With a 50-50 party control in the Senate and a minuscule lead in the House, the Democratic Party is nervously anticipating the 34 Senate races that are set to take place later this year. With what is shaping up to be a potentially red wave election cycle, the Democrats are trying to make a few gains in areas they hope the Republicans will be weaker. The way that the Congressional elections go will decide whether or not Joe Biden is gifted with a divided government for the last two years of his term.
A Republican gain would put President Biden as a lame duck for 2023 and 2024. Many critics of the President already believe him to have not done enough to support his party’s causes, but if his Congress loses its slim majority, voters will be even more displeased. Having already declared their intent to run for re-election in 2024, the effectiveness of the last two years of his presidency will likely carry a lot of weight for his campaign. Whether or not his party is in control will decide how much of his agenda is carried out. While many Senate races are considered locks for one party, a few states could go either way. Here are five Senate races that could decide Joe Biden’s fate as President.
5. Arizona – Seat Held by Mark Kelly (D)
In 2020, astronaut Mark Kelly defeated Republican incumbent Martha McSally in a special election to decide who would fill out the remainder of former Sen. Jon Kyl’s term. McSally had not been especially popular among Arizonians and was defeated by Kelly in a blue wave year for the state, with Joe Biden also winning Arizona’s electoral votes. But in a much more red-leaning year, Senator Kelly may struggle against the plethora of Republican challengers filed to run against him. However, according to polls from BluePrint Polling from May 12-May 16, Senator Kelly is leading each of his potential opponents by 13-17 percentage points, showing that he may have a more commanding lead than publicly perceived. Either way, the Arizona Senate race is one to watch, and one Democrats need to keep control of if they want to remain in power.
4. Nevada – Seat Held by Catherine Cortez-Masto (D)
In 2016, former Attorney General of Nevada Catherine Cortez-Masto defeated Republican Joe Heck by just over 2 percentage points. Cortez-Masto had greatly benefited from the endorsement and support of longtime Senator Harry Reed, whom she was replacing. After six years in the Senate, Sen. Cortez-Masto is well-liked by Democrats but faces a highly aggressive effort by the Republican Party to unseat her. Adam Laxalt, former Gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General from 2015 to 2019 is considered the most notable name seeking to succeed the first-term Senator. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Catherine Cortez-Masto has raised about $16 million, which is nearly twelve million more than Laxalt. Despite her financial lead, several polls have her ahead by just a few percentage points, while others have her trailing Laxalt by up to 7%. The race is a crucial tossup and will be one to watch in November.
3. Wisconsin – Seat Held by Ron Johnson (R)
Running for a third term in Congress, incumbent Senator Ron Johnson has faced vocal opposition to his climate change denial claims and anti-Covid vaccine rhetoric. A supporter of former President Donald Trump, he has received strong backing from the conservative Republican Party, but strong opposition from Democrats. More than ten people have filed to run against him as a Democrat, with available polls from February and April showing Johnson trailing by 3-10 percentage points. With many opponents raising similar funds to Senator Johnson, time will tell if the efforts will pay off, or if this red wave year is enough to push Johnson into a third term.
2. Pennsylvania – Seat Held by Pat Toomey (R) – Retiring
The highly-publicized Senate primaries saw a bloodbath of Republican and Democratic candidates vying for their party’s nomination. After Republican Pat Toomey announced he would not seek re-election, Pennsylvania’s open seat instantly became a swing. The Democratic primary saw Jon Fetterman defeat top contenders Conor Lamb and Malcolm Kenyatta, just days after suffering a stroke. The contested Republican primary race sees television doctor Mehmet Oz just a thousand votes ahead of David McCormick, with just a few thousand votes left to count. Former President Trump has encouraged his endorsee, Dr. Oz to declare victory ahead of the results being finalized in order to possibly gain the nomination, but he is yet to do so. The winner of the controversial primary will face Jon Fetterman in November, and the race will be anyone’s game. This seat is seen as the Democratic Party’s most likely seat to flip, while the Republicans are eager to hold onto it.
1. Georgia – Seat Held by Raphael Warnock (D)
Reverend Raphael Warnock’s race gained national attention as he and then-journalist Jon Ossoff against the state’s Republican incumbents in a runoff election. Warnock was facing one year incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler, who had been appointed to fill a vacated seat by the Georgia governor. In a highly media-covered and closely contested race, Warnock defeated Loeffler, a staunchly backed candidate of Donald Trump, on January 5th, 2021. Since joining the Senate, Georgia has seemingly gotten more Republican-leaning than it was when Warnock won his seat, and he is likely to face a popular candidate in November. Herschel Walker, a former NFL player, and outspoken conservative voice are very popular among Republicans in Georgia. Having only spent 2 years in the Senate, Warnock is looking to earn his own full six-year term and continue serving with Jon Ossoff in Georgia. Polls show Warnock and Walker within 1-6 percentage points of each other, with each having a slight lead depending on the poll. This race is the greatest tossup of the 2022 Senate race, and its results are likely to have a decisive impact on who will control Congress for the 118th Congress.
By Keaton M