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Tipsheet

Democrats' Initial 2024 Senate Projections Are Just Brutal

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

We've made this point on several occasions over the last few months, and now the 'experts' are confirming it.  Senate Republicans failed in historic fashion last year, managing to lose one net seat, in spite of highly favorable historical trends and political environment.  They had a valuable opportunity to capitalize on several dynamics and win back control of the upper chamber, but instead slid in the wrong direction, as poor candidates and general mistrust of federal-level Republicans by many independent voters produced a poor outcome.  Looking head to 2024, the Senate landscape looks even more favorable to the GOP.  Various professional prognosticators are painting an early and decidedly grim picture for Democrats on this front:

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The Cook Political Report released its own analysis, which looks quite similar.  They've got it at three toss-ups, and five 'lean Democrat' races, with all current Republican-held seats listed in the 'likely' or 'solid' categories (the most "endangered" R's are Ted Cruz and Rick Scott in Texas and Florida, respectively).  It's about as friendly a map as Republicans could dream of, and as inhospitable as it gets for the majority party.  Democrats will be playing a ton of defense.  Republicans would need to net two of these seats, at a bare minimum, to flip the majority.  The Center for Politics rates the West Virginia race as an initial 'lean Republican' contest, likely because Joe Manchin has seen his polling back home crater after handing Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer a major political victory with the IRS-doubling so-called 'Inflation Reduction Act.'  Part of his incentive for cutting that deal was a side agreement that his party reneged on.  Manchin will now be begging Republicans to help him fulfill a promise that Democrats broke.  He got rolled and will need the GOP to help bail him out.  Manchin also has one of the biggest names in West Virginia politics talking openly about challenging him in what has become one of the reddest states in the country. Prime gain opportunity for Team Elephant.

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Out in Arizona, the stars seem to be aligning for the GOP.  Incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema has become an independent, anticipating a primary challenge from a left-wing Congressman -- who has, in fact, just announced his campaign.  If the center-left vote is split between Sinema and Ruben Gallego (who chaired Eric Swalwell's dead-end 2020 presidential campaign), an even somewhat united Republican-right coalition should be able to elect a GOP Senator under that scenario.  If it's a mainstream and popular Republican figure, it could potentially turn into a comfortable win, even if Sinema were to drop out.  Conservative former Governor Doug Ducey would almost certainly have won the 2022 Senate race if he'd run and become the nominee.  He'd be a heavy favorite to win this contest, too, but Arizona Republicans may choose to nominate someone less electable (Ducey won re-election in the blue wave year of 2018 by double digits).  Both the failed gubernatorial and Senate candidates are rumored to be interested in seeking this seat in 2024.  Voters will need to choose wisely and consider who would put the party in the best position to take back a coveted seat in a closely-divided upper chamber.

In Ohio, Sherrod Brown, the incumbent Democrat, has occupied his seat since the 2006 elections.   He's won three consecutive races and has established a name and a brand in the Buckeye State.  But Ohio has grown more Republican in recent years, with the GOP ticket achieving a clean sweep in 2022 -- including a more than six-point victory in an open Senate race featuring a flawed first-time candidate on the GOP side who struggled mightily to raise money.  The Republican governor was re-elected by 26 points.  Brown won't be an easy 'out,' but the redness of the state, plus a quality challenger, would make this a golden opportunity for a pick-up.  The same applies in Montana, where Jon Tester has proven to be a survivor for multiple cycles.  But his party keeps drifting left, and he almost always votes in lock step with them.  His record is not one of an independent.  Against a strong opponent, it's possible the political good fortune of this 'Chuck Schumer with a flat top haircut' could run out.

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Add in the races in light blue states like Nevada and Wisconsin, and slightly bluer Michigan and Pennsylvania (Republicans have won tight statewide races in all four places in recent years), and Democrats will really have their hands full.  If the GOP takes the presidency in the 2024 election, that all but guarantees that they will enjoy the power 'trifecta' in Washington for at least two years.  If a Republican wins that election, it's very probable that the House GOP will simultaneously hold and expand its current majority, and that the Senate would flip, too, given the map illustrated above.  A lot will be at stake.  Republican primary voters need to contemplate the lessons of 2018, 2020, and 2022 and really think about what moderate and independent voters have been demonstrating through their voting patterns and decisions. With much on the line, the GOP electorate needs to think long and hard about what sorts of candidates maximize their chances of winning, up and down the ticket -- especially starting at the very top.

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