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Handicapping the 2024 Senate Map
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Handicapping the 2024 Senate Map

Prepare for a real battle for control of the upper chamber next year.

Happy Monday! Just four more days until you can start openly listening to Christmas music without fear of reprisals from the holiday police.

Up to Speed

  • Former first lady Rosalynn Carter died Sunday at her Georgia home at the age of 96. In a statement, Jimmy Carter, 99, called her “my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” who “gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it.” The former president entered hospice care in February; the former first lady had entered hospice care on Friday after a May diagnosis of dementia. The two were married for 77 years.
  • President Joe Biden, who turns 81 today, will hold court this afternoon for the White House’s annual pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkeys. As he does every year, the president will spend the holiday in Nantucket with his family.
  • Meanwhile, Biden’s poll numbers continue to droop: The latest NBC News presidential poll, released Sunday, found low-water marks for his approval and his strength in a potential rematch against Donald Trump. The former president led Biden 46 percent to 44 percent in the poll—a result within the margin of error, but the worst showing for him yet in NBC News’ polling.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who entered the fiscal quarter unexpectedly low on cash, raised $2 million across five Florida fundraisers last week, Axios reported Friday.
  • Former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley got a surprise presidential endorsement Friday from a major Iowa GOP activist: Marlys Popma, the former executive director of the state party and former president of Iowa Right to Life. “I was an undecided voter when I walked in here today, and I am no longer an undecided voter,” she told Haley from the crowd at an event in Newton. “And I just want to tell Nikki that I wholeheartedly support you.”

Sketching Out the Senate Map for 2024

Sen. Joe Manchin talks with Sen. Jon Tester as they arrive for a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on October 31, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Sen. Joe Manchin talks with Sen. Jon Tester as they arrive for a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on October 31, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Obscured by the day-to-day of the 2024 battle for the White House is another political showdown brewing between Democrats and Republicans: The race for control of the United States Senate.

The Democrats are defending a narrow 51-seat majority, owed to the fact the Senate’s three independents caucus with their party. The GOP, therefore, would only need to flip two seats in 2024 to recapture the majority—or one, if the Republican presidential nominee wins the White House and his or her vice president can cast tie-breaking votes as the president of the Senate.

Sounds doable, right? Well, that’s what Republicans thought leading up to the 2022 midterm elections.

At this time in 2021, Republicans were confident they could win the one seat they needed to demote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and reinstall Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky into the chamber’s top post. Every two years, roughly one-third of the Senate is up for reelection, and Republicans had the benefit of an unpopular Democratic president, Joe Biden, and a favorable map of seats to run in—seats in red states and swing states. The Democrats were on their heels all over the place. So what happened?

Democrats actually grew their majority, flipping one Republican-held seat in swing state Pennsylvania.

With all of this in mind, below you’ll find a review of the contests to watch in the race for Senate control. But first, a word about deep red West Virginia. With Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announcing his retirement earlier this month, Republicans are almost assured of flipping this seat, especially because popular Gov. Jim Justice is likely to be the GOP nominee. For Democrats, Manchin’s retirement was disappointing but clarifying about where they need to invest resources—and where they don’t. For Republicans, his exit was energizing.

“After Manchin’s retirement, it’s clear Democrats have no path in West Virginia. That means we just need one more pickup for a 51 seat majority,” Mike Berg, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told The Dispatch. “We are confident we will get the job done given the strength of our recruits across the map.”

Arizona is a battleground state. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is an independent who disaffiliated with the Democratic Party last year. Should she run for reelection—she has yet to announce her intentions on that front—she’ll likely have to contend with Kari Lake, the Republican who lost her bid for the governor’s mansion in 2022, and Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat. A recent poll from the nonpartisan Arizona firm Noble Predictive Insights looked like this: Gallego 39 percent; Lake 33 percent; Sinema 29 percent. If Sinema does announce for reelection, it’s unclear which of the other candidates she might hurt more: Gallego or Lake.

Michigan is a battleground state. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, is retiring, sparking crowded primaries on both sides of the aisle. In the Democratic Party, all eyes are on Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and moderate viewed as having the inside track to the nomination. Also running on the Democratic side: actor Hill Harper. In the GOP, former Reps. Peter Meijer and Mike Rogers are running, as is retired Detroit Police Chief James Craig. In a recent poll from EPIC-MRA, Slotkin edged Rogers 39 percent to 37 percent. As yet, there has been no reliable polling, publicly available, gauging the state of the GOP primary.

Montana is a red state. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, is running for reelection. The NRSC is backing former Navy Seal Tim Sheehy in the Republican primary, concerned that Rep. Matt Rosendale—a hardline conservative and member of the House Freedom Caucus—would lose to Tester, just as he did in 2018, if he runs and wins the nomination. Other Senate Republicans have endorsed Sheehy and some, like Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have gone out of their way to criticize Rosendale and discourage him from running. We don’t have any recent polling, but expect this contest to be a doozy. Tester was first elected to the Senate in 2006 and has won reelection two times, despite Montana’s overwhelming preference for the GOP. He will be difficult to dislodge.

Ohio is a red state. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is running for reelection. A spirited Republican primary is underway, featuring state Sen. Matt Dolan, businessman Bernie Moreno, and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Dolan and Moreno ran unsuccessfully for the GOP Senate nomination in 2022, with Dolan running in part as a critic of Donald Trump and Moreno with a full embrace of Trump. LaRose, meanwhile, disputed Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020 but has since endorsed the former president. Like Tester, Brown has survived Republican challenges before in a state that has reddened in recent years. He will not be easy to beat. In recent polling from Emerson, the senator led all potential GOP challengers.

Nevada is a battleground state. Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, is running for reelection. Republicans often think they have the Democrats on the ropes in the Silver State, only to come up short. Such was the case last year, when Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection over former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt. The likely Republican nominee this time around is Sam Brown, a combat veteran who has the NRSC’s blessing. Brown sought the Republican nomination in 2022 but lost handily to Laxalt.

Pennsylvania is a battleground state. Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, is running for reelection. Casey is a wilier Democrat than given credit for, understanding his state and routinely finding ways to win. But with Dave McCormick the de facto GOP nominee, top Republicans believe they finally have the right candidate to take down Casey. McCormick narrowly lost his bid for the party’s Senate nod to Dr. Mehmet Oz in 2022 and has spent the last 18 months immersed in Pennsylvania GOP politics, making him more experienced than your typical challenger. Casey leads McCormick in the RealClearPolitics polling average, 45.7 percent to 38.7 percent.

There are a few other races on our radar, depending on how the election year unfolds: Florida, where Republican Sen. Rick Scott is running for reelection; Texas, where Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is running for reelection; and Wisconsin, where Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin is running for reelection. Overall, the most competitive states one year out from the election would appear to jeopardize the Democrats’ majority. But they are expressing confidence in their prospects. 

“Senate campaigns are candidate-versus-candidate battles, and we’ve got the better candidates,” said David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Our Senate Democrats are battle tested, they’re backed by their own unique coalition of voters, and they’re running against deeply flawed Republicans who are on the wrong side of issues voters care about.”

Notable & Quotable

“The happiest person anywhere in this country right now is Jimmy Carter, because his administration looked brilliant compared to these clowns. Compared to Biden, Jimmy Carter was a brilliant, brilliant president.”

Former President Donald Trump at an event in Fort Dodge, Iowa, November 18, 2023

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.