For the first time in decades, the Senate is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris gives Democrats a tenuous tiebreaker, but both parties are already eying the 2022 Senate elections.
A total of 34 seats will be up that year, 20 of which are held by Republicans and 14 of which are held by Democrats. Two of the Republican-held states voted for President Joe Biden, while none of the Democratic-held states voted for Donald Trump. Seven of the states up this cycle were decided by less than five percentage points in 2020, and another three were within ten. In short: these races are going to be competitive.
Out of the 34 seats up in 2022, we do not currently project that any are favored to flip. However, we think a large number of states will be hotly contested. We currently rate four seats (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire) as Leans Democratic, two seats (Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) as Tossups, and one seat, North Carolina, as Leans Republican. A handful of other seats are on our radar: we rate Alaska, Florida, and Iowa as Likely Republican and Colorado as Likely Democratic.
Because the two Tossup seats are currently held by Republicans, this means anything from no change to a net of two seats for Democrats. However, we expect these ratings to shift as candidates announce and new developments arise over the next 22 months. We’ll be regularly updating our ratings throughout the cycle, but our current analysis of each seat can be found below.
Competitive States (7)
Arizona (Leans Democratic)
Democrat Mark Kelly, who won a special election in 2020, will be up for his first full term. While Arizona only narrowly voted for Biden, Kelly won by a more comfortable 2.4 point margin in large part due to astronomical fundraising. Kelly will remain a strong candidate in 2022, but his re-election is not a given.
The competitiveness of this race will hinge on candidate quality. The Arizona Republican Party has been reeling from unprecedented losses, but it still holds a narrow trifecta at the state level. Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona GOP, has attempted to mold the party into a populist, pro-Trump engine. If she is unseated as chairwoman, it might clear the way for a more competent statewide approach. Potential Republican nominees include Governor Doug Ducey and State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, both of whom fit a more traditional conservative mold. Ward is also being floated as a name, although her consecutive primary losses in 2016 and 2018 indicate she might not be a viable primary candidate.
If a competent Republican wins the nomination, it’s not hard to see this race becoming a Tossup. However, the uncertainty of the nominating process, the future of the Arizona GOP, as well as Kelly’s considerable profile and resources, lead us to believe that Kelly has a small advantage for now.
Georgia (Leans Democratic)
Democrat Raphael Warnock, who won a special election two weeks ago, will be up for his first full term. After a brutal, bruising runoff, Warnock prevailed by a margin of around two percentage points – a close, but clear, victory. Warnock showed particular strength in the Atlanta area and in the rural, black belt counties of southern Georgia. Georgia remains a close state, so Warnock will need to retain every part of his broad coalition to win a full term.
However, Warnock has a lot going for him. A strong base of African-American voters provides him a decent cushion even in off-year elections. The rapid transformation of the Atlanta metro shows no signs of slowing down. Republicans, still shellshocked from the loss of both Republican Senators, will need a strong candidate to peel back some of those voters.
One positive for Democrats is that much of the attention in 2022 will be directed towards the gubernatorial race. Republican Brian Kemp is expected to face both a primary challenge and presumptive Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams. More concerning for Republicans is the lack of a clear bench; both the Republican Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State have been slammed by Trump as Republicans in Name Only (RINOs). The prospect of a run from Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon-supporting Representative from Georgia’s 14th congressional district, also threatens to end the race before it even begins. Needless to say, we think Warnock starts with an edge here. This race isn’t unwinnable, but Georgia Republicans might just be living on borrowed time.
Nevada (Leans Democratic)
First-term incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto has not announced whether she plans to run for re-election, but it is expected that she will. The first Latina Senator in American history, Cortez Masto narrowly defeated Republican Joe Heck in 2016. While Nevada has voted for Democrats in the last four Presidential elections, it has remained close and competitive – especially under Trump. In fact, it actually shifted ever so slightly to the right in 2020, voting slightly more Republican than the nation overall. This is due to Trump’s improvements in Clark County, home to over 75% of the state’s population.
Nevada is likely to be competitive in 2022 regardless of the nominee. However, one Republican would fundamentally change the nature of the race: former Governor Brian Sandoval. A moderate, pro-choice Republican, Sandoval won re-election in 2014 by a staggering 47-point margin. His coattails were so strong that Republicans swept all statewide offices. While Sandoval is mum on his plans, it remains unclear if he could even win a primary given the sharp right turn the Nevada GOP has taken in recent years. Even without Sandoval, candidate quality will likely play a major role in the GOP’s chances in the Silver State.
New Hampshire (Leans Democratic)
First-term incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan will be running for a second term. Hassan, a former Governor, unseated Republican Kelly Ayotte in the closest Senate race of 2016. While New Hampshire has settled into a light blue tint federally, it also remains one of the most elastic states. Despite healthy victories by Biden and Senator Jeanne Shaheen in 2020, Governor Chris Sununu’s 22-point victory was enough to flip the legislature.
The competitiveness of this race hinges on Sununu. While 2020 Republican runner-up Don Bolduc has declared his candidacy, Sununu would be the prohibitive favorite in the Republican primary if he were to run – and it seems likely he will. Sununu is quite popular and would no doubt make a formidable candidate. Until he announces, we’re keeping the race at Leans Democratic. If and when he does, he’ll no doubt set up one of the most competitive races in the country – and we’ll be inclined to move the race to Tossup.
North Carolina (Leans Republican)
Three-term incumbent Republican Richard Burr is not running for re-election, making this the first open Senate race in North Carolina since 2002. While North Carolina has cemented itself as a swing state, it has demonstrated a slight but durable Republican edge. Democrats have only won two federal elections in the state this century, both of which happened in 2008. Senate races in North Carolina tend to be both competitive and expensive.
On the Republican side, former Representative Mark Walker has already announced his campaign. He’s already garnered the endorsements of Senators James Lankford (Oklahoma) and Tim Scott (South Carolina), in addition to Richard Sneed, the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Walker has taken an unusual approach, melding conservative policies with an explicit appeal to African-American voters on issues like support for historically black colleges and criminal justice reform. With Lara Trump, a native of Wilmington, also expressing interest in a Senate run, Walker’s early announcement is a clear effort to avert a bloody and expensive primary.
On the Democratic side, the only candidate that has currently announced is Erica Smith, a progressive former state senator who was defeated by Cal Cunningham in the 2020 primary. State Senator Jeff Jackson from Charlotte has publicly expressed interest in running, and rumors have also floated around a campaign from recently-defeated Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.
While we expect North Carolina to be competitive, Republicans have demonstrated a clear and consistent advantage in federal races. With most of the top-tier candidates holding out for statewide runs in 2024 or 2026, Democrats may be stuck with a relatively weak candidate – like they were in 2010 and 2016. A Lara Trump candidacy may render this race more competitive, but we see the Republicans as the early favorites here.
Two-term incumbent Republican Pat Toomey will not run for re-election. This decision sets up two bruising primaries, with control of the Senate potentially at play. While Toomey only narrowly won his previous two races, his unique appeal in eastern Pennsylvania enabled him to run ahead of other Republicans. This strength was especially clear in suburban counties like Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery, where he did much better than Trump even as they ran on the same ticket.
With the Republican field wide open, a slew of potential nominees are considering a run. Dozens of names have been connected to this seat. Recently, former Representative Ryan Costello has publicly floated a run. Other names that have been mentioned include former Representative Charlie Dent, current Representatives Mike Kelly, Guy Reschenthaler, and Glenn Thompson, U.S. Attorney William McSwain, and state senator Doug Mastriano. Donald Trump Jr. is also considering a carpetbagger bid.
The Democratic primary looks to be just as dense. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has made headlines with early fundraising numbers, but his status as a western Pennsylvanian gives him a fairly weak geographic base to draw from. Representative Chrissy Houlahan, who holds the Chester County-based 6th congressional district, is rumored to be considering a run, as are Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Representative Conor Lamb.
With a rapidly-changing state landscape and a deeply divided electorate, we expect Pennsylvania to have among the closest Senate races in 2022. We see this race as a clear Tossup.
Two-term incumbent Republican Ron Johnson has not publicly announced his plans for 2022. While he initially said he would serve only two terms, he’s since expressed interest in both a re-election bid and a run for Governor. Johnson has a reputation as one of America’s most conservative Senators, but he won his two previous races by solid margins.
If he chooses not to run, 2018 primary runner-up Kevin Nicholson has already pledged to get in the race. Other potential candidates include Representatives Brian Steil and Mike Gallagher. Gallagher, who represents the Green Bay-based 8th congressional district, is seen as a strong candidate. On the Democratic side, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson has already declared his candidacy. Attorney General Josh Kaul, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, and State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski are also being floated as possible candidates.
Regardless of what Johnson chooses, Wisconsin is primed to live up to its reputation as America’s premier swing state. While Wisconsin narrowly voted for Joe Biden, the starts off here as a pure Tossup.
Likely States (4)
Alaska (Likely Republican)
Three-term incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski is running for a fourth term. Murkowski is notable as a moderate Republican, and she also holds the dubious distinction of being the only Senator in American history to win three terms as Senator without ever receiving the majority of the vote. Trump has pledged to support a primary challenger to Murkowski, and Republicans like Governor Mike Dunleavy and former Governor Sarah Palin have expressed interest in a primary challenge.
However, in the 2020 election, Alaska voters narrowly approved a new jungle primary structure. All parties will appear on the same ballot, and the top four candidates advance to a general election decided by ranked-choice voting. Because of this, it is very possible that the November election might feature Murkowski, a Democrat, and as many as two other Republicans. If we use the 2018 gubernatorial primaries as a baseline, the four candidates to advance would have been:
- Mike Dunleavy – 43,802 (61.5% of Republican primary votes)
- Mark Begich – 33,451 (100% of Democratic primary votes)
- Mead Treadwell – 22,780 (32% of Republican primary votes)
- William Toien – 5,790 (100% of Libertarian primary votes)
It would not be surprising to see a similar result in the 2022 primary. The question would then become how the Republican voters would rank candidates. Despite Democratic hopes that ranked-choice voting might help their candidates, this new system eliminates their more traditional path of a plurality win. Regardless, we think a Republican candidate – be it Murkowski or someone else – would be favored overall.
Colorado (Likely Democratic)
Incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet is running for a third term in a state that has rocketed to the left in recent years. Joe Biden won Colorado by 13.5 percentage points, the best margin for a Democrat there since 1964. The rapidly-growing Denver metropolitan area has squashed Republican chances statewide for years, and 2022 will likely be no exception. Bennet has a strong reputation as a moderate and is a solid fit for the Denver area.
The most likely Republican candidate seems to be Ken Buck, who represents the 4th district in Congress. He’s the state party chairman and narrowly lost a Senate race in 2010, but his hard-right stances – especially on social issues like abortion – are likely a non-starter statewide. Without a stronger candidate, Republicans will likely fall short in the Centennial State.
Florida (Likely Republican)
Two-term incumbent Republican Marco Rubio is running for re-election in a state that seems to keep slipping through the fingers of the Democratic Party. Once seen as the nation’s premier swing state, Florida has seen an unexpected shift to the right in the 2010s. Democrats have only won a handful of statewide races this century and only hold one statewide office. Trump’s strong 3.4% victory in Florida, buoyed by a surge of nearly 200,000 voters in heavily-Hispanic Miami-Dade County, was a shocking setback for Florida Democrats.
Rubio, a native son of Miami-Dade County, has easily won both of his previous statewide races. He’s broadly popular, especially among Florida’s Hispanic community – he won 48% of the Hispanic vote in 2016. While several other Republicans, including Ivanka Trump, have floated Senate runs, it’s hard to envision a successful challenge. Even harder to envision is a credible Democratic challenge. While Democrats do have a handful of credible candidates, it’s hard to give them any benefit of the doubt given their track record in recent years.
Iowa (Likely Republican)
Seven-term incumbent Republican Chuck Grassley hasn’t announced his plans for 2022, but the competitiveness of this race may depend on what he decides. Grassley is an institution in Iowa; he’s cleared 60% in all of his re-election bids, routinely winning all or most counties in the state. We would move this race to Safe Republican if he decides to run for an eighth term. However, he would be 89 years old by the time the election rolls around. Because of this, retirement is a strong possibility.
If Grassley decides not to run, this would set up a hotly-contested Republican primary. Republicans will have a strong bench to choose from, especially given their recent dominance in the state. Several Democrats have expressed interest in running, including State Auditor Rob Sand and Representative Cindy Axne. However, Iowa’s increasingly red tint has held firm since 2014. It’s not impossible for Democrats to win here, but Republicans would be strongly favored.
Safe States (23)
Alabama (Safe Republican)
Alabama has solidified itself as one of the most conservative and Republican states in the country. The state has a Republican trifecta and Republican supermajorities in both houses of the legislature. In the 2020 election, Donald Trump won it by over 25 points and Republicans easily won six out of seven congressional districts.
Although Democrat Doug Jones recored a narrow upset victory in 2017’s special election, there is little reason to think this race could be competitive. Jones lost by 20 points to Tommy Tuberville, a former college football coach with no political experience. The real question is who the Republican nominee will be. Incumbent Senator Richard Shelby, who joined the GOP in 1994, is the longest-serving Senator in state history. He’s held the seat since 1986, when he narrowly won as a Democrat. He’s won each election since with over 60% of the vote. However, he’ll be 88 years old in 2022, leading to speculation he’ll retire. Shelby has said he’ll announce his plans sometime in January.
Potential Republican nominees include Secretary of State John Merrill, who ran in 2020, Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, and Congressman Mo Brooks, who is known for inflammatory and offensive remarks. Shelby has made clear he would prefer his chief of staff Katie Britt receive the nod; he might even retire early to persuade Governor Kay Ivey to appoint her to the job. Regardless of the nominee, we don’t foresee this race being competitive.
Arkansas (Safe Republican)
Two-term incumbent Republican John Bozeman seems likely to run for a third term in one of America’s reddest states. Since he unseated Democrat Blanche Lincoln by nearly 20 points in 2010, Arkansas has transformed from competitive at the state level to a graveyard for Democrats. The Democratic Party didn’t even field a candidate against fellow Senator Tom Cotton in 2020. Regardless of who the Democratic nominee is – if there even is one – they face an insurmountable race in a state Trump won by nearly 30 points.
California (Safe Democratic)
California might be America’s largest state, but it’s also one of its least competitive. Even in the red wave of 2010, heavily-funded Republicans failed to break through statewide. And the relatively recent addition of blanket primaries has even locked Republicans out of a spot in the top two in the last two Senate races. Appointed Senator Alex Padilla will be up for election to a full term here, and it remains to be seen if he’ll even have a Republican opponent in the runoff. The seat will almost certainly remain in Democratic hands.
Connecticut (Safe Democratic)
It might seem odd now, but there were a couple of years in the early 2010s where Connecticut was seen as a competitive state at the federal level. Not for the Presidency, of course, but for Senate. In 2010, Democrat Richard Blumenthal defeated Republican Linda McMahon by 12 points in a race that was generally seen as “Leans Democratic”. In 2012, McMahon against lost by around 12 points, this time to Chris Murphy in a “Leans Democratic” race.
Since then, Blumenthal and Murphy have each won races by 20 points, and 2022 doesn’t seem to look any different. Republican losses in the legislature in 2020 have further reduced an already mediocre Republican bench, and Biden’s 20-point victory over Trump was the best Presidential performance in the state since 2008. Blumenthal has already announced his intention to run for a third term, and he should be well-positioned to win it handily.
Hawaii (Safe Democratic)
Senator Brian Schatz will be up for re-election in this seat. Hawaii has long been one of the most Democratic states in the country; it hasn’t elected a Republican Senator since 1976, and only two Republicans have ever been elected to the House of Representatives. They’ve had exactly one credible Senate candidate this century: former Governor Linda Lingle, who lost by 25 points in 2012 despite early expectations of a reasonably competitive race. Needless to say, Schatz will easily win a second term if he chooses to run.
Idaho (Safe Republican)
Like its mountain west neighbors Utah and Wyoming, Idaho remains among the reddest of red states. Trump won by over 30 points and Senator Jim Risch won by over 29. Four-term incumbent Mike Crapo would be certain to win if he runs for a fifth term. He will only be 71 years old in 2022, so age isn’t a big concern here. If he decides to retire, Idaho will likely have a hotly-contested Republican primary. While Democrats have made steady gains in the Boise area and have solidified themselves in ski country areas like Blaine and Teton, they simply do not have the numbers to make credible statewide pushes.
Illinois (Safe Democratic)
Incumbent Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth easily unseated Republican Mark Kirk in 2016 and showed unusual strength in southern Illinois. Illinois tends to be idiosyncratic in Democratic midterms – Republicans won statewide contests in both 2010 and 2014. However, increasing polarization and the rapid decline of Republican fortunes in Chicagoland make the state a tough get at the federal level.
In order to win statewide, Republicans need to win essentially every county in the state other than Cook. This is a challenging feat, to be sure, and it is further compounded by the popularity of Duckworth. On the whole, the odds of a Republican statewide victory in Illinois are slim.
Indiana (Safe Republican)
Democrats have long been competitive in Indiana even as the state has remained almost exclusively Republican at the presidential level. As recently as 2016, Democrats came within six points of claiming the Governor’s mansion. However, incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly lost in 2018 and Gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers only received 32% of the vote in 2020. Trump won the state by over 16 points, slightly down from 2020.
After halting Evan Bayh’s comeback attempt in 2016 by nearly 10 points, Republican Todd Young has established himself in this seat. He has a moderately conservative record and remains a good fit for Indiana. We don’t expect this seat to be competitive even if Democrats had a good candidate in the waiting – and they probably don’t.
Kansas (Safe Republican)
Despite Democratic hopes of a blue wave cresting in Kansas, Republicans held firm overall in 2020. Trump only won the state by around 15 points – a similar margin to John McCain in 2008 – and Roger Marshall held off a valiant challenge from Republican-turned-Democrat Barbara Bollier.
Two-term incumbent Jerry Moran has announced he’ll run for re-election, and he is the prohibitive favorite. He won his previous races by 44 and 30 points, respectively, and his record is conservative enough to avoid a primary. Additionally, he lacks the residency issues that dogged fellow Republican Pat Roberts in the 2014 race. We don’t expect this race to be competitive.
Kentucky (Safe Republican)
Two-term incumbent Republican Rand Paul will be up for re-election in this deep red state. While his 14-point margin of victory in 2016 was only half that of President Trump, he remains well-positioned to easily win a third term. Mitch McConnell’s 19-point victory over highly-funded Democratic nominee Amy McGrath has solidified Kentucky as a deep red state, and even a strong Democratic nominee would have issues making any inroads here.
Louisiana (Safe Republican)
Like many states in the Deep South, Louisiana used to be much more amenable to Democrats. Bill Clinton won the state twice and Democrats held both houses of the legislature as recently as 2010. Republicans have since dominated the state, with Democrats only having a check in Governor John Bel Edwards.
Some of these gains have come from party-switchers, and one of the most prominent is Republican Senator John Kennedy. Kennedy served as Treasurer since 2000 and had even run for Senate in 2004 as a Democrat. However, he lost that race and would switch parties in 2007. As a Republican, he easily won the 2016 Senate race. Since then, he’s received nationwide attention for his quotable, folksy comments. He is easily set to win a second term in 2022.
Maryland (Safe Democratic)
Incumbent Democrat Chris Van Hollen is running for a second term. In the 2020 Presidential election, Donald Trump made history by recording the worst Republican Presidential performance in Maryland since 1912. He only won 32.2% of the vote and lost traditionally Republican counties like Frederick, Talbot, and Kent.
Despite this horrendous performance, Maryland does have a very popular Republican Governor: Larry Hogan. Hogan is a moderate Republican and easily won a second term in 2018 despite a Democratic wave. Public opinion polling also also indicated he might be formidable in a Senate race. A Washington Post poll from 2019 showed him leading Van Hollen by eight points.
Hogan seems likely to pursue a Presidential run in 2024. While that doesn’t necessarily preclude him running for Senate first, we find a Senate run to be unlikely. Maryland’s unshakably blue tint at the federal level is well-known, and polarization makes it less likely than ever for voters to split tickets. We wouldn’t rule Hogan out entirely, however – he’s in all likelihood the only Republican who could make this race interesting. But for now, Van Hollen seems well-set to win a second term.
Missouri (Safe Republican)
Two-term incumbent Republican Roy Blunt is running for re-election in this Republican-trending state. While public polling and private observers were sounding alarm bells in this state before election day, Trump and Governor Mike Parsons both easily won re-election. Blunt himself only narrowly won re-election in 2016 by 2.8 percentage points against Democrat Jason Kander, but times have changed in the Show Me State.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill lost her re-election bid in 2018 by a six-point margin. While Democrats still have a statewide officeholder in Auditor Nicole Galloway, she was soundly beaten in her bid for Governor. Kander, an Iraq War veteran who has since publicly detailed his struggles with depression and PTSD, has reportedly declined a rematch.
There are two factors to look at in this race. Firstly, the low-profile Blunt has never been that popular. His close-call in 2016 remains a looming specter in the national eye. The second factor is former Governor Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 following felony indictments. Charges were since dropped, and he has made no secret of his desire to re-enter elected office. A successful primary by Greitens could make this race more competitive.
New York (Safe Democratic)
Chuck Schumer might be loathed by national Republicans, but he’s a veritable institution in New York. The incoming Senate Majority Leader has been elected to four terms in office and has never dipped below 66% in any of them. In his most recent bid, he held Republican Wendy Long to only five counties and 27% of the vote.
Republicans haven’t even hit 35% of the vote in a New York Senate race since 2000. The only question in this Senate race will be how many counties Republicans pick off upstate.
North Dakota (Safe Republican)
North Dakota was once open to Democratic candidates at the federal level. The state had an all-Democratic delegation from 1986 to 2010, and they even managed to win a Senate race in 2012. However, Heidi Heitkamp’s 10-point loss in 2018 gave North Dakota its first all-Republican delegation since the 1920s.
Even if Democrats had a credible candidate, this race would be unwinnable. Incumbent Republican John Hoeven, a former Democratic-NPL member that changed parties in 1998, is perhaps the most popular politician in North Dakota. He’s pulled over 75% of the vote in both of his previous Senate races and even won every county in the state in 2010. His moderately conservative record has proven to be wildly popular, and he’s the prohibitive favorite if he runs for a third term.
Ohio (Safe Republican)
Two-term incumbent Republican Rob Portman will be up for re-election. While he hasn’t officially announced his intentions, it’s believed he will run for a third term. As Ohio has rocketed to the right at the state and federal level, Portman has been able to consistently assemble a winning coalition. He’s easily won his previous two races, holding his Democratic opponents to under 40% of the vote in both. Portman has been able to combine the populist, blue-collar appeal of his fellow Republicans with a unique appeal in Democratic-trending counties like Franklin and Hamilton counties, home of Columbus and Cincinnati, respectively.
While we don’t expect Portman to carry either county this time, we do think he’s the decided favorite for a third term. Democrats lack any compelling candidates and narrowly lost the gubernatorial race in 2018. The right Democrat can certainly run a close race in Ohio, but political trends are unfavorable.
Oklahoma (Safe Republican)
Incumbent Republican James Lankford has been in the news lately in large part due to his now-redacted support for the Ted Cruz-led effort to object to the certification of electoral votes. This was an unusual decision by Lankford, a more establishment-friendly movement conservative who has made a concerted effort to reach out to Tulsa’s black community. A firestorm of controversy has seemingly harmed that relationship, culminating in an apology from Lankford, who said that “I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you. I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry.”
In all likelihood, Lankford was hoping to avert a primary challenge. However, even if he were to lose a primary, Oklahoma is simply not a viable state for federal Democrats. Trump won 65% of the vote here, his third-highest margin nationally, and he swept every county. No Democrat has hit even 35% in a Senate race in Oklahoma this decade.
Oregon (Safe Democratic)
Incumbent Democrat Ron Wyden will be up for a fifth term in 2022, should he decide to run. While Oregon is already a fairly Democratic state, Wyden is extraordinarily popular; he’s never faced credible opposition in any of his re-election bids. He’s known for blending more liberal policy stances with a willingness to work across party lines, making him a formidable opponent. Even if Republicans had a strong bench and credible candidates – and they don’t – it would be a very, very hard task to unseat him. And even if Wyden opts not to run for another term, the stable Democratic lean of Oregon should be sufficient to carry most Democrats to a comfortable victory.
South Carolina (Safe Republican)
Despite raising over $100 million, Democrat Jaime Harrison’s Senate bid fell well short of expectations. Incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham won re-election by over 10 percentage points, gaining ground in several black-belt counties even as Harrison made inroads in the Lowcountry. The only tangible result of the massive influx of spending seems to have been a down-ballot shellacking of rural conservative Democrats.
At its core, South Carolina remains a deeply conservative and very Republican state, which presents difficulties for any Democratic candidate. Incumbent Republican Tim Scott is not at any risk of losing. Scott is wildly popular; he has won both of his Senate races with over 60% of the vote. With the state’s Democratic Party reeling from several stunning down-ballot losses, Scott has a solid chance at doing it again.
South Dakota (Safe Republican)
Like its neighbor to the north, South Dakota has become one of the most Republican states in the country. Despite a closer-than-expected gubernatorial race in 2018, the state remains overwhelmingly conservative. On the whole, the state has shed its previous openness to federal Democrats, and incumbent Republican John Thune should have no difficulty defeating any Democratic candidate. As one of the top Republicans in leadership, Thune is a well-known figure nationally and is a likely future Majority Leader. His only risk of losing comes in the primary, but even the odds of that seem incredibly slim.
Utah (Safe Republican)
While Utah was seen as a competitive state in 2016 due to Trump’s unpopularity among Mormons, the state returned to form in 2020 by handing him a decisive 21-point victory over Joe Biden. America’s only majority-LDS state hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970, and it remains unlikely to do so in the near future. Two-term incumbent Republican Mike Lee, an arch-conservative, has recorded over 60% of the vote in both of his previous contests. Should he run for a third term, he’d be almost certain to do so for a third time.
Washington (Safe Democratic)
Five-term incumbent Democrat Patty Murray will be up for re-election. While Washington isn’t entirely hopeless for Republicans – gains among rural, white working-class voters have shifted the state’s far west more to the right – Washington is an overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal state. The core bastion of King County is more than enough to squash the hopes of most Republican candidates.
It is worth noting that Republicans do currently hold one statewide office, the Secretary of State (Kim Wyman). But Republicans haven’t fielded a competitive Senate race here since 2010, when perennial “almost winner” Dino Rossi lost by only around five percentage points. In a best-case-scenario year, that sort of margin wouldn’t necessarily be impossible, but the Republican bench in Washington is both thin and far too conservative for the state as a whole. And barring some unexpected development, this race isn’t looking to be an exception to the rule.
Vermont (Safe Democratic)
An odd fact about Vermont: despite being perhaps the most liberal state in country, only one Democrat has ever served as a Senator. That Democrat, Patrick Leahy, has won an impressive eight terms. Since his first win in 1974, he’s faced only a handful of competitive races as the state has transitioned from ruby red to deep blue. And at only 80 years old, Leahy could feasibly serve for several more if he wants to. If he declines to run, Democrats have a deep bench to work with. These include Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, Attorney General T. J. Donovan, and Becca Balint, the President Pro Tempore of the Vermont Senate. Additionally, Progressive Party candidate David Zuckerman is rumored to be seeking a run – although his colossal 41-point loss to Republican Governor Phil Scott might put a damper on those hopes.
Speaking of Scott, he’s about the only Republican that could make this race even somewhat interesting. A moderate Republican who openly opposes Donald Trump, Scott is wildly popular to the point that his coattails were able to flip a handful of seats in the Vermont House of Representatives – enough to sustain his vetoes against unified Democratic and Progressive support. However, Scott seems more likely to run for a fourth two-year term as Governor. If he were to run, it wouldn’t be wise to count him entirely out. Vermont is a highly elastic and independent state. However, its blue sheen is a very tough bar to overcome, even for a Governor who won all but a handful of towns in 2020.