While Republicans are likely to win back the House in 2022, thanks to redistricting and historical trends, the Democrats' chances in the U.S. Senate are substantially better. Let's look at the most competitive races.
Pennsylvania: The incumbent Republican Pat Toomey is retiring. The state tilts to the Democrats, but is still highly competitive. Democrats have two strong candidates, moderate Rep. Conor Lamb and the more progressive and more charismatic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. The Republican candidates, including Jeff Barttos, Sean Parnell (who lost a congressional seat to Lamb) and former congressional candidate Kathy Barnette, are much lower profile. Assuming Lamb and Fetterman don't kill each other in the primary, the Democrat nominated will probably win the general election. Democratic Pickup.
Wisconsin: Much hinges on whether Republican Senator Ron Johnson announces he is running for re-election. But unlike in most races, the incumbent choosing to run for re-election would be a major negative for the party holding the seat. Senator Johnson has become of the leading conspiracists in the Senate, a person on the outer fringe of respectability. He has zero appeal to Democrats or independents. Running strictly on the GOP base in Wisconsin is not enough to win a general election. Democratic Pickup
Arizona: Astronaut Mark Kelly is running for a full-six year term after defeating Republican Martha McSally. While Kelly's election in 2020 was much closer than observers expected, I doubt Republicans will be able to muster a credible candidate against Kelly who has fashioned himself as a moderate. You see, the Arizona GOP has gone full tin-foil hate crazy. Any Republican candidate winning the nomination would have to embrace the Arizona GOP lunacy which would doom him or her for the fall. Democratic Hold.
Georgia: Like Kelly, Senator Raphael Warnock is looking for a full six year term after being first elected in a special election. While the Georgia GOP is not as crazy as the Arizona Republican Party, it has its share of crazies. These include Georgia members of Congress Marjorie Taylor Green, Jody Hice and Andrew Clyde, who infamously said the insurrection of the Capitol was a "normal tourist visit." Unfortunately for the Republicans, crazy may be required to win the Senate nomination. Right now the leader for the GOP nomination is former football star Herschel Walker who has a troubled background, including being diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (not sure if he will claim his 12 different personalities each get a vote in the Senate), having been accused of violence against his ex-wife, and his playing Russian Roulette with visitors. With the lower turnout of a midterm, Republicans should have been able to pick up this seat but are unlikely to do so. Democratic Hold.
North Carolina: Republican Senator Richard Burr is retiring. But North Carolina is still a Republican state, even more so in a lower turnout mid-term election. Trump has weighed in behind congressman Ted Budd's effort to win the GOP nomination. He's facing off against Trump apologist Pat McCrory, a former Governor. Former Rep. Mark Walker is also running. The Democratic candidates are much lower profile. Unless the Democrats can find a bigger name moderate to nominate, you have to put this one in the GOP column. Republican Hold.
Ohio: Republican Senator Rob Portman is retiring. Republicans should win this, but they have a problem. The GOP nomination has become a contest to see who can be the most extreme. "Hillbilly Elegy" author JD Vance and former state treasurer Josh Mandel right now are leading the pack when it comes to crazy. Former state Republican chairwoman Jane Tinken though has been leading the polls. If Timkin wins the nomination, the Republicans should be favored to win. But if Vance or Mandel wins, you have to think to think the Democrat Tim Ryan, a moderate in the mold of the other state's senator, Democratic Sherrod Brown, might be favored. While Tinken is desperately trying to head off a Trump endorsement of Vance or Mandel, I don't think she will be successful. Democratic Pickup.
Missouri: The incumbent Roy Blunt, a Republicans with a temperament similar to Portman's, has decided to call it quits. Missouri though is even a more Republican and Trumpy state than Ohio. The GOP would have to completely blow the nominating process to lose a Missouri Senate seat to the Democrats. The Republican Party though is working on that. Leading in the polls is former Governor Eric Greitens who resigned from office following allegations of sexual and campaign misconduct which were so bad that the Republican-dominated legislature was ready to impeach him. The problem for Republicans is compounded by the fact that there may be so many other Republicans in the race that Greitens wins the nomination with a small plurality of the vote. Democrats meanwhile are struggling to find a strong candidate to take advantage of the GOP nominating mess. Former Governor Jay Nixon and Rep. Ann Wagner though took a pass. Republican Hold.
Florida: Democrats did very well on candidate recruitment in the Sunshine State. Rep. Val Demmings, who raised nearly $4.7 million last quarter, is a strong contender.. Some months ago, Demmings decided to pass on taking on popular Governor Ron DeSantis to instead focus on beating Senator Marco Rubio. That now looks like a mistake. While Rubio's numbers have held, DeSantis' poll numbers have fallen dramatically. I have to give the edge to Rubio. Republican Hold.
Nevada: Republicans spun the candidate roulette wheel and won. Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced he will take on Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro. While Mastro has considerable money in the bank, she is a lower profile Senator who is not as flashy as some of her Senate colleagues. Nevada is also one of the few states which has become more Republican during the Trump era. I think in a good Republican year, Laxalt wins this race. Republican Pickup.
New Hampshire: Republicans desperately want Governor Chris Sununu to take on the incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan. If he doesn't, former Senator Kelly Ayotte, who barely lost to Hassan in 2016 might toss her hat into the ring. While New Hampshire is a Democratic state, it is still competitive and an independent-minded Republican could win the state. I reserve the right to change this prediction, but right now I have to give it to Hassan. Democratic Hold.
To sum, right now I would guess the Democrats have a 52-48 majority after the midterms.
OOP's short takes:
- A funny thing happened on the way to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis winning the 2024 GOP presidential nomination...he lost his 2022 re-election bid. That could very well happen. DeSantis has tried so hard to placate the Trump base that he forgot that Florida is a competitive state and that, to win re-election, he needs the votes of some independents and maybe even a few Democrats.
- DeSantis' poll numbers have fallen dramatically. A recent Political Matrix/The Listener Group poll has Charlie Crist, a former Republican Governor who became a former Democratic congressman, leading DeSantis 57% to 43%. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the highest elected Democrat in Florida, leads DeSantis 54% to 46% in the same poll. In the middle of June, this same polling outfit had DeSantis with a 9 point lead on Crist and a 22 point lead on Fried. So in two months DeSantis' numbers have slid 23 points against Crist and 30 points against Fried. Someone pull the fire alarm in DeSantis' re-election headquarters. These polls are in line with others conducted in the state.