrats and three independents who caucus with them giving them a controlling majority along with 49 Republicans. 23 seats currently occupied by senators caucusing with the Democrats are up in November and only 11 on the Republican side. There is nothing unfair about that. It is simply the way it fell this cycle.
Assuming Joe Biden is reelected – which is far from a certainty at this writing – the Republicans have to net two seats in order to take over the chamber. Should Donald Trump win that number is reduced to one.
That brings the strategist in any of us to look at pickup opportunities. The way I see it the Democrats don’t have any great pickup opportunities. Florida and Texas are somewhat longshots but we have to speak of something today. Both Rick Scott of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas have done terrible jobs in the Senate, but both states, while close, have a definite red tint to them. Texas is becoming purple from deep red and Florida is becoming red from purple.
Mitch McConnell has long controlled the big Republican senate money. I’m certain he is not a member of the Ted Cruz Fan Club but I doubt he’ll cut Cruz off. More than anything else McConnell wants to return to the majority leader post before he retires.
Scott may be another case. Scott has more openly challenged McConnell (and lost). If McConnell thinks Scott can win sans his money, he will spend it elsewhere. Also, if McConnell feels he can gain the majority without Florida he will leave Scott to fend for himself.
Now to the other side. I think there are nine states that at this point the Republicans can legitimately view as pickup opportunities. I’m certainly not saying they will take all nine; in fact, I would bet against that. The nine are Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. This requires a bit of explanation and exploration.
With the Democrat retiring, Maryland has an open seat in a very blue state. Last week former Republican Governor Larry Hogan declared and he has a legitimate chance of winning. This seat, while it well may stay in the Democratic column, just became very expensive to defend.
A lot will depend on the Democratic primary in New Jersey. Again, a very blue state but in the unlikely event that a “wounded” incumbent Robert Menendez wins the primary it will also require more funds that earlier expected to defend. The good news is that I don’t think Menendez will end up being the Democratic candidate in November.
Montana is a challenging place for a Democrat and I’ll state that I think Jon Tester is one of the very few capable of accomplishing that feat. Last week Republican Representative Matt Rosendale threw his hat into the ring. Rosendale has won statewide in Montana which makes him very formidable. An already expensive race may have gotten more costly and even tighter.
With nominal Democrat Joe Manchin retiring I think West Virginia is gone.
Arizona is truly the Wild, Wild West at this point. Elected as a Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema has yet to announce a decision as to whether or not she will run. In any event I expect Ruben Gallego to be the Democrats candidate and hope the Republicans run one of their nutcases (probably Keri Lake). Too much is undetermined at this point but in any event this one will be close and expensive.
As far as I’m concerned, the dust hasn’t settled on just what is left of and who controls the Harry Reid machine in Nevada and when firing on all cylinders that can definitely swing an election the Democrats’ way. This could be another nail biter.
Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are to a great degree purple states these days. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Democrats hold on to all three seats but it won’t be cheap or easy.
A silver lining in the Democrats’ cloud is that the Republican state parties in both Arizona and Michigan are in disarray. It is difficult to run an effective ground game without a good state party infrastructure.
Another is that Donald Trump is sucking up the small dollar donations on the GOP side meaning there will be fewer for Republican Senate candidates than usual.
The 2024 Senate race is shaping up to be a resource allocation problem for the Democratic puppet masters and the dearest resource is money. I talked about money a lot today. It is the lifeblood of American elections whether we want to admit it or not and it will be a huge factor in the 2024 Senate elections.
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