The Race for the Senate in 2022
In a year and a half, a crop of new senators and old incumbents will be making dramatic changes to the political composition of the US Senate. Today, it is perfectly balanced with Republicans and Democrats both holding 50 seats. For ties, Vice President Harris becomes the tie breaker,
That means each senate seat is critical and a shift of one senate seat in the 2022 election will dramatically impact the Biden agenda and the Republican opposition to the Democratic agenda.
Although it is early in the election cycle and many potential candidates, especially the most electable ones, are still measuring their chances, we can look at the trends that will determine the control of the Senate.
It is a sort of a tradition that the president’s party will lose both house and senate seats in an off year election. These off year elections give voters an opportunity to voice their concerns about how the country is being run.
This should be true in 2022; however, there are other factors to consider. Unlike House elections, which take place across the nation, only 34 states will have a senate election. Therefore, those 34 states will have a bigger impact on the results and those results will depend on incumbency, the state’s leanings (Republican or Democrat), and specific personalities.
Off year elections are more dependent on who turns out to vote – called turnout differential. Traditionally, voters who oppose the president are more likely to vote because they are more enthusiastic. Voters who like the incumbent are more likely to stay home.
That enthusiasm for the president is critical. A popular president does encourage his voters to come out in off year elections. Those who support the president but are not that enthusiastic are more likely to stay home on Election Day. The same can be said about the president’s key legislative agenda. Excitement about the president’s agenda will encourage his supporters to turn out.
This poses a problem for Biden. Polling shows him to be running around the 50-55% in approval – and much of that is soft. These are not the numbers that indicate Biden voters rushing to the polls on Election Day. Unless the economy kicks into high gear, he will have problems given the fact that many of his programs are stuck in legislative limbo.
One problem for Biden is college educated white voters, who are reliable voters in off term elections. They went for Biden in 2020 by 54% to 46%, which is a thin margin. A shift in who votes will give this demographic to the GOP.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of these voting demographics will not really show up until the first 2022 polls start coming in.
Although the “off year election” factor is in the Republican favor, the makeup of the senate seats up for election this year favors the Democrats. There are 34 seats that will have elections this year – 20 seats are held by Republicans and 14 for Democrats. That means that Republicans have more seats to protect, and Democrats have more seats that they can pick to focus their energy and money on.
Two of those seats are in states that voted for Biden in 2020 (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). However, both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania only went to Biden by about one percentage point, so if Biden voters stay home, the Republicans hold those seats.
The Democrats also have some seats that could be taken by Republicans. They are Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and New Hampshire.
Here is a run-down of these vulnerable six states.
Senator Mark Kelly, husband of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords defeated Senator Martha McSally for the remainder of the late Senator McCain seat’s term. Although Kelly painted himself as a moderate, he has come across to be labeled by opponents as the most liberal of the two Arizona Democratic Senators.
Kelly is also anti-gun in a state that consistently ranks in Guns and Ammo magazine, as the most gun friendly state.
The fact is that McSally was a weak campaigner and Kelly only won 51.2% of the vote.
Although several people have expressed interest in the senate seat, only one Republican, with serious credentials has announced he will run – Mark Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General. He has a record fighting undocumented immigration, fighting Google on privacy issues and election reform (which he won at the Supreme Court this week). In a state with more Republican voters than Democrat voters, he has a good chance to turn this seat Republican again.
Senator Rapheal Warnock won this seat in January with 51.04% of the vote. He is filling the unexpired term of former Senator Isakson. This will be a battleground election with the polls remarkably close.
Although three Republicans have declared, the state is waiting for Herschel Walker, a former professional football player to announce. Walker is a friend of former President Donald Trump and served on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.
Walker was a star football player for several professional football teams, including the Dallas Cowboys. He played college football at the University of Georgia, is Black and will receive the endorsement of Trump. He has also received the endorsement of Senator Lindsey Graham (R, SC).
Walker is a successful businessman, and arguably the best football athlete to ever play for the University of Georgia. In a state where SEC college football is a passion, that gives him a strong start for winning the senate seat.
Expect Trump to be making a lot of visits to Georgia next year.
Although Nevada is trending Democratic, this is considered a potential pick-off by the GOP.
The incumbent is Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who won in 2016 by 47.19% of the vote. Having won by a minority of the vote, she is considered vulnerable.
Her likely opponent is Adam Laxalt, former Nevada Attorney General. Laxalt has endorsements from Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Republican Florida Senator Scott.
Nevada only went for Biden in 2020 with 50.06% of the vote.
Only 2 out of 5 voters in New Hampshire view Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan favorably according to a poll taken earlier this year. For an incumbent, those are disastrous numbers.
So far, she has only one declared candidate to run against her on the Republican ticket – Donald Bolduc, a former special forces Brigadier General. However, the current Republican governor, Chris Sununu, has expressed interest.
A poll taken in February shows Hassan leading Bolduc with 52%. However, Sununu would be a more competitive candidate.
Republican Senator Pat Toomey has announced that he will not run for reelection, which leaves this Republican held senate seat in a state that voted for Biden very vulnerable.
Five Republicans have declared for the seat and about 16 have expressed some interest.
On the Democrat side, eight have declared. Nine others have expressed interest in running.
None stand out in the race. Biden won the race with 50% of the vote.
Incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson won by 50.17 percent in 2016. He has not declared that he will run again and once said that he only wanted to serve two terms in the US Senate.
By not declaring, he has held up several potential Republican candidates from declaring. Five Democrats have announced.
The pool of candidates does not have any big names – just several state politicians and some representatives. The big names are awaiting a decision from Johnson.
At this time, it is impossible to tell who will come out ahead on election night 2022. Biden’s administration will have an impact on the results as well as the economy. Much will depend on how the candidates campaign.