Election Coverage / Government Watch / Politics

Senate Dems Face a Tightrope Walk in 2022

AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

Senate

Last week, I examined the landscape for Democrats in 2022 at the state level, where the failures of the Biden administration, along with a deteriorating economic and public safety situation have left the party on the defensive in formerly “safe” states like Maine, Minnesota and Oregon. But it is not only at the state and local level where Democrats are being faced with difficult choices. The Democratic Senate majority is not a majority at all, but rather 50 seats with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote ensuring control. The loss of a single vote would cost Democrats the ability to advance Biden’s agenda, including judicial and executive nominees, and might doom any future Supreme Court pick.

The need to avoid even a net loss of a single seat therefore limits just how much Democrats can afford to triage unwinnable races in the Senate as well. If, as was the case in 2014, Democrats were entering November with 55 seats, they could concede two and still hope to win a majority. By and large they did so that year, losing Arkansas, Montana, and West Virginia by 18%, 17%, and 24% respectively. They still lost the majority, but given the nature of the year it was close and came down to a 1% margin in North Carolina, and 2% margins in Alaska and Colorado. They managed to hold Virginia by less than a percentage point and New Hampshire by 3%.

Democrats cannot afford to write off any seats this year for another reason as well: In 2024, 23 of the 33 seats up for election will be defended by Democrats or Democratic-aligned independents. The only even semi-plausible targets for Democratic gains in 2024 would be Texas (Ted Cruz) and maybe Florida (Rick Scott), and both are very longshots indeed. That means if Democrats lose the Senate majority in November 2022, they will not have a serious shot at regaining it until 2026.

Worse, the 2024 map requires Democrats to defend seats in Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and West Virginia, all of which could be expected to be vulnerable if Joe Biden – or whoever replaces him should he step down or not run – loses the presidential election. Therefore, Democrats cannot afford to forego any opportunities this year, no matter how bad the climate.

The two offensive opportunities they remain invested in are Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has reserved $3 million (out of $33 million in total ad money) for each race.

In Wisconsin, incumbent two-term Senator Ron Johnson is running for a third term. Democrats have never accepted Ron Johnson’s defeat of liberal icon Russ Feingold in 2010 as anything but a fluke, even after Johnson defied the polls, which almost uniformly showed him losing, to win his 2016 rematch by an almost identical 50-47% margin. Johnson, as an outspoken conservative in a closely divided state, will always have a close race, and to some degree continuing to target him is recognition of how motivating the effort will be for local Democratic activists who the party needs to try and “save” their statewide ticket, including Governor Tony Evers, rather than a serious belief Johnson will lose.

Pennsylvania is, by contrast, an open seat race, leaving no candidate with an incumbency advantage. Much like Wisconsin, Democrats are already heavily invested in the gubernatorial campaign in Pennsylvania, meaning that investing in the Senate election may help them with more than one race. Republican Pat Toomey is retiring, and both primaries feature candidates who have frustrated the party establishment. On the Democratic side, the national party begged Congressman Connor Lamb, an ostensible moderate, to jump into the race, but he is languishing up to 30% behind the eccentric Lt. Governor John Fetterman, a nearly seven-foot-tall figure who was a Bernie Sanders supporter, yet dresses like a biker, and who once chased an unarmed black jogger with a firearm. Fetterman is weird, and divisive. He has struggled to gain the support of Democratic officials even as he has rallied their voters. Yet the Republican field is odd too. The one-time frontrunner, Sean Parnell, dropped out after his divorce proceedings became public, and the race is between the Trump-endorsed and famous Dr. Mehmet Oz, former Bridgewater executive David McCormick, and Kathy Barnette, an African American Army veteran who has picked up grassroots support. Both of Toomey’s races were razor thin victories, including in the GOP wave year of 2010. As in Wisconsin, a viable candidate probably is assured 46-47% of the vote, so, with 2024 math on their minds, Democrats are invested heavily in the race.

Yet outside those two states, Democratic challengers who have the benefit of neither a contested gubernatorial race nor a high media profile have been all but thrown to the wolves. When the DSCC made their $33 million reservation, $0 was earmarked for North Carolina, where former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cherry Beasley is running for an open seat. Nor did they invest in Ohio, where they recruited Congressman Tim Ryan, Florida where another Congresswoman, Val Demings, is challenging Marco Rubio, or Iowa, where former Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer is running against Chuck Grassley. They have quietly conceded those races as lost causes.

Beyond the Hail Mary efforts in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, it is all defense for Democrats. It is possible to make out at least three lines of defense. The first are front-line efforts in swing state territory such as Arizona ($7.7 million), Georgia ($7 million), and Nevada ($8.4 million), followed by New Hampshire ($4 million). What stands out here is not the money being spent in Arizona and Georgia, where Senators Mark Kelly and Raphael Warnock are running for reelection. Both investments are proportionally small, given the size of the states and their media markets, compared to the other two, New Hampshire and Nevada.

These latter two are small states. New Hampshire admittedly is part of the expensive Boston media market, but neither Atlanta nor Phoenix is cheap. Proportionally, $4 million into New Hampshire is probably a greater investment than what is being put into either Arizona or Georgia, and it is even more stunning given that Republicans have struggled to secure a candidate against incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassen. Popular Republican Governor Chris Sununu declined to run, and the leading GOP candidate lost to Democrat Jeanne Shaheen by 17% in 2020. Biden won New Hampshire by 7% in 2020, well over his national margin, and it is a testament to how bad Democrats think things may get in the suburbs that they are investing so heavily there. New Hampshire should not be the type of place “the emerging Democratic majority” needs to defend, unless COVID-19 and concerns about education and inflation are badly eroding votes among their core supporters, college educated whites (New Hampshire ranks tenth out of the 50 states with 38% of adults having a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 15% with advanced degrees).

Nevada raises a different set of concerns for Democrats. While the Democratic nominee has won the state in every presidential election since 2008, the margins have been shrinking. Joe Biden carried the state over Donald Trump by 2.39%, below the 2.42% margin Hillary Clinton achieved in 2016. Democratic strength in Nevada has depended on the heavily Hispanic culinary unions in Las Vegas, and the service sector has been among those hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions and now inflation. The wider erosion of Latino support for Democrats is likely to hit Nevada harder than almost any other state in the country. Democrats, seeing their electoral base in the state dissolving before their eyes, cannot do anything but pray and spend enormous sums of money to try and protect incumbent Senator Catherine Cortez Masto from a challenge by former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt. Laxalt, a firebrand conservative, lost the 2018 governors race by 5%, and polls have shown him tied or leading Masto. If there is a state which seems headed for an Iowa-style realignment, where the bottom falls out of the Democratic ticket regardless of spending or candidate strength, it seems likely to be Nevada where it happens.

Republicans are making a probing effort in Colorado, where incumbent Michael Bennet is up for reelection. Colorado has been a state which has been tough for the GOP, with Biden defeating Trump by almost 14% in 2020. Incumbent Senator Cory Gardner lost reelection by 9% in 2020. While it has some similarities with Virginia, one difference is that while state Democrats in Virginia were unpopular, Democratic Governor Jared Polis defied his party on COVID-19 restrictions and seems to be cruising for reelection. The GOP effort in Colorado is thus real but very tentative.

There is also a GOP effort in Washington. The GOP has gotten into the 40s in statewide elections on multiple occasions, but Washington, like Colorado, seems to be one of the few places Democrats are in decent shape. Oregon has an unpopular Democratic state party, but Republicans have failed to land a strong candidate.

If those are the key defensive lines, it is a testament to increasing polarization that the playing field is so narrow. The problem is that for Democrats, they are playing a game where they need a perfect flush. While limiting their losses to one of Georgia or Arizona and then losing Nevada would be a respectable result given national polling, it would still likely cost them the Senate for at least four if not six years. It would cripple the Biden presidency and ensure a GOP ascendency on the judiciary. Even their best case, holding all of their seats, and gaining Pennsylvania or Wisconsin would still see them almost certain to lose the Senate after 2024. In the Senate, the Democratic Party is simply playing to not lose too badly in 2022. There is no winning to be had.

Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.


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Ty
1 month ago

There is one question and concern that hasn’t been mentioned, why are Democrates going after babies; in the womb by abortion and the living by ignoring the blatant shut down of a primary food source for new borns to todlers, formula. Turning a blind eye on the formula issue put millions of babies, that evaded abortion, at risk again! Or was it a blind eye?The flow of baby formula was shut down by our government, with no warning, no plan or work around to prevent a forced food shortage. These are the same progressive and moderate Democtates who gave us resident voter fraud, massive job shut downs, run away wasteful spending, which can’t be accounted for, over extended medical and mask mandates (science or non-science), unneccessary loss of American and Afgan lives and world wide disdain by running out of Afghanistan, higher cost for a living space, higher interest rates, higher gas prices, higher medical cost, higher food cost, threat of global war, the disrespect toward America and Americans, along with a triage of hate, criminal and lawless socialist activitives and the blatant attack on education and selfworth by hate training in kindergarten through K-12, all encouraged by local, state and federal bodies, run or heald by a Democrate.What America has is a government lead by commity, a dark socialist group that developes one lie after another to drive their socialist agenda and power crab behind their cover up for an elected leader who can’t speak his own mind or discuss any topic without handlers and believes, as he has said in the past; “You can’t confuse truth with facts.”So, why are Democrates now after babies? Are they looking for one success, even though they were the cause of the shortage. Or did they actually created the whole thing. This sure looks like over extending controls in the name of the Pandamic.

Andrew P
1 month ago

Don’t ignore Alaska. The Democrats could win it if the Dem candidate comes in 2nd and Murkowski 3rd in the first round of counting. This would be a fluke of the new top 4 ranked choice voting system and the fact that most Murkowski voters are likely to pick the Dem as their 2nd choice since abortion is their issue.

Becky
1 month ago

No demonRat Communist should win anywhere in any state, on any ballot. No matter what.
People must do better given the last two years of how awful these America haters govern.

ops
19 days ago
Reply to  Becky

Any vote for a Democrat is a vote against America!!

Juana
1 month ago

TALK TALK TALK
WHERE ARE THE ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT TO IMPEACHMENT PRESIDENT BIDEN BECAUSE HE HAS NOT ABIDE ON HIS DUTIES HE SWORED TO UPHOLD LIKE
THE BODER
CRIME
DESTROYING OUR ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

MAKING DEALS WITH OUR ENEMIES NOT ENEMIES TO THEM BECAUSE THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS PREDOMINANT MARXIST, SOCIALIST, COMMUNIST.

The way you got the letter about Biden Administration calling AMERICAN ???????? parents terrorist

BIDEN HAVE COMPASSION FOR OTHER PARENTS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES NOT FOR AMERICAN ???????? PARENTS AND BABIES
BIDEN IS LIKE THE SAYING HE IS LIKE THE SAYING
LIGHT FOR THE STREES DARKNESS FOR AMÉRICA ???????? AS THOUGH HE IS NOT AMERICAN ???????? BUT HE IS SOCIALIST AND COMMUNIST BECAUSE HE WANT THOSE DICTAROS TO MAKE MONEY ???? AND NOT USA ????????
DO IT

Sid
1 month ago

Let’s just create another pandemic with all mail in voting. So the Nazis, I mean Democrats, can cheat. That will fix it.

Juana
1 month ago
Reply to  Sid

Fix it ?
USA ???????? OR NAZIS
ARE OUT OF YOUR MIND
LOOK HOW DESTROY ALL IS
ECONOMY
BODER
RIOTS DESTROYING THE COUNTRY
AFGANISTAN
UKRAINE ????????
FOOD SHORTIES
BABY FORMULA
THE LINES OF SHIPMENT
ETC….

Becky
1 month ago
Reply to  Sid

Good sarcasm…..

Mario Capparuccini
1 month ago

If college educated whites are Biden’s base, then education is not worth much. I am college educated and I also hold an advances degree (medical doctor). I never vote for Democrats. But, I was educated before the communists completely took over our education system. May God have mercy on us!

Becky
1 month ago

I sincerely believe God has abandoned America, due to stupidity and sin..

Willy
1 month ago

IMHO: We have a serious problem in our country. We have been, and are being, programmed in our Public Education system to fail. Mass Formation Psychosis is a terrible state of mind. We can no longer talk among ourselves without getting upset, angry or violent. We can’t resolve problems if we can’t discuss them in a civil manner. The Deep State agendas plan to cause us to fail, and the country to fail.

What’s the cure? Get rid of the insignificant chips the Deep State, Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden, and Klaus Schwab have placed on your shoulders to incite a violent response. Settle down, learn to converse about any subject that comes up. If it doesn’t affect you directly, and it’s not something you like, just agree to disagree and move on if you don’t like someone’s idea; they probably didn’t like yours either, but an angry or violent response is a superb way to ruin your day and maybe lose a good friend or raise your blood pressure, and very little gets resolved. At least, listen to other ideas, even if you don’t agree with them, and sometimes, you might even learn something new that you can use.

Make the discussion a learning experience! You might even change your mind, or at least understand what your friend thinks about whatever it is; it does increase your knowledge base even if you don’t like it. It happens. Being courteous isn’t as difficult as you might think, it makes for a much smoother landing, so you can enjoy your cup of tea peacefully, together.

Hal
1 month ago

I don’t think of Joe Hidin’ Biden’s policy stands as angenda …. but more like a manifesto. If you honestly and fairly analyze Biden’s and the DemocRat’s policies they seem to take on a overriding characteristic of “the people can only have those Constitutional Rights which are good for the DemocRat Party. In other words, the DemocRats want to RULE the Nation, not GOVERN the Nation.

BAE
1 month ago

The cheating, lying, corrupt, power hungry democrats will do anything to win. And they might…

Frank
1 month ago

You’re kidding right. After the 2020 rigged election fiasco that they got away with do you really believe November will be legitimate. Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hal
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

Sadly, you make a valid point. The voting system is still nowhere near “rigging proof.”

Jeff Noncent
1 month ago

Even though it might be true but the problem is the American people don’t want to know who’s behind the government right now.

Morbious
1 month ago

Wow. Things are peachy. So good that a cowardly party of nematodes like the Rs is bound to win just by being there. Never forget that if the situation were reversed and trump was in office five or six of R senators would be itching to betray him, their oath of office and the country. Also, the article makes no mention of dem cheating. Huh? So thats been fixed with a pretty bow on top, right?

porterv
1 month ago
Reply to  Morbious

Mitch McConnell is doing everything in his power to help the Democrats retain the Senate.

JZC
1 month ago
Reply to  porterv

You are correct! We need to get rid of him Soon

Hal
1 month ago
Reply to  Morbious

Beware the id of the DemocRat Party’s members!!!

teresa Ann d'alessandro
1 month ago

the dumos are on their way out – we the common sense, patriotic, good Americans are tired of this nonsense – the lies, corruptness, failures, blatant ignorance and so on and so on. a bunch of low life dems

Rachel
1 month ago

Let’s pray that happens. I do not trust the dems.

mark sligh sr
1 month ago

AMAC needs to stop telling the people of this country to look at DAMN POLLS and tell them to get out and vote for what they know is right for this country and its people , Hell we cant buy food,meds,or fuel ,,, but we are giving the people crossing the border everything we have , and we are giving our military at a much faster rate than we are rebuilding it , PLEASE GET OUT AND VOTE DONT LISTEN OR BELIEVE THE DAMN POLLS,, DO WHAT YOU NEED TO TO SAVE THIS COUNTRY FOR US ALL

Elena
1 month ago
Reply to  mark sligh sr

Did you see the pics of all the pallets of baby formula our gov sent to the border for illegals? Yet the tax paying Americans are having a hard time finding any to feed their babies. And yes, people need to get out and vote for what’s best for our people and our Country.

Phoenix
1 month ago

Fraud will see them through, as it did in the last presidential election. Afterall they have a country to finish destroying, and nothing can stop that important work.

mark sligh sr
1 month ago
Reply to  Phoenix

ITS PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT LET THEM KEEP DOING IT ,, GO VOTE

teresa Ann d'alessandro
1 month ago
Reply to  mark sligh sr

alot of people feel that way and the commenter was just venting! go easy on them!

teresa Ann d'alessandro
1 month ago
Reply to  Phoenix

not if we can help it – keep the faith, vote republican (good people in not rinos)

anna hubert
1 month ago

they may be walking tight wire but their acrobatic abilities must not be dismissed plus all the brain dead voting for them

Jeb
1 month ago

Senate Democrats are spineless. You cannot convince me they believe all the nonsense they vote for. You can convince me that the joeblow cabal and the DNC lead them around by the shorthairs. They are spineless.

Tim Toroian
1 month ago

Fetterman had a stroke a couple of days ago. I don’t how that will affect the general election since he is running unopposed in the primary. Cognitive test maybe.

teresa Ann d'alessandro
1 month ago
Reply to  Tim Toroian

that tells me he can’t stand up to stress due to his condition – he shouldn’t be voted into anything at this point.

jake the snake
1 month ago

Well not so much a tight rope as a noose.

Democrats have only one option. Admit that the current woke, porgressive, liberal democrat agenda is a failure and that democrats must return to the moderate democrats of the pre-carter era. The democrats need to move back to the Kennedy democrats and admit the from carter forward the democrat party has increasingly post touch with reality and the people of the united states.

The Biden administration has proven that every single democrat policy is an failure. the entire country, and the rest of the world, can see that. Democrats need to be honest and admit that. Further we are all aware that the democrats paid for and developed covid to ruin trumps economy. the fact that every single democrat run state immediately shut down is proof of an coordinated effort to destroy the economy.

We now know Hilary and Obama were the ones doing the Russian collusion. we know Biden bribed the Ukraine for his son. we know Biden is getting payments from china. we know the CDC, FDA, NI?H and fauci are getting payments for the drugs companies for pushing the covid shots. We know adam schiff was completely aware of Hilary and Obama’s Russian collusion and spying on the president.

Without some level of honesty the democrats are doomed.

Phoenix
1 month ago
Reply to  jake the snake

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA,,,

Or we can all sprout wings and fly!

teresa Ann d'alessandro
1 month ago
Reply to  jake the snake

ha ha they don’t know the word “honesty” they have tunnel vision – just think one way and it’s not a good way

Steve
1 month ago

Okay, now that the silly comments about killing Democrats have been written, let’s get on with the real business at hand and understand that this with this election, if the worthless GOP as it’s currently constructed wins more seats, even a majority, they will still not have enough votes to override vetoes, impeach the President, etc. This election is a building block, a step toward 2024 when the real decisive results will be noted.

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