Democratic control of Congress will be on the line next year as Republicans look to claw their way back into power after a disappointing 2020 election that cost them the White House and their Senate majority.
But despite the conventional wisdom that the party of a new president tends to lose ground in the midterms, Senate Democrats are staring down several offensive opportunities in 2022 as they look to expand their ultra-narrow majority in the upper chamber.
Still, the GOP has pickup opportunities of its own, especially in states that Democrats only managed to win recently.
Here are the nine Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022:
Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R-Pa.) coming retirement combined with President Biden’s narrow win here in 2020 have given Democrats what they see as one of their best opportunities to flip a Senate seat that has been held by Republicans for 50 of the past 52 years.
Of course, flipping Toomey’s seat won’t be easy. Former President Trump carried Pennsylvania in 2016 by less than 1 point, and many Republicans believe that his brand of conservative populism can propel them to victory once again in 2022. A number of GOP candidates are already vying for the mantle of Trump acolyte, and several more are still considering bids.
The Democratic primary field is also crowded, attracting candidates like Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a surrogate for Biden during the 2020 campaign. More candidates could soon follow, including Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who is said to be considering a Senate bid.
Like Toomey, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is on his way out of the Senate, creating a wide-open race to replace him in a perennial battleground state.
Trump carried North Carolina in both 2016 and 2020. And Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) won reelection last year, despite an aggressive effort by Democrats to unseat him. But with Burr’s retirement and Trump no longer on the ballot, Democrats have an opportunity to win back one of North Carolina’s Senate seats.
A lot will depend on who emerges from the primaries. The Republican field has also drawn five candidates, including Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), former Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) and former Gov. Pat McCrory. Looming over the race for the GOP nomination is Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of former President Trump, who has said she is considering a Senate bid.
Democrats are also expected to face a crowded primary. The top contenders include state Sen. Jeff Jackson, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and former state Sen. Erica Smith, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Senate nomination in 2020.
A longtime swing state, Ohio has lurched to the right in recent years, voting twice for Trump and handing Democrats a spate of difficult losses in down-ballot contests.
But Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) announcement earlier this year that he won’t seek reelection laid the groundwork for a competitive Senate contest that Democrats believe they have a shot at winning.
Potentially working to Democrats’ advantage is the fact that only one candidate — Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) — has jumped into the primary so far. Others are still considering whether to compete for the nomination, including Ohio state House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce.
Republicans, meanwhile, are scrambling for the support of Trump, believing that his endorsement will offer a one-way ticket to the nomination. The field so far includes former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Bernie Moreno and investment banker Mike Gibbons, all of whom have sought to tie themselves to Trump.
Georgia voters handed Democrats their current Senate majority in January when it elected Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in a pair of runoffs. But Warnock is slated to appear on the ballot once again in 2022 to seek his first full term in office.
A longtime Republican stronghold, Georgia has become one of the nation’s fastest growing and most diverse battlegrounds. In 2022, Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the Peach State since former President Clinton in 1992.
But the GOP still remains a powerful force in the state, and the party sees Warnock as one of their top offensive targets in 2022.
The GOP primary field hasn’t shaped up yet, though a handful of well-known Republicans are already eyeing Warnock’s seat, including former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who lost to Warnock in the January runoff, and former NFL player Herschel Walker, whom Trump has personally urged to challenge Warnock.
Sen. Mark Kelly’s (D-Ariz.) victory in 2020 gave Democrats control of both of Arizona’s Senate seats for the first time in nearly 70 years. But he’s slated to go up for reelection next year, and Republicans have put him near the top of their target list.
The Republican primary field is still taking shape, but the race could attract some of Trump’s most ardent allies. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), two Trump acolytes who are among the most vocal defenders of the former president’s rigged election claims, have floated potential Senate runs.
State Attorney General Mark Brnovich is also considered a likely contender for the GOP Senate nomination, but unlike Gosar and Biggs, he has rejected Trump’s claims of a stolen election, earning him the ire of the former president.
Complicating things for the GOP is the fact that Trump lost Arizona in 2020, making him the first Republican presidential contender to face defeat in the state since 1996. Nevertheless, the Arizona Republican Party is still largely aligned with Trump’s wing of the GOP.
The Senate race in Wisconsin is still taking shape, but Democrats are particularly eager to take out Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a key Trump ally and archvillain for the left.
Johnson hasn’t yet said whether he’ll seek another term in the Senate, though he previously vowed not to run for a third term after winning reelection in 2016. It’s not clear whether he’ll stick to that pledge, and Wisconsin Republicans say he can still make the case for remaining in Washington.
Johnson’s silence has complicated things for both parties. No other Republican has jumped into the race out of deference to Johnson, effectively freezing the GOP contest for the time being.
And while the Democratic field has already drawn several candidates, including state Treasurer Sarah Godliewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson, Johnson’s indecision has left Democrats without a clear opponent.
Still, Democrats feel particularly empowered in Wisconsin after Biden carried the state in 2020 and reversed his party’s fortunes from 2016, when Trump’s victory there helped doom Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Democrats are feeling good in New Hampshire heading into 2022 when Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) will face her first reelection bid. Biden carried the state in 2020 by more than 7 points, while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) won reelection by more than 15 points.
But Republicans believe they have an opportunity to oust Hassan next year, especially if their top choice for the nomination, Gov. Chris Sununu, jumps into the race.
So far, only one Republican has announced his candidacy for the New Hampshire Senate seat, Don Balduc, a retired Army brigadier general who unsuccessfully sought the GOP Senate nomination last year. No other Republican has emerged yet as the party awaits Sununu’s decision.
Sununu is also weighing whether to run for a fourth term in the governor’s mansion or step back from elected office altogether and return to the private sector. He’s not expected to make a decision before the end of the state legislative session next month.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) won’t be easy for Republicans to take down. But they argue that, with the right candidate, her seat could be up for grabs.
So far, no Republican has announced a challenge to Cortez Masto. But the GOP is hoping to recruit former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who lost a bid for governor in 2018, into the race, believing that he offers Republicans their best shot of ousting Nevada’s senior senator.
While Democrats have racked up a string of statewide victories in recent years, even they caution that Nevada remains competitive. Biden carried the state in November by only about 2 points, the same margin that both Clinton and Cortez Masto won Nevada by in 2016.
Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) defeated former Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) there in 2018 by a 5-point margin, but that victory came as part of a Democratic wave in the first midterms after Trump entered the White House.
Missouri has shifted decidedly to the right in recent years. But Democrats and even some Republicans say there’s a chance that retiring Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) seat could come into play next year, depending on how the GOP primary shakes out.
A handful of Republicans have already jumped into the race to replace Blunt, including Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and former Gov. Eric Greitens. But Greitens’s candidacy makes some Missouri Republicans nervous, given his controversial reputation.
Greitens resigned in 2018 in the face of mounting scandals that included accusations of campaign finance violations, an extramarital affair and blackmail. His decision to step down came as state legislators met to consider possible impeachment.
Some Republicans in Missouri and in Washington fear that if Greitens wins the nomination, it could open up an opportunity for Democrats in the general election, putting at risk a Senate seat that they believe should be a shoo-in for the GOP.
Other Republicans are considering jumping into the race, including several members of the state’s House delegation.
Via The Hill