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The Most Vulnerable Senators in the 2022 Midterm Elections

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

While the 2022 U.S. Senate map doesn’t favor Republicans, current trends and history do.

Democrats are targeting places where Republican incumbents are retiring, including North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The GOP needs a net gain of only one seat to retake the Senate, and since midterms tend to be difficult for the president’s party—especially when he is so unpopular—they’re confident.

For our VIPs: Disaster Looms for Democrats in Battleground States

Here are the most vulnerable senators, listed in order from most to least vulnerable, at 51 weeks out from Election Day:

Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.)

Republicans believe the perfect storm that fueled Warnock’s Jan. 5 victory in a special election runoff—a sole focus on Georgia and former President Donald Trump suppressing GOP votes—won’t be easily replicated in a state that voted Republican for decades.

Multiple Republicans, including state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, retired Navy SEAL Latham Saddler, and former NFL player Herschel Walker (who ended the most recent quarter with $2.5 million on hand) are in the race to oust the radical Democrat. As of a month ago, Warnock’s campaign had over $17 million on hand.

Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)

Assuming he stands for reelection, Johnson is the lone non-retiring incumbent up this cycle in a state that supported the opposite party’s presidential nominee last year.

Democrats think Johnson’s comments about the COVID-19 vaccine and the Jan. 6 capitol riots will turn off suburban swing voters. But Republicans caution that Johnson won a tough race in 2016, has cleaned up some stances, and has strong support from the party base.

A field of Democrats running in the primary include Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, and the privileged 34-year-old son of the Milwaukee Bucks owner, Alex Lasry. Johnson is not ideal, but Democrats offer very weak options.

Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)

Some strategists believe Hassan is the most vulnerable senator, thanks to the drop in President Joe Biden’s job approval ratings and her subpar favorability ratings.

The GOP field went into flux last week, however, when popular Gov. Chris Sununu decided he wouldn’t get in the race, as did former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, whom Hassan narrowly unseated in 2016. Hassan ended the recent fundraising quarter with $6.5 million in the bank. The only Republican candidate currently raising money is retired Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who lost in the GOP primary last year but declared his 2022 candidacy more than a year ago.

Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.)

The former astronaut and Navy veteran won a high-profile special election in 2020 and now must run for a full term. Kelly is supposedly a centrist Democrat, but has proven be a partisan rubber stamp who’s said zero about the his party’s ongoing left-wing agenda. Republicans hope to link Kelly to failed progressive policies since he now has a voting record.

But there is some concern about the strength of the GOP field, which includes state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, energy executive Jim Lamon, retired Air Force Gen. Mick McGuire, and Blake Masters, who runs Peter Thiel’s investment firm. Gov. Doug Ducey could also get in, which would be splendid, since the Arizona Republican party has poor leadership lately. Let us pray the Arizona primary won’t get as chaotic as Ohio’s or Pennsylvania’s.

Catharine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)

Democrats hope strong turnout in populous Clark County (Las Vegas) will aid Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate. National Republicans have coalesced around former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt, though he will face primary competition. Laxalt lost Nevada’s gubernatorial race in 2018, but Republicans feel he can appeal to the party’s base and more moderate voters.

Democrats have also struggled to turn out their voters in recent midterms across the vast Silver State. But they believe they can exploit Laxalt’s ties to Trump in a state that twice rejected the former president. Cortez Masto has a significant financial advantage over Laxalt, but has some disconcerting connections, and the environmental cabal isn’t helping either.

 

Analysis

Americans are angry at Biden and Democrats. A lot of folks use the “if they don’t mess it up” cliché, but it’s appropriate here for Republicans, since a U.S. House takeover and finally sending Nancy Pelosi to retirement seems inevitable.

With Sen. Mitch McConnell at the helm the last decade, winning has been common for the GOP. Not having Trump on the ballot should help in most swing states, as Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin recently proved in Virginia. As they have nothing to sell but fear, Democrats only want to talk about Jan. 6.

In order to avoid a repeat of 2012, however, Republicans must focus on real issues—southern border chaos, foreign policy, public school failures, violent crime, and inflation—and not cultural grievance or regressive conspiracies. They also should’nt primary electable people with radicals who may excite populists, but will lose the general election.