Even as the Democrats were busy expanding their Senate majority to 51 seats in 2022, we kept hearing from the media and pundit class about how the 2024 Senate map looked disastrous for the Democrats. But here’s the thing. Now that nonpartisan experts have begun rating the 2024 races, the Democrats’ Senate prospects actually look pretty decent – and there’s a clear path for retaining 51 seats.
Let’s start, for instance, with Cook Political Report. It has no incumbent Republicans listed in the “Toss Up” and “Lean Republican” columns for 2024, which means there’s nothing for the Democrats to pick off. That means the Democrats have to keep all of their existing Senate seats in 2024 in order to remain at 51 seats. But if the Democrats win the incumbent races that are listed in the “Lean Democrat” column, they’ll simply have to win the three “Toss Up” races in order to remain at 51 seats. Democrats could even lose one “Toss Up” race in the Senate and retain a nominal majority with 50 seats, if they also win the White House in 2024, which would give them the tiebreaker.
So what are the three “Toss Up” races? Ohio, West Virginia, and Arizona. That may not sound like the most fertile ground for Democrats. But in Ohio, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown has long been popular in the state. And while Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is disliked nationally, he’s actually quite popular in West Virginia. These two races will require a lot of work (yes we’re going to have to hold our noses and get Manchin reelected), but they’re both clearly winnable.
The third “Toss Up” race is in Arizona – which is shaping up to be one of the more unique Senate races in recent memory. Incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema is unpopular nationally and unpopular in Arizona. She recently quit the Democratic Party, but that doesn’t help her much, given that her approval numbers are just as bad with Independents and Republicans as they are with Democrats.
Popular House Democrat Ruben Gallego has entered the 2024 Senate race in Arizona as the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, in what will apparently end up being a three way general election consisting of Democrat Gallego, Independent Sinema, and the eventual Republican nominee. But early polling suggests that Gallego would slightly win such a contest over the Republican, with Sinema in a distant third place. So while this race will be wacky and unpredictable, it’s very clearly winnable for Gallego and the Democrats. The popular notion that Gallego and Sinema would split the Democratic vote, thus handing the victory to the Republican, just isn’t consistent with the polling that’s been released thus far.
So yeah, the Democrats have their work cut out for them when it comes to the 2024 Senate races. But unlike the doomsday narratives that the laziest of pundits have been hyping for retweets, the actual 2024 Senate map shows that the Democrats have a clear and realistic path to ending up with 50 or even 51 seats. Of course that’ll take significant work from all of us as activists. But we’re more than up for the challenge.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report