Our opening Senate ratings feature three tossup states and three states in the “Leans” column. We already anticipate Republicans gaining a single seat. This leaves Republicans one seat short of the amount needed for a Senate majority, even under a President of the other party. The only two Republican-held seats we have on the board – Florida and Texas – are both stretch states at best. In short: this field is almost entirely defense for the Democratic Party.
Even worse, this defense requires holding states like Ohio (Trump+8) and Montana (Trump+16). This is before we even get to perpetually competitive swing states like Arizona, Nevada, or Wisconsin. In other words: Democrats holding the majority isn’t impossible, but it would be highly unlikely. We consider Republicans the firm favorites to regain a Senate majority, barring any unexpected developments.
A quick note here: we’re treating Senators Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont as independents. While King and Sanders both caucus with the Democratic Party, they are not members of the party and run for office as independents. King, in particular, always faces opposition from a Democrat. Because of this, we have a separate category for their races. However, both Senators are certain to continue caucusing with Democrats if they win re-election. Because of this, we’re also including them in the total number of Democrats in our Senate rating.
- Arizona (Krysten Sinema, Independent)
Kyrsten Sinema’s victory in 2018’s Senate contest could in many ways be seen as the first real step in the state’s shift to the left. But over her term, Sinema has proven to be a disappointment to hardline Democrats – like she promised during her campaign, she has focused on building and maintaining bipartisan relationships and passing bills across party lines. The former Green Party activist has become an indispensable part of the Senate’s middle. She has resisted efforts to abolish the filibuster and dismissed legislation she deems too far to the left. Despite voting with President Biden 100% of the time, Sinema has become loathed by the hard left in the Democratic Party.
Sinema’s decision to run as an independent, then, isn’t entirely shocking, but it does set up Democrats with a conundrum. The presumptive Democratic nominee is Rep. Ruben Gallego, a hardline progressive from Phoenix. Gallego is known for his colorful language on social media and politically lies well outside the moderate mainstream of the state. With Sinema and Gallego both on the ticket, there would be two left-leaning candidates to choose from. Republicans will have no such problem. We don’t think Sinema can win, unless Democrats simply opt to not field a candidate, but we do think she could be a spoiler.
So why do we have this race as a Tossup? Well, the potential Republican field is nothing short of abysmal. Failed 2022 nominee Blake Masters is considering another run, as is hard-right Rep. Andy Biggs, failed gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, who has ties to the so-called “constitutional sheriff” movement that believes the authority of Sheriffs outranks the federal government. Masters, Biggs, and Lamb are all vocal advocates of the false idea the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Karrin Taylor Robson – a more normal Republican who narrowly lost the 2020 gubernatorial primary to Lake – is also openly considering running, and would be a very credible candidate if she ran.
With all these factors considered, we feel a Tossup rating is warranted here. If Arizona Republicans can get their act together and nominate a sane, electable candidate, they have a great shot at a pickup here. But nominating a candidate like Masters, Lake, or Lamb could keep this race firmly in the Tossup column.
- Montana (Jon Tester, Democrat)
Donald Trump carried this state by 16% in 2020, Republicans have a statewide trifecta, and 2020 Democratic nominee Steve Bullock fell well short of winning in the state’s 2020 Senate cycle. On paper, then, there’s no doubt that three-term Senator Jon Tester should be one of the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle.
The problem? Tester is quite popular – Morning Consult pegs his approval at 60%. His two likeliest challengers – Reps. Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke – are both extremely flawed candidates. Rosendale lost to Tester in 2018 and has a hard-right record in the House, while Zinke (a former Trump cabinet official who resigned in disgrace) barely won a race few expected to be competitive. Like in a slew of 2022’s races, candidate quality – or lack thereof – could well sink Republicans here. This race starts as a Tossup.
- Ohio (Sherrod Brown, Democrat)
Three-term Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio’s last statewide elected Democrat, is running for re-election in a state that seems increasingly dim for the Democratic Party. Brown, a textbook populist known for his working-class appeal, has managed to hold on as Ohio’s political landscape has radically shifted. But it’s unclear if he has the political might to last for what might be one final term.
Republicans already have one declared candidate – Matt Dolan, a State Senator who finished third in the 2022 primary. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who won re-election by almost 20 percentage points, and hard-right Rep. Warren Davidson, a Freedom Caucus member, have also expressed interest. And this field, like in 2022, will likely get even larger as time goes on.
Dolan or LaRose would likely be the best potential candidates to go against Brown. Brown has a +8 net approval according to Morning Consult – above water, but might not be enough to overcome Ohio’s increasingly red hue. We think it’s quite possible – if not probable – that this race shifts into the Leans Republican column eventually. But for now, we’re giving the benefit of the doubt to the incumbent. This is a Tossup, and a must-win for Democrats.
- Michigan (Open, Democrat)
Longtime Senator Debbie Stabenow’s surprising retirement announcement has opened up this race somewhat. Had she opted to run for another term, we likely would have rated this as Likely Democratic, but we feel a Leans Democratic rating is warranted. Since Donald Trump won the state in 2016, Michigan Republicans have imploded. Democrats now hold a trifecta and a majority of congressional seats, on top of both Senate seats.
With a bench that can best be described as decimated and a state party creeping towards the fringe of the right, Republicans may struggle to find a competent nominee – let alone to nominate one. Democrats, meanwhile, have a wealth of potential candidates to choose from. We think Democrats start with an advantage here, but not an insurmountable one.
- Nevada (Jacky Rosen, Democrat) – In many ways, Nevada could be considered the Democratic version of North Carolina. While Republicans have made substantial inroads in recent years in the Silver State, even winning the gubernatorial race last year, they’ve failed to win federally in the state since 2012. Most recently, Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto eked out an 8,000-vote victory in the state. This is despite a GOP lead in the generic ballot both statewide and nationally.
Like Cortez Masto, Jacky Rosen is a first-term incumbent; she unseated Republican Dean Heller by a five-point margin in 2018. She’s already announced she’s running for re-election. The Republican bench is pretty thin. One name being brought up is Sam Brown, a Purple Heart recipient that finished second in last year’s Senate primary. Given the state’s seemingly persistent “white whale status”, we’re opening this race at Leans Democratic.
- Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin, Democrat)
Wisconsin has one of the strangest Senate delegations in the nation. The senior Senator, Ron Johnson, is a firebrand conservative; the junior Senator, Tammy Baldwin, is a hardline progressive. And like with Johnson, Baldwin has approval ratings that are middling at best. Baldwin hasn’t officially announced if she’ll run or not, but has publicly indicated she will. With Wisconsin set to be one of the nation’s marquee swing states in the presidential contest, this Senate contest will likely be one of the most competitive in the nation.
Republicans have a fairly wide field to choose from. The most widely-mentioned name is Rep. Mike Gallagher of Green Bay. Gallagher is wildly popular in his district. He didn’t face major-party challengers in 2018 and 2022, and in 2020 ran over 12 points ahead of Trump in his district. Regardless of the nominee, we expect this race will still be extremely competitive – but Baldwin shouldn’t be underestimated.
- Pennsylvania (Bob Casey, Democrat) – Pennsylvania has rapidly become a problem state for Republicans. The 2016 victories in the Senate and Presidential contests have rapidly descended into crushing defeats statewide in 2018 and 2022, and even losing control of the state’s lower house. As electable Republicans have given way to far-right firebrands like Doug Mastriano, the party has found it difficult to compete statewide.
Since being elected in 2006, Democratic Senator Bob Casey has enjoyed fairly wide approval ratings. While Casey is no longer as ideologically distinguishable from the rest of the Democratic caucus as he once was, he retains a popular brand in the state. Republicans, meanwhile, face the same issue as in many other northeastern and Rust Belt states: candidate quality. Mastriano – who lost by an embarrassing 14.8% margin last year – is openly considering a run for Senate. Republicans would almost certainly prefer David McCormick, who narrowly lost the Senate primary in 2022 to Mehmet Oz. But even a quality candidate like McCormick will face an uphill climb against Casey. We think Likely Democratic is a fair rating.
- Virginia (Tim Kaine, Democrat) – Virginia might seen an odd state to be on the board. Tim Kaine won by 16% in 2018, and the state was uncompetitive in 2020 in both federal races. So why are we starting it on the board? There’s a few reasons. First off, Virginia Republicans appear to have gotten their act together. The GOP holds all statewide elected offices, as well as a slim majority in the House of Delegates. Democrats only carried the popular vote in the 2022 midterms by 3.9%. Even with the national swing, this is still a reasonably good performance.
Second, we believe Kaine’s overperformance in 2018 had more to do with the Republican nominee, Corey Stewart, than Kaine. And third, we’ve heard rumblings that Hung Cao, who held Jennifer Wexton to a 6.6% victory in a Biden+18 NoVA seat, is eyeing the seat. All these factors mean that while a Republican win here isn’t likely, we think this race has the potential to be competitive. We’re starting it at Likely Democratic.
- Florida (Rick Scott, Republican) – Since Donald Trump’s victory in the state in 2016, Florida has seen a rapid political transformation. Republicans did the impossible by flipping this seat in 2018 despite a historic Democratic wave, and the state itself shifted to the right in 2020 despite the national environment tilting left. Finally, in 2022 Republicans swept every statewide office by high double-digit margins. Florida is no longer a swing state, and Democrats have practically no bench left.
So why is Florida still on the board in our ratings? Consider it an abundance of caution decision. We’re still unsure just exactly how competitive Florida remains at the federal level, and incumbent Rick Scott is known for both winning elections by impossibly narrow margins. A Likely Republican rating here means we think the state could be reasonably close, but we do regard Scott as the unequivocal favorite here.
- Texas (Ted Cruz, Republican) – Regardless of his presidential aspirations, two-term incumbent Ted Cruz is running for a third term. While Cruz only won by 2.6% in 2018, we consider him the decisive favorite this time around. No Democrat has won statewide in decades, and in Presidential years, Senate candidates have tended to run ahead of the top of the ticket.
We do expect this race to be somewhat competitive, as we will the Presidential contest in the state. But we consider this race to be on the fringe of competitiveness. Texas Democrats are going to have to prove they can compete before we take this more seriously, and with a bench that can best be described as nonexistent, we don’t think this is the cycle for Democrats. This Senate race is Likely Republican.
- West Virginia (Joe Manchin, Democrat) – West Virginia is the reddest state represented by a Democratic Senator, and is currently the only state we have outright favored to flip. In fact, we have this race as Likely Republican. Why are we so confident about this? First off, incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin – the last statewide Democrat elected in West Virginia – is wildly unpopular. After two years of supporting most Democratic priorities, Manchin has an approval rating of just 40%. This is the second-lowest in the country, according to Morning Consult.
Manchin hasn’t announced if he’s running for another term. Moreover, popular Governor Jim Justice – who sports an impressive approval rating of 64% – is strongly considering a run for Senate. He would be the odds-on favorite if he’s the nominee. But even if Justice isn’t the nominee, Manchin isn’t in the same position he was in 2018, when he won by a mere 3.3%. Even a fraction of drop-off would be a loss for Manchin; if only 5% of Trump voters stop ticket-splitting, Manchin loses. Every indication points to Manchin being nowhere near where he needs to be to win another term.
- Connecticut (Chris Murphy, Democrat)
Once a bulwark of New England’s moderate Republican tradition, Connecticut has transitioned to a safely Democratic state at the federal level. Incumbent Senator Chris Murphy plans to run for a third term. There’s no indication he should have any difficulty winning. Although Republicans made overtures about competing for Connecticut in 2022, the race proved to be uncompetitive. Republicans haven’t seriously contested a Senate contest in the state since 2012, when Linda McMahon lost to Murphy by 11.7%.
- California (Dianne Feinstein, Democrat)
Much has been made about the health of incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein, who will be 91 by the time the election rolls around. California uses a jungle primary system where all candidates are grouped on the same ballot, and the top two face off in the general election; because of this, it’s quite possible this contest will be between two Democrats. Feinstein has not publicly announced if she’ll run for a presumably final term. However, her erratic behavior and clear issues with memory, combined with a displeased progressive base, make it highly unlikely she’d actually be able to win.
Rep. Katie Porter, a progressive who narrowly survived a House race that required her to spend a substantial amount of her war chest, has already announced a run for Senate. However, it’s also highly unlikely that Porter will win. Rep. Adam Schiff has also announced a run for the seat. In a large field, we expect California Democrats to consolidate around a candidate from northern California or the Bay Area – as is the case with most California elections. Potential names here include Rep. Ro Khanna and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
- Delaware (Tom Carper, Democrat)
In many ways, Delaware is an outlier – a small state with an economy reliant on corporations and business, yielding a Democratic establishment that is broadly moderate and pro-business. Four-term incumbent Tom Carper exemplifies this trend, but it’s unclear if he plans to run for another term. Progressives – who fielded challenges to Carper in 2018 and fellow Senator Chris Coons in 2020 – would love to take a shot at winning a Senate contest in the state. An open field might provide them the opportunity. It could also be a compelling opportunity for Lisa Blunt Rochester, the state’s current at-large House member.
While we have this state as Safe Democratic, it’s worth noting that Delaware isn’t quite as blue as one might imagine. In 2022, statewide elections for Attorney General and Treasurer in Delaware were decided by less than eight points. Democrats shouldn’t have any trouble carrying The First State, but the race could be somewhat closer than the 20+ point margins one might expect.
- Hawaii (Mazie Hirono, Democrat)
Hawaii has not had a truly competitive Senate race in decades, and we don’t anticipate that changing in 2024. Incumbent Democrat Mazie Hirono is running for re-election, and even if Republicans had a bench in the state, it is simply far too blue to compete in.
- Maryland (Ben Cardin, Democrat) – Few states appear bleaker for Republicans than Maryland, so this Senate race isn’t worth watching for the general. Instead, it might be worth watching for the Democratic primary. Incumbent Ben Cardin is considered to be on retirement watch due to his age. Maryland Democrats have no shortage of candidates who would be eying this seat if he opts to retire. Among these are Reps. Jamie Raskin and David Trone, both of whom represent districts predominantly based in the DC metro.
- Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren, Democrat) – Elizabeth Warren shouldn’t face any difficulty in winning another term. The only interesting aspect about this race will be who Republicans field as a sacrificial lamb, and whether their candidate can win any counties.
- Minnesota (Amy Klobuchar, Democrat) – While Minnesota is normally a state that should at least nominally competitive, ridiculously popular incumbent Amy Klobuchar is running for re-election. This, combined with the state’s fairly consistent blue hue federally, means this race is likely out of reach for Republicans.
- New Jersey (Bob Menendez, Democrat) – Longtime incumbent Senator Bob Menendez appears set to run for a another term. While Menendez’s reputation is plagued by scandal nationally, this hasn’t seemed to hurt him in reliably Democratic New Jersey. We don’t think this race will be competitive.
- New Mexico (Martin Heinrich, Democrat) – New Mexico has been a state long sought-after by Republicans, but their focus on the state simply hasn’t materialized into wins. Incumbent Senator Martin Heinrich is fairly popular. He should be the favorite to hold this seat, especially against a nonexistent Republican bench.
- New York (Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat) – Incumbent Democrat Kirsten Gilibrand has already announced she is running for a third term. While New York saw a handful of competitive statewide races for the first time in over a decade, we don’t think this Senate race will be competitive. Republicans would be unwise to focus on much in New York beyond defending their unexpected Congressional gains, after all. Speculation is buzzing about the risk of a primary challenge, however. New York isn’t short of young progressives eager for a seat at the table. These challenges would be unlikely to succeed, but it will be interesting to watch nonetheless.
- Rhode Island (Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat) – Incumbent Sheldon Whitehouse will easily win this race. While Republicans like the trends in this state long-term, it remains overwhelmingly Democratic.
- Washington (Maria Cantwell, Democrat) – Incumbent Maria Cantrell should have no trouble winning this race. Cantwell is a popular incumbent, and Washington’s reliably blue tilt is simply too much for any Republican to overcome.
- Maine (Angus King, Independent)
Although two-term Senator Angus King had long floated retirement, he plans to run for re-election. The left-of-center King caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, but unlike fellow New Englander Bernie Sanders, he has always faced opposition from both parties in the general election. Nominal Democratic candidates ran against King in both 2012 and 2018, and while he has exclusively endorsed Democratic presidential candidates since being elected to the Senate, he endorsed Susan Collins in her 2014 re-election campaign while staying silent in 2020.
It is expected that both parties will nominate candidates against King in 2024. But King remains quite popular, Republicans lack a real bench, and Democrats are unlikely to put up a serious fight in the general; we think King is the decisive favorite here.
- Vermont (Bernie Sanders, Independent)
Bernie Sanders has long been an institution in Vermont politics, and while he might be mulling another – presumably final – presidential run, he is also certain to prevail if he runs for another term. If Sanders opts not to run, it could result in a free-for-all in the general election. There are no shortage of Democrats who might be willing to run for the seat, but uniquely, Vermont has a strong third-party presence in the form of the Progressive Party; Lt. Governor David Zuckerman could very well attempt a run on the Progressive line.
- Indiana (Open, Republican) – Although the Hoosier State won’t be competitive this cycle, it is setting up to have one of the most interesting primaries in the country. Republican voters will likely be choosing between Jim Banks, a populist-leaning Republican known for his staunch defense of Donald Trump, and Mitch Daniels, a fiscal conservative whose tenure as Governor has long been lauded as a model for conservative governance. The Club for Growth is lining up heavily for Banks, despite his populist lean. This move makes little sense until you realize that David McIntosh, who somehow lost a gubernatorial race in Indiana by 15 points in 2000, is still angry that Daniels got the Bush endorsement in 2004 rather than himself. Regardless of personal vendettas, however, this Senate race will be an interesting proxy war between the pro-Trump and establishment wings of the Republican Party.
- Mississippi (Roger Wicker, Republican) – Mississippi is a strongly Republican state, and three-term incumbent Republican Roger Wicker will have no difficulty winning a fourth term. Democrats were able to make Senate elections in 2018 and 2020 marginally competitive, but Wicker lacks the baggage his junior colleague carries and should breeze to re-election.
- Missouri (Josh Hawley, Republican) – Since unseating incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2018, Josh Hawley has attempted to solidify himself as a leader in the populist wing of the Republican Party. While these efforts haven’t yielded much nationally (Hawley routinely polls at 0% in presidential primary polls), Hawley remains reasonably popular in his home state. He’ll have no trouble winning a second term.
- Nebraska (Deb Fisher, Republican) – Two-term incumbent Deb Fischer is running for a third term. The popular Fischer – who beat former Senator Bob Kerrey by a wider-than-expected margin in 2012 – is a sure bet for re-election in one of the nation’s most conservative states.
- Nebraska special (Pete Ricketts, Republican) – The times sure have changed in Nebraska. In 2006, Pete Ricketts was the Republican nominee against popular Democrat Ben Nelson. He lost by an astounding margin of 27.8%. However, Ricketts would later be elected Governor in 2014, and after two terms, he left office with high favorability ratings. He was recently appointed to replace Ben Sasse in the Senate, and will have to defend this seat in 2024 – a task he’s more than up for.
- North Dakota (Kevin Cramer, Republican) – Kevin Cramer’s 10.3% victory over incumbent Democrat Heidi Heitkamp was a bit larger than most expected. This time around, the established Cramer will likely be winning by a far larger margin. A reliable conservative vote in the Senate, Cramer is a solid fit for one of the nation’s reddest states.
- Tennessee (Marsha Blackburn, Republican) – In her first run for Senate, Marsha Blackburn was on the receiving end of a rarity in Tennessee: a competitive statewide race. Former Governor Phil Bredesen kept Blackburn’s margins down to a mere 10.8%. This time around, however, we don’t expect Blackburn to face much of a fight. Tennessee is a very conservative state, and Democrats lack any real bench to speak of.
- Utah (Mitt Romney, Republican) – Utah won’t be a competitive state, but keep an eye on the primary here. Incumbent Mitt Romney was first elected in 2018, and has since become one of the Senate’s leading moderates. His votes – including voting twice to impeach Trump – have infuriated the right-wing of the Republican Part and left him vulnerable to a primary. Romney is eying a second term, and Republican leadership will fight hard to ensure he gets another term. But conservative voters, and Trump, are going to make this a fight. If they can coalesce behind a single nominee, they have a solid chance at unseating Romney.
- Wyoming (John Barrasso, Republican) – Wyoming gave Trump his widest margin of victory of any state in 2020. In fact, it was decided by the widest margin of any state, period. You can probably guess what that means; incumbent Republican John Barrasso will easily win re-election, and it’s very possible he’ll receive over 70% of the vote.