January 26, 2022

DON’T GET COCKY: Red wave alert for Senate Democrats.

The race-by-race analysis hasn’t kept up with the deteriorating macro-political reality for Democrats. At the beginning of the cycle, Senate Democrats looked like they would benefit from a favorable Senate map, not defending a single state that Trump carried in 2020. But with Biden’s downturn, the swing states that the president carried narrowly (Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) now look like tough territory for the party in power. Meanwhile, Republican-leaning states like Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, which once looked competitive, now look like longer shots—even with a solid Democratic recruit in Florida, the presence of a Trump-endorsed candidate in North Carolina, and an underwhelming Republican field in Ohio. At the same time, Democratic-leaning Colorado and New Hampshire could get competitive, even without popular Gov. Chris Sununu running in the former and with a muddled GOP field in the latter.

Outside of Sununu’s decision to pass on the Senate race, most recent developments have played to Senate Republicans’ advantage. Scandal-plagued, Trump-endorsed Sean Parnell dropped out of the Pennsylvania race, allowing for a more mainstream hedge fund co-CEO (David McCormick) and a celebrity doctor (Mehmet Oz) to fill the vacuum. The Democratic primary field has gotten pulled so far to the left in Wisconsin that even vulnerable Sen. Ron Johnson has a clear path for a third term. Republicans have released internal polling showing their challengers are already leading in Nevada and Georgia; even older Democratic surveys underscore the precarious predicament for Sens. Raphael Warnock and Catherine Cortez Masto.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s decision to put all senators on the record to roll back the legislative filibuster—in a failed attempt to pass a voting-reform package—only gives Republican challengers fodder to argue that even the swing-state Democratic senators (except Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) are doing the bidding of the progressive base.

Two real weak spots are Arizona and Georgia. I bet the GOP in those states could use some volunteers.

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