Now that Election Night 2023 is in the books, it’s the perfect time to shift our focus ahead to the 2024 elections.
Much has changed since we last took a look at the 2024 Senate map in May, so that’s a great place to start. In fact, just last week we saw a massive development that will fundamentally alter the electoral math.
On Thursday, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin officially announced that he won’t be running for re-election to the Senate in 2024, virtually ensuring that Republicans will pick up this seat.
Given the current 51-49 composition of the upper chamber, this leaves the Democratic Party with literally no margin for error going into this election year. Remember that, thanks to a disadvantageous map, Democrats must defend 23 seats in 2024 compared to just 11 for the Republicans.
Manchin’s withdrawal means there’s a New Big Four, and Democrats must defend each of these to keep alive their hopes of retaining their majority.
The New Big Four: Arizona, Montana, Nevada and Ohio
Within this new Big Four are two pairs of Democratic incumbents each battling adverse circumstances. In Montana and Ohio, veteran Senators Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown must win re-election in increasingly red states. In Arizona and Nevada, the Democratic Party must overcome their party’s lingering Hispanic problem to prevail in these crucial purple battleground states.
Arizona is definitely the most complex contest of these four, as incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema is exploring an Independent bid alongside Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego and Republican 2022 Gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake.
A series of new polls, including an internal survey from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, find Gallego ahead. Furthermore, there’s also increasing concern among the GOP that Sen. Sinema’s become so unpopular with Democrats that she’ll end up taking more votes away from Lake than Gallego. With Manchin now out, the national media will now shift their focus to whether Sinema actually stays in this race and what that would mean.
Meanwhile in Nevada, Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen is trying to take advantage of a competitive GOP primary in her state. The Republican establishment is backing Army veteran Sam Brown, who lost his last primary in 2022’s Senate race. On the other hand, the insurgent wing of the party is pushing Jim Marchant, the party’s unsuccessful 2022 Secretary of State nominee and 2020 NV-4 Congressional nominee. Based on this recent history, conventional wisdom favors Brown as the stronger general election possibility.
A messy Republican primary is Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s best hope as well. That GOP contest features three potential contenders: State Senator Matt Dolan, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and businessman Bernie Moreno. Each of them has their advantages, although Moreno’s secured the support of Ohio’s other Senator, Republican J.D. Vance.
Up in Montana, the GOP establishment is lining up behind CEO Tim Sheehy, in the hopes of discouraging Congressman Matt Rosendale from making another run. Rosendale, after all, is the one who lost to Tester in 2018 and they can’t afford to come up short again. In a major coup, local Republicans even convinced Donald Trump to tell Rosendale he wouldn’t back him if he ran.
The Blue Wall: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
Given the recent events in the Middle East, the Michigan Senate race is particularly relevant right now, since Michigan contains the highest percentage of Arab-Americans (1.55%) of any state in the union. As a result, Democratic front-runner Rep. Elissa Slotkin has to walk a particularly thin tight rope.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a powder keg for President Biden and the Democratic Party because it pits two core parts of their coalition against each other. Young people and people of color, two constituencies that Biden was already struggling with, increasingly empathize with the Palestinian people. On the other hand, Jewish voters have consistently supported Democrats since Franklin D. Roosevelt and are passionately rallying behind the President. Therefore, as long as this conflict remains in the headlines, Democrats will be stuck with this problem.
Over in Pennsylvania, the GOP’s preferred candidate David McCormick finally jumped into the race. I’ve already addressed why I’m not sure that McCormick – who failed to defeat Dr. Oz in the 2022 Republican Senate primary – will be able to take on seasoned veteran politician Sen. Bob Casey. Nonetheless, PA Republicans now officially have their man.
After all, that’s more than can be said for Wisconsin Republicans, who’ve yet to convince a high-profile candidate to take on incumbent Senator Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin won her last race by 11 points, and the GOP can’t afford to do so poorly in this purple state again.
The Republican Defense: Florida and Texas
What makes this Senate map so potentially devastating for Democrats is that there are no really good offensive opportunities for them. Republicans aren’t defending seats in any blue states, and while the Biden campaign hopes to compete in Florida and Texas, they’ll have to improve their odds in the more conventional swing states first.
In the meantime, Texas Congressman Colin Allred is trying to raise enough money to compete with Sen. Ted Cruz. Although Allred currently holds the cash on hand advantage, Cruz has a deep war chest and a lengthy fundraising list acquired from his 2016 Presidential run. Cruz also already knows how to win even while being outspent, which he learned by surviving that 2018 challenge from Beto O’Rourke.
Over in Florida, Democrats have struggled mightily these past few years, but they do seem to at least have a favorite for next year’s Senate contest against GOP Sen. Rick Scott. Former Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell – who won in 2018, only to lose her re-election battle in 2020 thanks to the red shift in Miami-Dade – jumped in last summer with a ton of institutional support.
For now, though, both 2018 Democratic alumni are long-shots to expand the playing field and give their party some much-needed breathing room.
And the Rest!
Elsewhere, Sen. Mitt Romney’s decision not to seek re-election presents a golden opportunity for Republicans throughout the ruby red state of Utah to win a spot in the Senate. So far, State House Speaker Brad Wilson has thrown his hat in the ring, but he might not be the only one as Rep. John Curtis and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz are both weighing bids of their own.
Finally, there are the open Democratic primaries in deep-blue California and Maryland. Despite the death of Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic contest is largely unchanged as Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff battle for supremacy, with Rep. Barbara Lee a distant third.
There was major news in Maryland, however, as Congressman Jamie Raskin announced he wouldn’t be seeking that state’s open Senate seat. The absence of the progressive champion leaves the primary as a contest between Rep. David Trone and Prince George County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. For the moment, Aslobrooks appears to have the edge thanks to endorsements from Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Governor Wes Moore, AFSCME, the Congressional Black Caucus and EMILY’s List.
So that’s how the battle for the Senate stands right now, but we’ve still got a whole year to go until Election Day 2024, and who knows what might happen between now and then.