The Sweep: They Only Need One
This week’s Sweep is all about (and only about) the GOP’s efforts to take back the Senate in 2022. We’ve got some great reported pieces below about the races in Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Alabama. And then some more traditional punditry from me and Chris.
Sarah’s Quick Take:
They only need one. And it sounds so easy. Since Richard Nixon, five of the seven presidents have lost at least one Senate seat in their first midterm—Obama lost six and Clinton lost eight. But kind of like how all politics is local, all campaign cycles are different. Republicans already have four big retirements to deal with, in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri—and that doesn’t count either Iowa’s Chuck Grassley (who is 87 years old) or Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson (who said in 2016 he wouldn’t run again), neither of whom have yet declared their intentions. Those four states will host bruising and expensive primaries, and it’s not hard to imagine 2022’s version of Todd Akin winning one of them.
The midterm curse really applies only to the House … unless you’re a Democratic president. While presidents of both parties have been almost equally afflicted by first-term losses in the House—an average of 22 seats going back to Ronald Reagan—it’s different for the Senate. No Republican president has overseen first-term Senate losses since Gerald Ford in 1974, and he had some other stuff going on that fall. Meanwhile, every Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson in 1966 has seen his Senate conference shrink.
As Republicans have become the rural party and Democrats the urban party, it’s helped the GOP in the Senate. As Democrats never tire of pointing out, the Senate is not about representing individuals, but rather the states themselves. The Cook Political Report classifies 18 states as Democratic leaning, two (New Hampshire and Nevada) as dead even, and the other 30 as leaning Republican. If 60 percent of the states are at least a little Republican-leaning, that’s a nice head start for the red team.