ThePollsters Republicans Have A Clear Path To Retaking The Senate In 2024

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Geoffrey Skelley

2024 Election

Republicans Have A Clear Path To Retaking The Senate In 2024​

Raphael Warnock’s victory in Georgia provides a small buffer for Democrats, but they still have a ton of vulnerable seats.​

By Geoffrey Skelley

Dec. 7, 2022, at 11:18 AM

U.S. midterm runoff election in Georgia

After running four campaigns in two years, Sen. Raphael Warnock won’t be on the ballot again until 2028 — but at least 23 of his Democratic colleagues are up for reelection in 2024, giving Republicans a leg up in their attempt to retake the chamber.
Carlos Barria / REUTERS

In a bit of electoral déjà vu, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won Georgia’s runoff on Tuesday, almost two years after he won a special election runoff to help hand Democrats a narrow 50-50 majority in the Senate via Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. This time around, Warnock topped Republican Herschel Walker to earn a full six-year term, which will have major ramifications for how the new Senate will conduct business in January. Warnock’s win gives Democrats 51 seats — including independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — so the Democratic caucus will no longer have to constantly rely on Harris to break ties. Democrats will also now have majorities on each committee and will be able to more easily confirm President Biden’s judicial appointments.

Yet if we look even further into the future, it turns out the Georgia outcome could also play a role in deciding which party controls the Senate after the next election. The good news for Democrats is that they will have 51 seats instead of 50, which gives them a chance to maintain control even if they lose one seat, depending on whether the next vice president is a Democrat or Republican. The good news for Republicans, however, is that the 2024 Senate map puts them in a better position to take control of the chamber than it does for Democrats to hold onto it.

Democrats have more than twice as many Senate seats to defend in 2024 as Republicans, an imbalance that gives the GOP a clear path to capturing the Senate — even if the Georgia result has given Democrats a little breathing room. At present, 34 Senate seats will be up for election,1 and of those, Democrats (including the independent senators who caucus with them) hold 23 to the GOP’s 11, as the table below shows.

Democrats must defend many Senate seats — some quite red​

Seats in the U.S. Senate up for election in 2024 by the state’s margin in the 2020 presidential election

StateCurrent incumbentParty2020 Pres. Margin
WYJohn BarrassoRR+43.4
WVJoe ManchinDR+38.9
NDKevin CramerRR+33.4
TNMarsha BlackburnRR+23.2
UTMitt RomneyRR+20.3
NEDeb FischerRR+19.1
NEBen Sasse*RR+19.1
MSRoger WickerRR+16.5
MTJon TesterDR+16.4
INMike BraunRR+16.1
MOJosh HawleyRR+15.4
OHSherrod BrownDR+8.0
TXTed CruzRR+5.6
FLRick ScottRR+3.4
AZKyrsten SinemaDD+0.3
WITammy BaldwinDD+0.6
PABob Casey Jr.DD+1.2
NVJacky RosenDD+2.4
MIDebbie StabenowDD+2.8
MNAmy KlobucharDD+7.1
MEAngus King†ID+9.1
VATim KaineDD+10.1
NMMartin HeinrichDD+10.8
NJBob MenendezDD+15.9
DETom CarperDD+19.0
WAMaria CantwellDD+19.2
CTChris MurphyDD+20.0
RISheldon WhitehouseDD+20.8
NYKirsten GillibrandDD+23.1
CADianne FeinsteinDD+29.1
HIMazie HironoDD+29.5
MDBen CardinDD+33.2
MAElizabeth WarrenDD+33.5
VTBernie Sanders†ID+35.4

*Sasse announced plans to resign in early 2023 to become president of the University of Florida, which will precipitate a special election for the seat in November 2024. But the seat should remain in Republican hands as the incoming governor is a Republican who will almost certainly appoint a Republican to the seat.

†King and Sanders caucus with Senate Democrats.

Sources: Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, U.S. Senate

That Democrats have so many seats to defend in 2024 is a byproduct of past electoral success. Each class of Senate seats is up every six years,2 so the group of seats up in 2024 was previously up in 2018 and each six-year mark prior to that. In 1994, Republicans enjoyed a wave election in which they gained eight Senate seats. But ever since, Democrats have developed a sizable advantage among this batch of seats: In 2000, Democrats gained four seats amid a razor-tight presidential election; in 2006, they gained six seats thanks to a midterm Democratic wave;3 in 2012, Democrats gained two more thanks to upset wins in North Dakota and Indiana; and in 2018, they lost two net seats but managed to pick up a seat in increasingly competitive Arizona while avoiding more sizable losses by holding onto seats in Montana, Ohio and West Virginia.

But as a result, Democrats now must defend the now red-leaning seats of Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. All three won reelection in 2018, but those elections took place in a heavily Democratic-leaning environment that they can’t count on having again in 2024. In addition to those three redder seats, Republicans will surely also target swing-state seats in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Though Republicans have ample pickup opportunities, Democrats can realistically hope to flip only two GOP-held seats in 2024: Florida and Texas. Still, given the strong Republican showings in Florida recently and the inability of Texas Democrats to break through statewide, even as the state has become a lighter shade of red, the GOP incumbents will likely start as favorites in these seats in a way that isn’t true for Brown, Manchin and Tester.

Looming over each of these Senate contests is the presidential race that will undoubtedly influence down-ballot outcomes. In recent years, the party that carries a state in the presidential contest has usually won its Senate race. In 2020, just one of 35 Senate races went for a different party from the one that carried the state in the presidential election (Maine), while in 2016 all 34 Senate elections went for the same party that carried the state at the presidential level, as the chart below shows.

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