Senator Joe Manchin, DW. Va., will hold a press briefing on energy permit reform on Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at the Capitol in Washington.
Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Democrats increased their Senate majority in 2022. You’ll be lucky to keep those wins in 2024.
Republicans, who took over the House after November’s midterm elections, hope to repeat that success in the Senate next year. They have reason for hope: Democrats face a daunting 2024 Senate map that puts them on defense in 23 of the cycle’s 34 races, including several seats deemed ripe for GOP challenges.
In some of the most vulnerable contests, Democrats are trying to hold on to Senate seats in states that voted for former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
The bleak outlook has some Senate Democrats considering retiring, even after the caucus expanded to a 51-49 majority after a better-than-expected midterm election performance.
Here are some of the top Senate races to watch:
Senator Joe Manchin may be one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, but his party affiliation still jeopardizes his reelection chances in deep-red West Virginia, which favored Trump by nearly 40 percentage points in 2020.
That may be why Manchin has still not announced whether he intends to run again — or why he refuses to even publicly admit to being a Democrat.
Manchin’s potential Republican challengers are not waiting for the incumbent to reveal his plans. Rep. Alex Mooney, whom Trump backed for his successful home race in 2022, has already received a $10 million pledge to support the conservative Club for Growth for his Senate primary.
Manchin’s campaign had $9.7 million in cash at the end of March, FEC filings showed.
But Manchin’s closest possible GOP rival may be West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, reportedly the richest man in the state and one of his favorite contenders in the Senate race.
Election analysts from Sabato’s Crystal Ball gave West Virginia a “Leans R” rating in January, making it the most vulnerable Democratic Senate seat of the cycle.
Manchin, who won his Senate race in 2018 by around three percentage points, has recently put some distance between himself and his fellow Democrats. He even vowed to vote to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, Biden’s signed spending bill that Manchin helped pass, and complained to Fox News that the government had broken its word.
Democrats and Republicans alike are targeting the Arizona seat of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic Party to become independent in late 2022.
Sinema’s move, who continues to feud with Democrats, allows her to skip a potentially bloody Senate primary campaign and run directly in the general election.
But the move doesn’t guarantee her a path to victory in the state, which is seen as a blip and prime takeover opportunity. Sinema has yet to announce if she will stand for re-election in 2024.
Sinema, once seen as a progressive Democrat, has charted a dovish course in recent years. She has been criticized by some in her former party for voting against a minimum wage increase and opposing the filibuster change.
She now faces a potential challenge from her left in Democratic MP Ruben Gallego, who has reportedly outperformed Sinema in the fight for her job.
Republican Sheriff Mark Lamb also entered the race. He could run in a GOP primary against Kari Lake, the former television news anchor who lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs in Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial race and is now considering a Senate bid.
If Sinema runs, the Arizona Senate race could turn into a three-way matchup. It is far from clear who would have an advantage in the swing state that Biden won by less than a percentage point over Trump in 2020.
While Sinema’s independent label might find favor in a state where registration competes with “Other” in the two major parties, polls show the senator remains unpopular.
Senator Jon Tester is one of three Democrats in the 2024 cycle to defend a seat in a state that voted for Trump in the last presidential election. The Republican ex-president won Montana 2020 by about 16 points.
The tester’s seat is viewed by Sabato’s crystal ball as a failure, though the Cook Political Report says the seat tilts in Democrat’s favor.
The Tester’s decision to run again is welcome news for Democrats, who would otherwise have lost the incumbent advantage in a solid red state.
But he could still face a formidable threat from his eventual Republican challenger. Former Home Secretary Ryan Zinke, MP Matt Rosendale and Governor Greg Gianforte have been eyed as possible candidates.
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has been in office since 2007 and has already announced his plans for a fourth term.
But Ohio’s 2024 Senate race is currently viewed as a failure, as Republicans have made significant gains in the state in the last two election cycles.
Trump won Buckeye State by more than eight points in 2020, and GOP candidates he endorsed, including now Sen. JD Vance and Gov. Mike DeWine, won in the midterms.
Matt Dolan, a state senator and partner in the Cleveland Guardians baseball team who ran in the 2022 Republican Senate primary, is running for Brown’s seat in 2024. Bernie Moreno, another Republican contender for the Senate seat, drew a scrutiny when he proposed it Reparations for the descendants of Union Civil War soldiers “who died to save the lives of black men.”
Democrats in 2024 will defend an open Senate seat in Michigan, a swing state that voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020.
Senator Debbie Stabenow’s surprise decision not to seek a fifth term wiped out the Democrats’ incumbent advantage over the seat, as there was no clear successor in line at the time.
Democrats made big gains in Michigan’s 2022 midterm election, seized control of the House and Senate and secured another term for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Republicans Michael Hoover and Nikki Snyder have entered the race for Stabenow’s Senate seat so far.
On the Democrat side, Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who won an uphill battle for re-election in the House of Representatives at the midterms, is considered the top contender for the seat. Slotkin was endorsed in 2022 by former Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican whose vocal Criticism of Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots sparked a split with her party’s leadership and much of her base in the House of Representatives.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Cook Political Report both say the Michigan Senate race is rather Democratic.
Unlike most other races on this list, the California race has no question that Democrats will hold on to the Senate seat, which is slated to open in 2024.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who held the seat for three decades, announced at age 89 that she would retire at the end of her current term.
By then, several Democrats had already started campaigning for her job. The list of candidates declared so far includes MPs Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, with more potential candidates on the way.
Feinstein, the oldest member of the US Senate, took a month-long vacation this spring because of health problems. Concerns about Feinstein’s incapacity quickly became a point of contention among Democrats, with some openly calling for the senior senator’s immediate resignation and others defending her. Feinstein’s absence from the Senate Judiciary Committee has slowed Democrat efforts to advance Biden’s nominee for the judiciary.
Trump narrowly lost Nevada to Biden in 2020, and his handpicked Republican nominee Adam Laxalt lost an even narrower race for Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s seat in 2022.
Now the state’s other Democratic senator, Jacky Rosen, is seeking re-election in 2024. Their list of potential Republican challengers seems thin so far.
Laxalt’s name has surfaced as a potential candidate for Senate 2024, but the former Nevada attorney general pledged in April to help lead a super PAC and encourage Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for president in 2024 .