It has been almost half a year since our last Senate update. While we do not have any changes to our ratings this month, we do have many updates regarding the expanding primary fields across the Senate map. You can find our current ratings below.
Alabama (Safe Republican)
Earlier this year, long-time Republican Senator Richard Shelby announced his retirement. First elected in 1986 as a conservative Democrat, Shelby chose to join the Republicans after their massive 1994 congressional wave. 27 years later, he remains beloved by his constituents. He has also managed to attain great political influence over the course of his Senate career; formerly the Chair of the Banking Committee, Shelby currently serves as Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee.
Once a Democratic bastion, Alabama has since become a reliably Republican state at every level. A Democrat has not carried Alabama in a Presidential contest since Jimmy Carter in 1976, and, excluding the brief tenure of Doug Jones (2017-2021), the state has not elected Democrats to the Senate this century. The Democrats have also fallen short on the gubernatorial level, with their last Governor, Don Siegelman, losing narrowly in 2002.
With Doug Jones unable to make his 2020 reelection bid remotely close despite being an incumbent, there is no doubt that Democrats are at an insurmountable disadvantage when it comes to flipping the Cotton State. As such, the tantamount-to-election Republican primary is the only contest worth watching. Two prominent Republicans are seeking the nomination thus far, with both representing different wings of the party.
The first is Mo Brooks, the controversial Congressman from Alabama’s 5th district – a seat based around the northern city of Huntsville. Brooks is certainly the most vocally conservative contender, but his campaign strategy seems to be unwisely based on the belief that all media attention, whether good or bad, is beneficial. Former President Trump has been the kingmaker in competitive Senate primaries, but his endorsement may not be enough to carry Brooks to victory next year. Rather simply, the Huntsville area alone does not provide enough votes to win statewide. Brooks realized this the hard way in 2017, when he lost in the first round of the Senate special election primary. However, Brooks could still be a viable candidate if he manages to make the necessary inroads with primary voters in other parts of the state.
Brooks’s main opponent is Katie Boyd Britt, the establishment pick and former Chief of Staff to Shelby. While she is clearly an adequately conservative candidate, she has not found it necessary to resort to bomb-throwing controversy to bolster her campaign. Instead, Britt, having gotten the endorsement of her former boss, has spent the last few months growing a massive campaign warchest. Such a financial advantage over Brooks could give her the perfect chance to bomb the state with advertising, thereby garnering the statewide name recognition necessary to win the primary.
Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard and businesswoman Jessica Taylor are also seeking the nomination.
In short, it is too early to properly judge the true competitiveness of this Republican contest. The next few months will make or break the fate of the Brooks campaign in a state that has previously preferred anti-establishment conservatives like him in Senate primaries. (See 2017, 2020).
Arizona (Leans Democratic)
In the Grand Canyon State, incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly is preparing to seek reelection to a full term. The former astronaut beat two-time Republican nominee and former Congresswoman Martha McSally in the 2020 special election to fill the late John McCain’s seat. While Arizona has begun to shift leftward owing to trends in Maricopa County, it remains a hotly-contested swing state, only backing Joe Biden by 10,457 votes last year. Though it is too early to speak on the potential electoral implications of voting records, it is notable that Kelly’s voting record has been more liberal than his Democratic colleague Kyrsten Sinema.
Nonetheless, we will continue to rate the Arizona race Leans Democratic until we have a better picture of the strength of the Republican field. For months, the top potential Republican recruit was Governor Doug Ducey, who easily won reelection in 2018, even as Sinema flipped the Senate seat to the Democrats. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, Ducey has been dogged by mediocre approval ratings, a debilitation that may have led him to decline to run for Senate.
With the elephant in the room at of the way, at least for now, other Republicans have begun to enter the race. The strongest of the five candidates is Mark Brnovich, the state’s Attorney General since 2015. Other possible candidates include 5th district Congressman Andy Biggs and State GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward. Even if the environment pans out well for Republicans in the Democratic midterm, the Arizona GOP will still require a credible candidate to unseat Kelly.
Florida (Likely Republican)
The Sunshine State is the perfect example of a swing state in which Republicans have been able to maintain a narrow, yet consistent advantage. The GOP has pulled off narrow victories in each gubernatorial contest since 2010, and since 2018 the state’s Senate delegation has been wholly Republican. At the Presidential level, Florida was one of the few states to get redder between 2016 and 2020, with then-President Trump winning by 3.4%.
The Republican Senator up next year is Marco Rubio, an incredibly strong incumbent with an important appeal to his lucrative south Florida base. Despite an unsuccessful Presidential campaign, Rubio was easily reelected to Congress’s upper chamber in 2016. Along with Governor Ron DeSantis, Rubio appears to be a strong reelection favorite.
On the Democratic side, the primary frontrunner is Democrat Val Demings, the Congresswoman from the Orlando-based 10th district. Other candidates include former Congressman Alan Grayson, who lost badly in the 2016 Senate primary, Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell, and lawyer William Sanchez.
While Demings is certainly a credible candidate for the seat, it is unclear if she will be able to pull enough support from Rubio to win, even if the national environment somehow does work in her favor. At the end of the day, an overperformance in the Orlando area is simply not enough to outrun a stronger than usual Republican finish in southern Florida. As such, our Likely Republican rating will stand for the foreseeable future.
Georgia (Leans Democratic)
Out of all of the states on this list, Georgia poses the most long-term danger to Republicans. In under half a decade, the Peach State has gone from a Republican bastion to a blooming Democratic opportunity. Most analysts consider the major shifts toward the Democrats in and around the Atlanta Metro area to have been responsible for the state’s Democratic trends. Last year, Joe Biden became the first Democratic Presidential nominee to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992. Just two months later, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock ousted Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to flip the state’s Senate delegation to the Democrats and subsequently give the party control of the chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaker votes.
Nevertheless, Georgia is still a swing state that Republicans can win with the right candidate running the right campaign. There are numerous potential Republicans seeking to capitalize on a potentially-good midterm environment to unseat Warnock in his bid for a six year term. They include Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, ex-football player and entrepreneur Herschel Walker, Congressmen Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson, State House Speaker David Ralston, and former Senator Loeffler herself.
Walker certainly has the warchest to run a credible Senate campaign, and he has also been endorsed by former President Trump, but it is unclear whether or not he would be an effective candidate if he chooses to run. Until we can adequately see the type of candidate Walker is on the trail, assuming he does choose to run, it is prescient to keep our rating at Lean Democratic. If Walker does not run in the end, the primary frontrunner in what would likely be a crowded field remains to be seen.
Iowa (Likely Republican)
Over the last few years, Iowa has established itself as a reliably Republican state at the federal level. A Democrat has not won a Senate race here since 2008, and both Bruce Braley and Teresa Greenfield failed to make their races close in the end. In Presidential contests, Trump successfully won Iowa in 2016 and 2020, with his second win defying expectations and seemingly shifting the once Democratic-leaning swing state into the GOP column for years to come. Unfortunately for the Democrats, their more successful record of winning state-level races simply does not matter when looking at a Senate contest.
The incumbent in question is Chuck Grassley, an icon within the Republican party. At 87 years old, the ex-Judiciary Chair and Senate President Pro Tempore has not had a competitive race since his initial election in 1980. In his last reelection in 2016, he beat Democrat Patty Judge by nearly 25 points, far more than then-candidate Trump carried the Hawkeye State by. Grassley has not yet made his decision on reelection. Despite being in relatively good health given his age, he may opt to retire given the uncertainty of finishing an eighth term that would run well into his 90s.
If Grassley does run, he reelection is assured. Should Grassley retire, his grandson and Speaker of the Iowa State House Pat Grassley could be the ordained successor. Freshman Republican Congresswoman Ashley Hinson might also consider running. Both would be favored to hold the seat for Republicans regardless of the environment.
The lone Democrat in the race is Abby Finkenauer, a former one-term Congresswoman from Iowa’s 1st district, based in the northeastern “driftless” region; she was defeated for reelection by Hinson last year against pundit expectations. With State Auditor Rob Sand siding against a Senate bid, Finkenauer is likely the most credible Democratic candidate the party can find going into next year. Either way, Iowa has evaded Democratic Senate candidates over the last few years, so a Finkenauer has an uphill battle to victory. For now, Likely Republican is the reasonable rating.
Missouri (Safe Republican)
The most chaotic Republican primary of the Senate cycle is already brewing in the Show Me State. With two-term Republican Senator Roy Blunt opting to retire rather than stand for reelection in his now-Safe Republican state, a deluge of potential Republican successors has entered the race. They are former Governor Eric Greitens, 4th district Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, Mark McCloskey, and Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Three Representatives – Billy Long, Jason Smith, and Ann Wagner – have also expressed interest in running. One other potential candidate is Dave Schatz, the President of the State Senate. Early internal polling seems to show Greitens ahead, followed by Schmitt and Hartzler, but the rapidly-expanding state of the field leaves the outcome woefully uncertain. For now, we will simply look at the background of each declared candidate mentioned above. As soon as the other candidates officially enter the race, we will discuss their histories in a future update.
Greitens is easily the most questionable option on the list. Elected as Governor in 2016, he resigned a little over a year into his term after a slew of controversies, ranging from computer tampering and invasion of privacy to sexual assault. While the charges against him were dropped shortly after the news broke, many Republican operatives still consider him a liability should he win the primary. Nevertheless, Missouri’s incessant rightward trend would make it seemingly improbable to beat Greitens. Still, Greitens could very well run under expectations if he were the nominee, a feat that would likely draw the ire of national Republicans who remain more concerned with winning Senate contests in marginal states.
Hartzler has been the Congresswoman from the 4th district since 2011. Located in central western Missouri along the Kansas border, the seat was initially represented by Democrat Ike Skelton until his loss to Hartzler in the massive 2010 wave. Since then, Hartzler has maintained a relatively low profile in the House. If she does win the primary, she would be a safe bet for the general election. She would be the third female Senator from Missouri and the first Republican female senator in state history if she manages to win.
Schmitt is one of the more politically experienced candidates seeking the nomination. At the young age of 46, he has already served as a state senator, Treasurer, and, since 2019, Attorney General. Since taking up the mantle for Josh Hawley, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, Schmitt has used his position to advance the conservative agenda on a wide variety of issues, ranging from the coronavirus to healthcare. His strong conservative judicial record could certainly be used to rally the base around him and therefore secure victory over his many competitors, including Greitens.
McCloskey has catapulted himself to national fame after his gun-toting controversy and subsequent RNC speech. The St. Louis lawyer is now the seeking the Senate nomination. It is unclear whether or not he will be able to draw any significant support in the upcoming election. But given the crowded field and his national recognition among conservative voters, anything is possible.
The Democratic field is crowded with unknown candidates, with former State Senator Scott Sifton being the only credible option thus far. 2016 gubernatorial nominee and former Attorney General Chris Koster is also reportedly considering running. We currently rate the race Safe Republican.
Nevada (Leans Democratic)
Unlike Colorado, the Silver State has remained a closely-contested swing state. Nevertheless, the last decade has shown that the Democrats hold a tenuous, yet reliable advantage when it comes to narrowly winning statewide contests. Obama broke the state’s Bush-era Republican streak in 2008, when he won Nevada by a 12.5 point landslide; Obama also carried Nevada in his 2012 reelection, winning by around seven points. In the Trump-era, though, the state’s Democratic lean in Presidential contests has been slightly decreased. Hillary Clinton won the state by 2.42%, with Joe Biden’s victory coming in at an even narrower 2.39%. While we are by no means saying that Republicans have an advantage in Nevada, we are implying that Nevada is a better Senate target than a state like Colorado, which has grown bluer with each passing cycle.
Generally Republican in Presidential contests during the latter half of the 20th century, Nevada has been more mixed at the Senate level. One notable Nevadan that happened to survive his fair share of nail-biter races was Harry Reid, who, until his retirement in 2016, was the leader of the Senate Democrats.
Reid was first elected to the Senate in 1986 with just a few terms as a Congressman from Nevada’s 1st district under his belt. He had relied heavily on a strong performance in Clark County, the home of Las Vegas, and managed to beat Republican Jim Santini by a decent margin, flipping the seat to the Democrats. His toughest race came in 1998, when he defeated Congressman John Ensign by just 399 votes out of 435,864 cast. After an easy 2004 reelection, most pundits counted Reid out in 2010. Besides the fact that he was running in a marginal state in a red wave, Reid had also been trailing his opponent, Sharron Angle, in the polls for most of the campaign. On election day, he won by over five points, shocking the political world. He retired in 2016, allowing Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto to narrowly beat Congressman Joe Heck to hold his seat for the Democrats.
Democrats had further success in the 2018 midterms, with Congresswoman Jacky Rosen ousting Republican Senator Dean Heller by a sizable margin and Steve Sisolak managing to become the first Democrat elected to the governor’s mansion in the 21st century.
Ahead of the 2022 campaign, Republicans have had to address one of the main burdens on their statewide chances: an inadequate candidate base. So far, though, it seems that Republicans have already recruited their best possible candidates for both the Senate and Gubernatorial races, a feat that could benefit them if the environment becomes nasty for Democrats. Those candidates are Heller, who is running for Governor, and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running for Senator. And while they may have both lost high-profile races in the last midterm cycle, they are the best options available for Nevada Republicans, who hold only one statewide row office – Secretary of State – and have only one member in the state’s Congressional delegation.
For Democrats in the modern-era, a statewide victory is possible with only Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno) counties. The remaining sparsely-populated counties are heavily Republican, like in many other western states, but simply do not pack the electoral might to make or break a close election. The Leans Democratic rating will be kept for now. While Laxalt certainly could win under the right set of circumstances, the thin Democratic edge of the state itself should be enough for Senator Cortez Masto to hold on to her frontrunner status.
New Hampshire (Leans Democratic)
Given the fact that Republicans are mostly on the defense when it comes to the Class III map, a pick-up in the Granite State is already seen as one of the best paths for Republicans to re-take the Senate. Currently, Republicans are only at major risk of losing seats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If they can hold onto both of those two while picking up a state like New Hampshire, Georgia, or Arizona, they would be able to pull off a narrow Senate majority. (Assuming no other somewhat competitive to competitive seats flip on the map). You might be asking, why do Republicans have a chance in this Democratic-leaning state? The answer lies in popular Republican Governor Chris Sununu.
Sununu, the heir to a well-known New Hampshire political family, has forged his own path in his Democratic-leaning homestate. In fact, his appeal to the unique state’s electorate has been so great that he managed to easily win reelection last year, even as Joe Biden swept President Trump in the state by a wide margin. New Hampshire hasn’t had a Republican Congressman since January 2017 and hasn’t had a Republican Senator since Kelly Ayotte lost a razor-thin race to Governor Maggie Hassan in 2016. That razor-thin margin, coupled with Sununu’s moderate-conservatism, has given many Republicans hope that one of New England’s more competitive states could be the opening they are looking for on the quest to take back the Senate.
So why do we have a Leans Democratic rating? As of this writing, Sununu has not publicly announced whether or not he will forgo another easy reelection as Governor to seek a Senate seat that will be far more difficult to win. Nevertheless, we do eventually expect him to throw his hat in the Senate ring. After all, some Republicans consider New Hampshire a safer bet for a pickup than Georgia and Arizona based on candidate quality alone. If Sununu ends up declining a Senate bid, the path to a Republican Senate majority would become endangered. The hypothetical polling tells it all. Out of all the potential Republican candidates, Sununu is the only one who has reliably led the incumbent. Besides former Senator Ayotte, other potential Republicans simply did not even come close to Hassan in comparable polling.
North Carolina (Leans Republican)
As Editor-in-chief and North Carolina expert Eric Cunningham recently stated on a special edition episode of The Report, the Tar Heel State has been a white whale for Democrats over the last few Senate cycles. In many respects, the 2008 Democratic wave, in which Barack Obama became the first Democrat to win the state since Carter in 1976 and Kay Hagan successfully ousted Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, tricked Democrats into overestimating their chances in future federal races. Since then, Democrats have fallen short in four Senate races (2010, 2014, 2016, 2020) and three close Presidential contests. Unfortunately for the Democrats, like in Iowa, their more successful record in state-level races does not matter when it comes to the Senate. With that record, Republicans start as favorites to hold the Republican-leaning swing state, hence our Leans Republican rating.
The North Carolina seat is one of many being vacated by an incumbent Republican. That Senator is Richard Burr, who faced criticism last year following accusations of insider trading. Burr, a well known figure in state politics, has served in the Senate since January 2005, with service in the House before that. Given the state’s Republican edge, a prominent retirement like Burr’s has led to a crowded primary field. The three main candidates are former Governor Pat McCrory, former Representative Mark Walker, and Representative Ted Budd.
McCrory, who calls the Charlotte area home, served as Governor from 2013 until 2017. He lost an incredibly close reelection bid to Roy Cooper in 2016 following backlash over the legislature’s attempt to base transgender individuals’ bathroom access on their birth genders. Nonetheless, McCrory will certainly enjoy his statewide name recognition advantage over the other candidates heading into the early stages of the primary; he also has a base of support in the Republican-trending east, where he was the best-performing Republican in several counties in 2016. In addition to receiving the support of Senator Burr, McCrory has easily led both his opponents in three polls conducted thus far. Though Budd and Walker certainly have the time to improve their name recognition, McCrory’s early headstart could prove difficult to overcome.
Walker hails from Greensboro. His old district was redrawn in North Carolina’s final round of court-ordered redistricting ahead of the 2020 elections, ultimately hindering him from finding a seat in which he could run and win. Since leaving Congress, Walker has touted his Senate bid, promising at one point early in the campaign to dominate the fundraising field by raising hundreds of millions of dollars. However, his fundraising has lagged behind his opponents despite his early entry.
The final Republican in the race is Budd, who represents the 13th Congressional district. Historically speaking, Budd having the Trump endorsement would likely have catapulted him to frontrunner status, but such a stellar rise now appears uncertain. In many respects, Budd is struggling to compete for oxygen against Walker and McCrory. In the end, one might wonder whether or not McCrory’s tenure as a former statewide office holder will allow him to win most of the state in a primary, with Walker and Budd only drawing regional support from their Congressional districts. Regardless of the Republican primary winner, the party itself would be likely to begin the campaign on top.
On the Democratic side, the primary battle is also becoming quite heated. The three main candidates there are former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court Cheri Beasley, State Senator Jeff Jackson, and former State Senator Erica Smith. So far Beasley, who lost her re-election bid in 2020 by a ridiculously close margin of 404 votes last year, seems like the establishment candidate, drawing support from prominent North Carolina Democrat Alma Adams and the Congressional Black Caucus. Though polling has been uncertain in the race, it appears that Tar Heel Democrats may be ready to test out a new electoral strategy of nominating a minority candidate to appeal to the party base. After all, Democrats are willing to try anything to avoid a rehash of an unsuccessful Cal Cunningham Senate bid.
Until we have a better idea of how both primary races are shaping up, we consider it wise to maintain the Lean Republican rating. After all, Democrats, not Republicans, are at bat preparing to prove themselves when it comes to winning a competitive Senate contest here.
Ohio (Likely Republican)
The Buckeye State is the scene of yet another prominent Republican retirement. Senator Rob Portman shocked the political world earlier this year after announcing that this term would be his last. Easily reelected over former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland in 2016, Portman has since become an influential political voice among his fellow Senate Republicans.
At the same time, Ohio’s steady tread to the right seems to have been exacerbated under the Trump-era. Besides Sherrod Brown’s latest reelection in 2018, Democratic attempts to win the state at the federal and state level have not borne much fruit. While parts of the state, notably the Columbus and Cincinnati metropolitan areas, have shifted towards the Democrats, the party’s rural support, especially that ancestrally concentrated on the eastern border, has essentially collapsed. There is no better evidence of this trend than Mahoning County, home to Youngstown – the steel crafting hub in the state. Last year, President Trump became the first Republican to win Mahoning since Richard Nixon in 1972. If the suburban trends do not rapidly accelerate, the Democrats appear to be in a precarious statewide situation.
A lot like Demings (FL) and Finkenauer (IA), though, the Democratic frontrunner here is not a bad candidate. That hopeful is Tim Ryan, the US Representative from the 13th district who unsuccessfully sought the Presidency last year. Ryan’s Youngstown-based district has been growing increasingly Republican over the course of the last few cycles, and the prospect of obliteration in the state’s upcoming redistricting cycle has seemingly pushed him to make a statewide bid. At the end of the day, though, without an advantage like Brown’s incumbency, it seems unlikely that Ryan will be able to make the Senate race particularly competitive, regardless of the national environment. Nevertheless, with an ever-shrinking field of viable Buckeye Democrats, there is no doubt that Ryan is the best chance that the Democrats have when it comes to taking this seat.
One potential thorn in the Republican side ahead of a general election is the fairly raucous GOP primary, which is nearly as chaotic as Missouri’s. The leading candidate is Josh Mandel, a former State Treasurer and Senate nominee. To put it politely, Mandel has been keen on starting his fair share of controversy since launching his campaign, with many of his Twitter posts drawing the ire of individuals across the political and partisan spectrums. Following the Mo Brooks strategy of “any attention is better than no attention”, Mandel seems poised to follow his current polling leads all the way to a primary win next year. But there is always the potential for the wheels to fall off of the bus. In such a scenario, the catalyst would likely be Jane Timken, his most credible opponent and the former Chair of the Ohio Republican party.
Though Timken is certainly as conservative and supportive of the Trump agenda as Mandel, she has not conducted her campaign in such a flamboyant manner. And while the former President himself has not yet weighed in on which candidate he prefers, Timken does seem to have attracted most of the establishment support thus far. Unfortunately for all those hoping for a quiet Senate primary, this likely means that Mandel will unleash his anti-establishment fury upon her as the primary reaches its heat. Other candidates that are either in the race or about to enter the race include JD Vance, a prominent populist conservative commentator and author of Hillbilly Elegy, and 10th district Congressman Mike Turner.
In the end, even Mandel would be favored to win the the general election given the state’s partisan lean. While Democrats would certainly like to have a controversial candidate like him to nail to the wall at every moment, it likely wouldn’t be enough overcome the fact that the Democrats’ days appear to be numbered in federal races in the Buckeye State. For now, we are keeping a Likely Republican rating.
Possibly the most endangered Republican seat up next year is in Pennsylvania, one of two Republican-held seats in states that backed Joe Biden last year. The incumbent Republican Pat Toomey kicked off a raging discourse of speculation and uncertainty after announcing earlier in the cycle that he would not be pursuing a reelection bid in 2022. Toomey, who was able to outrun Trump in the Philadelphia suburbs in his 2016 reelection, would have been a formidable candidate had he chosen to stay on.
In a crowded field of Republican primary candidates, businessman Jeff Bartos seems to be the top candidate so far. Other Republicans include 2020 Congressional candidate Sean Parnell and former US Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands. The best potential Republican recruit would likely be former Congressman Ryan Costello from the 6th district. While he retired in 2018 to avoid a uphill reelection battle following court-ordered mid-decade redistricting, he would certainly be a similarly strong candidate to Toomey in the important Philadelphia collar counties. Some extra support in those Democratic-trending suburbs could potentially make or break a close Senate general election.
As of late, Democrats seem to be more confident in their gubernatorial chances than in their senatorial odds. Attorney General Josh Shapiro seems poised to run a dedicated campaign to hold the Keystone State’s gubernatorial office for the Democrats in lieu of Tom Wolf’s retirement. Nevertheless, they still have a viable primary field for the state’s Senate seat. The frontrunner so far has been progressive Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, but his statewide lead, along with his previously uncontested home-turf advantage in western Pennsylvania, may now be at risk at the hands of moderate Congressman Conor Lamb, who is set to join the race very soon. Lamb won a 2018 special election in a heavily-Republican seat before winning two subsequent elections in a bluer district. Other Democrats currently in the race include State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta and State Senator Sharif Street.
Until we have a clearer picture of the likely nominees for both parties, we believe that the best rating for the Senate contest in the Keystone State is Tossup.
The final race on our list is Wisconsin, the other competitive Republican-held seat in a state that Joe Biden won last year, albeit by a narrower margin than Pennsylvania. Unlike Toomey, incumbent Republican Ron Johnson has not been definitive on his plans. While he had initially stated he would retire, he has since walked back that pledge. Recently, he stated that he would not run if he believed he were not the best candidate for the GOP to win the race. Should Johnson ultimately decide to run, he would almost certainly clear the Republican field. If he does not run, Congressman Mike Gallagher, a rising star in the Republican Party, would be a formidable candidate.
The Democratic primary is the most interesting contest so far, with countless candidates running. These include Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, State Senator Chris Larson, Senior Vice President of the Milwaukee Bucks Alex Lasry, and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson. While the primary election is still far off, we would consider Barnes the frontrunner and likely Democratic nominee to face Johnson, or any other Republican that runs to fill his shoes. Democratic Congressman Ron Kind may also consider running to avoid a precarious situation with regards to redistricting in his ever-reddening House seat.
When it comes to a general election it is simply too early to make any definitive judgements. Barnes would certainly be a formidable challenger, but it is unclear if Wisconsin would be willing to send Johnson home, especially in a potentially good Republican environment. Johnson has survived close races in the past, with his 2016 victory over former Senator Russ Feingold considered a major upset. For now, Tossup is the ideal rating.