People who analyze politics and motivational speakers have a common phrase they share, “Look to the Future”! So let’s take a look towards the future and analyze the 2022 Senate races just for fun. Like all things, something could change with these races depending on what the national mood is like in 2022, but for now, at face value, this is how I rate the seats up for election.
The Safe GOP Races
- Alabama – No matter what happens with this seat in 2022, I fully expect this seat to stay in the red column. The real intrigue with this seat depends on the person who holds it in Senator Richard Shelby. Shelby is 85, and he will be 88 by the time the 2022 election comes around. If Shelby retires, which I expect him to do, the GOP primary for this seat will be another free for all. Expect possible losers in the GOP primary for the current Alabama senate seat to show up again. That means Jeff Sessions, Tommy Tuberville, Bradley Byrne and even our old mall walking friend Roy Moore could all make appearances again. Wild cards could be two women in current Governor Kay Ivey or soon to be former Representative Martha Roby. Whomever ends up being the candidate, bar Moore), will be a heavy favorite to hold this seat.
- Arkansas – Another southern stronghold for the GOP, this seat is currently held by John Boozman, who is a regular back-bencher type in the Senate. Boozman will be 71 by the next election day, but for Senators that’s usually an age where they’ll give it one more go. I don’t expect Boozman to retire, nor do I expect this seat to be competitive in any way. Democrats won’t even have a candidate on the ballot this year against a much more high profile candidate in Tom Cotton, so what makes anyone think they could be competitive against Boozman?
- Idaho – Another race, another backbencher – this time the senior Idaho senator in Mike Crapo. Crapo has been in the Senate since 1998, and could potentially be a retirement watch. Potential candidates for a GOP primary would likely include Raul Labrador, a former tea party congressman who lost in the primary for Governor in 2018. Crapo could very easily go another term though as he would be younger than the two incumbents I’ve mentioned so far come election day. No matter what, I don’t see a scenario of Idaho turning blue anytime soon.
- Kansas – Incumbent senator Jerry Moran will make a run for a third term. Moran is your typical, generic, from the 1st congressional district senator that we’ve come to expect from Kansas in the past. Moran will have no issue getting elected in 2022, no matter what the mood in the country is.
- Kentucky – I could use this space to tell you how safe Rand Paul is in 2022, but I am instead going to use this time to remind Democrats about the 2020 senate race here. You are not going to beat Mitch McConnell. You are not going to beat Mitch McConnell. You are not going to beat Mitch McConnell. You are not going to beat Mitch McConnell.
- Louisiana – A seat that was once competitive is no longer anywhere close to that. John Kennedy has had a first term in which he has been more outspoken than recent GOP senators from Louisiana had been in past times, but that won’t hurt him here. Kennedy should fully expect to be re-elected come 2022.
- North Dakota – John Hoeven won here with 78.5% of the vote in 2016. That’s all that needs to be said about this race.
- Oklahoma – James Lankford is one of the younger senators on this list, meaning he is assumed to be running for a second full term in 2022. Langford is a nominal backbencher who would have no issue getting re-elected.
- South Carolina – While Tim Scott has already announced he is running again, he announced at the same time that it would be his last term in the senate. So when 2028 comes around, I can talk about how fun that primary to replace Scott will be. For now though this seat is Safe GOP and will stay in the red column.
- South Dakota – John Thune is not going to retire, especially since it seems he could be in a prime position to replace Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader once the Kentucky Senator steps down or retires. I wouldn’t expect Thune to leave with a major opportunity like that possibly coming his way. Easy safe GOP seat.
- Utah – While I am not a big Mike Lee fan, I can not deny that he is very likely to be re-elected in 2022. Unless something surprising happens and he gets primaried, Lee will be back for another term in the senate.
Safe Democratic Seats
- California – Will Kamala be boosted or hurt by her failed run for the Presidency once this election rolls around? I’m gonna say no, but even if she is somehow successfully primaried this race will be safe for Democrats. There’s also plausibility that she could very well have a role in a Democratic presidency (Attorney General Harris anyone?), so if that occurs a whole mess of Democrats could run for the seat including Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Gavin Newson, and Kevin de Leon. The list goes on and I could probably write a whole article on who could replace Kamala if she gets a cabinet position.
- Connecticut – My favorite senator from this state (a very low bar set by Chris Murphy), Blumenthal will be re-elected unless he decides to retire, which I consider unlikely. If that does occur it would be interesting to see who would replace him. Would Governor Ned Lamont take a shot or would someone else step up instead like congresswoman Jahana Hayes or congressman Jim Himes?
- Hawaii – First no questions one for Democrats. Brian Schatz will be re-elected no doubt in this very solid blue state.
- Illinois – While it can be a weird state at midterm time, Duckworth is unlikely to be under threat no matter the mood of the nation come 2022. A potential VP choice for a ticket could be on the cards for Duckworth, but even then I don’t really see the GOP being competitive in this seat.
- Maryland – Chris Van Hollen has been a perfect back-bencher for Democrats and will see no threats in 2022.
- New York – Every Democrat’s favorite minority leader Chuck Schumer is up for re-election this term, and while he could be put on a retirement watchlist for sure that could depend on the mood of the nation. If the nation is favoring Democrats, Schumer will definitely run again for the chance to be majority leader. If it is not, he could very well bow out. The concurrent Democratic primary would then proceed to be large and vast. Watch this space for more establishment candidates like Andrew Cuomo and Sean Patrick Maloney to take a shot as well as progressives like Letitia James and potentially AOC. A wild card would be someone like Mike Bloomberg or Andrew Yang – no matter what though, it will be safe for Democrats.
- Oregon – Ron Wyden is another one that I could see retiring in 2022, but it’s still unlikely he will. However if he does it opens some new doors for officials in Oregon, with potential candidates like current Governor Kate Brown who could circle this seat. For now I have it as a safe blue seat.
- Vermont – This is the Democrats’ version of Richard Shelby’s seat. I fully expect Pat Leahy to retire for 2022, and for a major Democratic primary field to grow. The question will surround who could take Leahy’s place when he does. Could Vermont potentially elect the nations first transgendered Senator if 2018 gubernatorial nominee Christine Hallquist gets the nomination? Only time will tell.
- Washington – Another northwest senator, another one to add to my retirement watchlist. Patty Murray has been in the senate since 1992 and this would be her 6th term if she were to run again. If she doesn’t, Jay Inslee would be a potential choice after his star grew in his Presidential run by focusing on climate change. Maybe a progressive in CPC leader Pramila Jayapal could also take a shot if Murray retires. No matter whom it would be, I have Washington as a safe blue seat in 2022.
The “Could be fun seats if the right candidate/mood of the country is just right” seats.
- Alaska – To me the most interesting thing with this race could be the primary. Murkowski continues to make no friends on her own side and could very well be vulnerable to a primary challenge. If the mood is right for Democrats, this could be a close race very quickly. If Al Gross puts in a good shout against Dan Sullivan this year, I’d expect him to be back in ‘22 against Murkowski.
- Indiana – I’m going to get a lot of flack for this considering that Joe Donnelly was just thrown out on his butt in a great year for Democrats, but hear me out. Todd Young has blasted up the Senate leadership, but in the right conditions he could very well be in trouble. Close connections to McConnell could be dangerous in a bad year for the GOP, and if Democrats can hone in on that message then Young could be in some trouble. The issue for Democrats is a weak bench of candidates to run statewide in this scenario. If he doesn’t get the Presidential nomination or the VP spot, does Mayor Pete answer the phone? Only if the scenario looks good, and I still have this race as likely GOP for now.
- Missouri – Roy Blunt could potentially retire come 2022 after surviving a close race with Jason Kandor in 2016. I have a feeling that this seat will be much safer for the GOP this time, barring any surprises.
- Nevada – Catherine Cortez-Masto won a hard-fought race in 2016 against then-congressman Joe Heck to keep Harry Reid’s former seat in Democratic hands. Nevada is a quickly-changing state, with growth in population in its larger counties plus a large hispanic population making the state have more of a blue tint than the purple it has been the last decade or so. Like all the other candidates on this list, if the nation is pulling more towards Republicans, Cortez-Masto could quickly find herself in a tough race, and if someone like former Governor Brian Sandoval comes in, this race immediately becomes a toss-up in my eyes.
- Ohio – This swing state has started to move away from Democrats since 2012, but Democrats are looking at this seat in case current incumbent Rob Portman decides to hang them up. Portman is on my retirement watchlist, but something in my gut tells me he’s gonna go for another term. If that happens it is going to be tough for Democrats to knock off Portman, but the right challenger could do it. If Tim Ryan feels like he is going to lose his district, it could be a now or never moment for Ryan and he could very easily jump into this race.
The Fun Ones
- Florida – Marco Rubio is up for re-election come this race, and there’s enough speculation swirling around this seat as is. Much talk is around Rubio being a Secretary of State choice if Mike Pompeo decides to run for Senate in Kansas. If that happens, who could replace Rubio? Maybe current Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Nunez or former Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam would be two big names on the GOP side. Stephanie Murphy, Gwen Graham and Andrew Gilliam are all names to watch for the Democrats no matter if Rubio is in again or not. It will be interesting to see how Florida will play out come 2022.
- Iowa – Chuck Grassley is likely to retire, and potentially be replaced by his grandson who is the current speaker of the house in Iowa. Grassley retiring makes this seat immediately competitive, with potential candidates like Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne and Rob Sand all waiting in the wings for their shot. Iowa, like Ohio has moved away from Democrats since 2012, but all three of those candidates are strong choices and would put Iowa in play.
- New Hampshire – This is one I also will likely get some criticism for, but no matter. I do think this is the election where current Governor Chris Sununu makes a run for the senate, putting Maggie Hassan in a situation similar to the one she put the person she beat in 2016, Kelly Ayotte. A popular Governor against a well-liked Senator gives me good reason to believe that this race is toss-up material.
- North Carolina – Our only confirmed retirement so far, as Richard Burr has announced he will not run again in 2022. That leaves a pretty open race and a pure toss-up in my eyes. For Republicans, soon-to-be former congressman Mark Walker seems to be angling himself for this seat and would be the favorite if he enters. For Democrats it’s a little harder. Roy Cooper could have a claim to this seat, as could Elaine Marshall. State Senator Jeff Jackson was a popular pick as well to run against Thom Tillis but he declined. He could very easily jump in this race. No matter who ends up running on either side, I see this as a toss-up race and one that could tilt the Senate in ‘22.
- Pennsylvania – My beloved home state has a major Senate race in 2022 as the not-so-beloved Senator Pat Toomey is up. Lots of rumors have circled around Toomey as both a retirement candidate and as a possible gubernatorial candidate. If he does leave that could put Republicans in a tough position for a decent candidate. Swing seat Republicans were blown out in 2018 and they have no one in PAs row offices currently. Possible candidates could include former representative Ryan Costello or current representative Guy Reschenthaler, who would be a decent young race for the GOP to put up for this seat. Democrats have a plethora of people to run, like current Governor and Tom Wolf or Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro would be a decent candidate, and there are a couple others. Pennsylvania will again be one to watch in 2022.
- Wisconsin – This is actually the most intriguing race in my eyes for 2022. Ron Johnson has been very undecided about his future, first discussing retirement, now suggesting running for Governor or re-election. I can’t grasp where Johnson’s future is going. If he does end up running for Governor or retiring, the GOP has a decent bench to try and replace him. A big name could be Paul Ryan, who if Trump is out of the White House could be persuaded to come back to Washington. For Democrats it’s a bit harder. Ron Kind would matchup the best here to counter against GOP gains with WWC voters and would give whomever the GOP nominee is trouble. Another seat where the winner could very easily decide the balance of the Senate.
- Arizona – One of the two special elections in 2020 that will be up for a full term in 2022, Arizona is a race that depends on the candidates. If Mark Kelly is the incumbent, expect term-limited Governor Doug Ducey to jump in quickly. If Martha McSally is, on the other hand, Democrats have a plethora of candidates. Ann Kirkpatrick, Ruben Gallego and Greg Stanton could all make runs against McSally in ’22 if they wanted to. This is not a race that I want to comment too much on yet since it is a 2020 race, but it will be one to watch in ’22 no matter what.
- Georgia – Another race that will be on the ballot after having a special election in 2020, Georgia will be close once again. Kelly Loeffler is favored in 2020, but in 2022 the gloves could very well come off. It would be an interesting race for Democrats, as candidates like Lucy McBath might want to take a step forward, or someone like Stacy Abrams could jump to this race and immediately make it a high profile one. Like Arizona, I will hold true judgement until 2020 has run its course, but it will be one to watch no matter what happens.