An Early Overview of the 2024 U.S. Senate Races
Elections & Politics Policy Brief #76 | By: Ian Milden | May 4, 2023
Header photo taken from: aa.com.tr
One-third of the U.S. Senate will be up for election in 2024. This Brief will provide an overview of what seats will be up this cycle, and where each party has strengths and weaknesses for this cycle’s elections.
Democrats will have a large number of seats to defend after stacking together strong cycles in 2006, 2012, and 2018. Given that Democrats only have a 51-49 majority, they can’t afford to lose more than two seats (or one if they lose the presidency), if they are to retain their majority. The map for Democrats is particularly challenging this cycle because they are defending three seats in states that will likely be won by the Republican presidential nominee.
The most difficult one to defend will be in West Virginia. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has not decided whether he will run for re-election, and he has said that he won’t until later this year. If Manchin chooses not to run for re-election, Republicans are very likely to take the seat since no other Democrat has been competitive in a statewide race in West Virginia in years. Republicans have recruited Governor Jim Justice (R-WV), the state’s wealthiest resident, to run for the seat. Justice is expected to face Congressman Alex Mooney (R-WV) in the primary. If Manchin does run, he will face a formidable opponent.
The other two seats in red states that Democrats will defend are held by Jon Tester in Montana and Sherod Brown in Ohio. Both incumbents have said that they will run for re-election, and they have significant amounts of money in their campaign accounts.
Most major presidential battlegrounds will also feature Senate races where Democrats are defending seats. Democrats will defend seats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, and Arizona. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) have announced that they are running for re-election and have significant amounts of money in their campaign accounts. Casey, Baldwin, and Klobuchar are all tested incumbents who have won multiple terms. Rosen won competitive elections for a US House seat before she defeated Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) in 2018. All of these incumbents should be early favorites, though it is unclear whom the Republicans will nominate to face them.
In Michigan, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she planned to retire. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who represents a swing district, has launched a campaign for the vacant Senate seat. Most prominent Democrats in Michigan have expressed disinterest in running against Slotkin, so she will likely be the Democratic nominee.
Arizona is more complicated. Senator Kyrsten Sinema recently left the Democratic Party to become an independent. She has not declared whether she is running for reelection. Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) has launched a campaign for the Democratic nomination. If Sinema runs, that might help Republicans’ chances of winning the seat.
There aren’t many Republican-held seats that Democrats can realistically target. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) is up for re-election, but Democrats have performed poorly in the Miami area in recent elections. Democrats can’t compete statewide if they are not winning in the Miami area by large margins, and Democrats have not been willing to invest the resources needed to fix that problem.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is also up for re-election in 2024. While Cruz had a close call in 2018, I would be surprised if Democrats can achieve that same level of success in 2024. Changes in voting patterns, particularly in the urban and suburban areas of Texas, have made Texas more competitive, but the margins have not shifted enough for Democrats to start winning elections. Texas is also a very expensive state to compete in, so I would expect national Democrats to prioritize defending incumbents over takeover targets like Texas.
The other seats that Republicans have to defend are in Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah, Wyoming, and North Dakota. Democrats are unlikely to be competitive in any of those races.