US Midterm Elections: Eight Key Senate Races to Watch

© REUTERS / Mark MakelaVoting machine operator Robin Coffee-Ruff hands a sticker to a voter who cast his ballot at West Philadelphia High School on U.S. midterm election day morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 4, 201
Voting machine operator Robin Coffee-Ruff hands a sticker to a voter who cast his ballot at West Philadelphia High School on U.S. midterm election day morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 4, 201 - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.11.2021
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The 2022 midterms are a year away and Republican candidates are looking poised to make significant gains in the House of Representatives. However, control of the Senate will likely come down to who gains an edge in eight particular races.
Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire are all vulnerable Senate seats with Democratic incumbents and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida are vulnerable seats with Republican incumbents.
The Senate is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats holding the edge due to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaker ability. Republicans need to add a seat, while Democrats need to hold serve to gain an edge in the Senate.
These are eight key Senate races a year out at a glance:

Nevada

Incumbent: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto
Masto appears likely to face off against former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who had a failed gubernatorial bid in 2018 but has been endorsed by both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Trump.
Biden won Nevada by 2.2 points so this seat is safer for Democrats than some.
Laxalt reportedly showed up to a school board meeting and demanded that critical race theory be banned. Virginia's Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin flipped Virginia by tying culture war topics to education.

Arizona

Incumbent: Democrat Mark Kelly
Biden barely won Arizona, but Kelly’s fate won’t solely be decided by Biden’s popularity. Kelly is a former astronaut, has lots of campaign cash, and is dealing with a hotly-contested and unsettled Republican field.
Kelly may win because Republican candidates defeat themselves in an attempt to win the bid. However, if a strong Republican candidate can emerge unscathed, he could be in for a tough fight.
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Who wins the Republican primary could end up being instructive of what type of Republican can prosper in a swing state.
Republicans are already airing attack ads against Kelly, particularly going after his Senate voting record. Kelly’s future could hinge on how Arizonans view the Democrats' legislation.

Georgia

Incumbent: Democrat Raphael Warnock
Georgia, won by Biden with a mere 12,000 votes, has been solidly red for years but in 2020 it voted for a Democratic president and has two Democratic senators. Standings suggest Warnock is in a good position to hold onto his seat, as he also has plenty of cash and has the advantage of a weak opponent.
It looks likely that Republican Herschel Walker will be Warnock’s opponent. Walker is most famous for his exploits on the football field, as a Heisman Trophy winner in 1982 at the University of Georgia and boasting a long and productive NFL career.
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Walker has no previous political experience and an ex-wife has accused him of threatening and abusive behavior. He also reportedly suffers from dissociative identity disorder. Walker is well known in Georgia and has been endorsed by Trump, but that is the current limit of his appeal.

New Hampshire

Incumbent: Democrat Maggie Hassan
Hassan dodged a bullet when New Hampshire’s Republican Governor Chris Sununu decided against a Senate bid. A poll from late August had Sununu leading Hassan 49% to 41% if the former were to run for the Senate.
Hassan won her seat in 2016 by a reported 1,000 votes, which would suggest that her popularity in the state is a toss up. Although her seat could be safe, a strong Republican challenger could pose a problem.
Biden may have comfortably won New Hampshire, but the state has a long track record of electing Republicans at the state level. Hassan is vulnerable and in a year where all the indicators are in Republican’s favor, she could be in for an upset.

Wisconsin

Incumbent: Republican Ron Johnson
Johnson hasn’t yet committed to running for a third term but if he does he could be in for challenge from a Democratic candidate. Biden narrowly carried the state in 2020, but the real concern for Johnson is himself.
He has pushed widely debunked conspiracy theories and a majority of state residents do not trust him on handling the pandemic. A Marquette University poll showed his approval rating at 36%, with 42% disapproving.
© AP Photo / Cliff OwenSenate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.11.2021
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.
Democrats haven’t settled on a challenger but two notable candidates are Mandela Barnes and Alex Lasry. Barnes is the state’s lieutenant governor and Larsy is an executive with the Milwaukee Bucks pro basketball team.
If Johnson runs for reelection this could be a hotly-contested race. However, if he steps aside and a popular Republican makes a bid, the seat will be difficult to flip.

Pennsylvania

Incumbent: Republican Pat Toomey
Toomey is retiring and Pennsylvania is shaping up to be the least predictable Senate race of 2022. No clear front runner has emerged for either party and a hot primary can lead to candidate cannibalization. Whichever party has the least brutal primary may be in pole position for the Senate.
It’s impossible to speculate which party will emerge victorious in Pennsylvania, but Republicans should be viewed as having a slight edge. Biden carried the Keystone State in 2020, but Trump won it in 2016.
History suggests that Republicans will pick up a Senate seat, which means they’ll need to protect a few as well.

North Carolina

Incumbent: Republican Richard Burr
Burr is retiring which means another crowded field. There are four Republican candidates of note, Representative Ted Budd, former Gov. Pat McCrory, former Rep. Mark Walker, and Marjorie Eastman.
Budd has Trump’s endorsement, whereas McCrory and Walker have already found political success in North Carolina. As for Eastman she is projecting herself as a political outsider.
© AP Photo / Jacquelyn MartinSenate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democratic lawmakers and rights groups criticized Burr on June 2, 2017, for seeking the return of copies of a report on CIA treatment of detainees after 9/11, saying he is trying to "erase history"
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democratic lawmakers and rights groups criticized Burr on June 2, 2017, for seeking the return of copies of a report on CIA treatment of detainees after 9/11, saying he is trying to erase history - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.11.2021
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington. Democratic lawmakers and rights groups criticized Burr on June 2, 2017, for seeking the return of copies of a report on CIA treatment of detainees after 9/11, saying he is trying to "erase history"
If the Republican primary is a blood bath, the party could lose this seat. North Carolina voted for Trump in a close race, and Biden hasn’t done much to enhance the Democrats’ standing in the state.
North Carolina has a chance to be close, but like the presidential election it will probably remain red.

Florida

Incumbent: Marco Rubio
Rubio could be in trouble, if polling is to be believed - an August poll had Democratic challenger Val Demings only two points behind the Republican incumbent. Demings has been able to acquire lots of campaign cash, and her background as a police chief in the city of Orlando could shield her from the fallout of national politics.
Florida went for Trump in 2016 and 2020, but the state is always a close call.
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However, there’s a reason Rubio won his Senate seat in 2010, and has held on to it as Florida has leaned more red than blue. Rubio is reportedly entrenched and the Democrats in power appear to be floundering.
Demings will need to run an impressive campaign to flip this seat, but no matter the outcome, it should be close enough to make Republicans sweat.

The Map at a Glance

Republicans are thought by some to be in an enviable environment to hold their contested Senate seats, and also flip those held by Democrats.
The GOP has history on their side - as the president is polling poorly, key Democratic legislation has yet to pass or resonate, and without a Trump boogeyman, Democrats have struggled to energize their base in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey.
Of the eight seats contested, New Hampshire and Nevada are the two safest Democratic seats and Florida and North Carolina are the two safest Republican seats.
The balance of power in the Senate could come down to who wins in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona, effectively recalling events that unfolded during the 2020 election cycle.
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