25 of our Senate races are placed in the “Safe” category. 15 are Republican-held seats, while 10 are from Democratic-held seats.
The only thing of interest in all of our Safe Republican seats are primaries. Alabama’s primary for the seat being relinquished by Richard Shelby has taken another left turn, with outsider Mike Durant starting to gain in the race. It seems to officially make the race a three-horse race between Mo Brooks, Katie Britt and Durant. It will be one of the key primaries to watch, especially as Brooks continues to lose momentum.
The other key primary of the Safe Republican seats will come from Alaska. Lisa Murkowski faces a challenge from Kelly Tshibaka. I already spoke on this primary a couple of months ago, but much has changed since then. The concerns I had about Tshibaka have come to light, and she has been underwhelming so far against Murkowski. That may not matter in this era of politics, but Murkowski now seems to have a clearer edge against Tshibaka than she did back in the summer.
Of the remaining Safe Republican seats, the only one we could see moving to Likely is Iowa’s, and that’s quite unlikely with Chuck Grassley running again.
The Democratic Safe seats are somehow less interesting than the GOP ones. The open seat being vacated by Pat Leahy in Vermont has no competitive primary, as Representative Peter Welch seems set to have the seat to himself. The only seat that may shift towards competitiveness is Colorado
There’s a case to be made it should start in the Likely category, but two things have us putting it in safe. One, the fact that Colorado has zoomed to the left. It’s become very hard to see a path for a Republican statewide victory in Colorado now. Secondly, Colorado Republicans have struggled to find a good candidate for this seat at all. It’s a very underwhelming field for what Colorado is now politically.
There are only three seats across the parties that fit into this category. Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina are all started off at Likely Republican.
Florida sees Marco Rubio start his third campaign, this time going up against Val Demings, the Congresswoman from Orlando. Florida is a state that rarely has uncompetitive elections. However, former President Trump won the state by 3.5 points in 2020, and Rubio previously overperformed in the state. That plus the environment make Florida a Likely Republican seat in our eyes.
Ohio and North Carolina are two races with some similarities going into November. Both have incumbents retiring and competitive GOP primaries. North Carolina seems set to be a two-horse race between former Governor Pat McCrory and Representative Ted Budd. Budd, who holds the Trump endorsement, has been slowly gaining ground on McCrory, while McCrory still has a fundraising advantage. Whoever wins will likely face off against Cheri Beasley, whose primary field was cleared after Jeff Jackson and Erica Smith both dropped out. North Carolina has been able to hold a slight, but stable GOP lean, and in this environment it’s hard to see Democrats breaking through the Tarheel state.
What’s been said about Ohio’s GOP primary has already been said. Characters such as Josh Mandel, J. D. Vance, Jane Timken and Bernie Moreno have made it a fun ride already. Whoever comes out of that mess of a primary will face Tim Ryan, the Congressman who is probably the best Ohio Democrats have on their bench. While Ryan is a above-average candidate, Ohio may just end up being too red of a state now. It voted for President Trump by eight points in 2020, and has areas where Republicans can still continue to gain
We only have two seats in the Lean category: Wisconsin as Leans Republican and New Hampshire as Leans Democratic.
New Hampshire has so far been a breath of relief for Democrats. Both Governor Chris Sununu and former Senator Kelly Ayotte passed on running this year. That has led Republicans to go down the list of candidates, for now landing on Senate President Chuck Morse. Morse is the living definition of “generic Republican” and that gives Maggie Hassan an early advantage. New Hampshire is a weird state politically, though, and can swing wildly in these type of environments. Having Chris Sununu run for re-election on the Governor’s side of things may end up being a help for whoever the GOP nominee is as well. However, Hassan now clearly has the early advantage.
Wisconsin is the other Leans seat, with us considering incumbent Ron Johnson a slight early favorite. Johnson, while controversial, has been this way his entire Senate career, and does face an environment more similar to 2010 than 2016. He seems likely to face Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. Barnes excites much of the Democratic base in Wisconsin, but has never run a statewide campaign before. It’s an issue that faces much of the Democratic field. Wisconsin is trending rightwards, and in this environment it’s going to be hard to beat Johnson. It’s why the state starts off as Leans Republican.
That leaves us with 4 Tossups: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
Arizona sees Mark Kelly preparing to run for a full term. Kelly seems likely to face Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Peter Thiel-associated Blake Masters has drawn much online hype from populist circles, but that has yet to really translate to success in polling. In fact, former General Mike McGuire has actually polled ahead of Masters on multiple occasions. However, Kelly will be a tough opponent to beat for any of them, and his ability to raise money is key.
Georgia seems to be already set between its two candidates. Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock is set to face Republican Herschel Walker in a crucial race for control of the senate. Walker is a wildcard candidate for a Senate race. The outsider has strong name recognition as a Georgia Bulldogs football legend, Heisman winner, and NFL star. He also has baggage, but he may be the only candidate for Georgia Republicans who can match Warnock’s fundraising ability. Walker hasn’t had a major gaffe so far, but it’s a concern for Republicans in a race important to their majority.
Like Georgia, Nevada’s Senate race is already set. Former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt will face off against incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez-Masto. Nevada is crucial in many ways for Republicans. It’s a seat where no focus will have to go to a primary, and it’s also test of their 2020 gains among working class Hispanics. Cortez-Masto is considered a strong incumbent, however, and her ties to the old Reid machine of Nevada always help.
Finally, Pennsylvania. The Keystone State, and my home, is once again set to have a crucial senate election. Incumbent Republican Pat Toomey has retired, leaving both fields open. And both fields will be hard fought. Republicans have a group led by David McCormick and… Dr. Oz. McCormick seems set to be supported by most of Trumpworld, while Oz is trying to capitalize on being an outsider. We shall see if that works. Democrats also have a two-horse race between Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Congressman Conor Lamb. Lamb has surprisingly struggled out of the gate, with Fetterman continually having a strong lead over Lamb. However, issues with Fetterman have national groups and Philly-based union groups lining up behind Lamb. Neither primary is close to being over, and are likely to only get nastier as they go on.