Senate Democrats Face Uphill Battle In Midterm Elections As Majority Hangs In The Balance

Written By BlabberBuzz | Sunday, 04 February 2024 03:00 PM
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Senate Democrats face an uphill battle in the upcoming fall elections as they fight to maintain their slim majority.

With 22 incumbent seats to defend, many in Republican-leaning states, and the retirement of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the odds are stacked against them. West Virginia, a deeply conservative state, poses a significant challenge for Democrats, who see little hope of retaining the seat without Manchin. Their best chance, albeit unlikely, is to pick up a seat in either Texas or Florida, where Senators Ted Cruz and Rick Scott are running for reelection.

Currently, Senate Democrats hold a 51-49 majority, with 48 Democrats and three independents who caucus with them. As the November elections approach, let's take a closer look at the Senate map and the early fundraising numbers for the year.

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In Montana, Democratic Senator Jon Tester is seeking reelection for a fourth term in a state that President Biden is not expected to win in the general election. In 2020, former President Trump won Montana by a significant 16-point margin. Despite the state's conservative leanings, Tester remains popular, with approval ratings around 61%, according to a Morning Consult poll conducted last year. Last quarter, Tester outraised his Republican opponent Tim Sheehy, raising $5.5 million. However, he also outspent his fundraising, with expenditures totaling approximately $7.2 million. Going into 2024, Tester had $11.2 million in his campaign coffers, while Sheehy had nearly $1.3 million.

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Sheehy, the CEO of Bridger Aerospace and a former Navy SEAL, is considered a formidable challenger to Tester. However, there is still the potential for a primary if Congressman Matt Rosendale decides to enter the race. Rosendale previously ran against Tester in 2018 but lost. While he has not ruled out a Senate bid, Senator Steve Daines, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has endorsed Sheehy and is encouraging Rosendale to seek reelection to Congress instead.

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In Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown is defending his seat in a swing state that has recently turned red. In 2020, Ohio voted for Trump over Biden by a margin of 53% to 45%. Despite the favorable map for Republicans, candidate quality remains a potential impediment, according to Jessica Taylor, the Senate and Governors editor for Cook Political Report. Brown outraised the three Republicans vying to challenge him in November, bringing in over $6.6 million and finishing the year with $14.6 million cash on hand. Among the Republican primary candidates, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose was the top fundraiser, collecting nearly $813,000 last quarter. However, he also spent $910,000, leaving him with $772,000 cash on hand and $250,000 in debt. State Senator Matt Dolan, who ran in 2022 but lost in the primary, raised about $358,000 but exhausted $2.3 million. He ended the year with $4.8 million cash on hand, the most among his GOP rivals, but also carried $7 million in debt. Trump-backed businessman Bernie Moreno, who briefly ran in 2022, raised $800,000 and spent $3.8 million. He closed out the year with $2 million cash on hand and $3 million in debt.

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In Arizona, Senator Kyrsten Sinema has yet to announce if she will seek reelection, and the filing deadline of April 8 is fast approaching. If she decides to run again, Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent, will face challengers from both sides of the aisle in a battleground state that voted for Biden in 2020 but historically leans Republican. On the left, Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego, a former Marine, is running against Sinema. On the right, Kari Lake, a former news anchor who ran for governor in 2022 but lost, has received the endorsement of former President Trump. Sheriff Mark Lamb, who has served as sheriff of Pinal County since 2017, is also running in the Republican primary but faces challenges in terms of name recognition and funding. Gallego outraised both Sinema and Lake, bringing in $3.3 million and ending the year with $6.5 million in the bank. Lake raised $2.1 million and had $1.1 million left over, along with $308,000 in debt. Sinema spent more than she raised last quarter, bringing in $595,000 but spending $797,000. However, she still has $10.6 million cash on hand.

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In Nevada, Senator Jacky Rosen is seeking reelection to a second term in a state that has been closely contested in recent presidential elections. Both Democratic nominees, Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020, won Nevada by small margins. Last quarter, Rosen outraised the large field of Republicans hoping to challenge her in the general election, collecting $3.2 million and ending the year with $10.6 million cash on hand. Among the Republican candidates, Sam Brown, a veteran who suffered third-degree burns in Afghanistan, was the top fundraiser, bringing in $1.8 million and finishing the year with $1.7 million cash on hand. Trump's ambassador to Iceland, Jeff Gunter, raised just over $215,000 but spent slightly more than he raised.

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In Wisconsin, Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is seeking her third term in a state that has voted reliably Democratic in presidential campaigns since 1988, with the exception of Trump's win in 2016. In 2020, Wisconsin swung back to the Democrats, with Biden winning the state by a narrow margin of 0.6%. While Baldwin does not yet have a serious challenger, businessman Eric Hovde is expected to enter the race and has the support of the Senate GOP campaign arm. Hovde previously ran for Senate in 2012 but narrowly lost in the primary to former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who was eventually defeated by Baldwin. For now, the only candidate in the Republican primary is Rejani Raveendran, a 40-year-old college student who has never run for office in the state. Baldwin raised $3 million last quarter and ended the year with $8 million.

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In Pennsylvania, Democratic Senator Bob Casey is likely to face off against Republican businessman Dave McCormick, the former CEO of the Bridgewater Associates investment firm. McCormick previously ran for Senate in 2022 but lost in the primary against Mehmet Oz. Pennsylvania voted for Trump in 2016 but has otherwise supported Democratic presidential nominees since 1992. Last quarter, McCormick outraised Casey by about $2 million, with Casey bringing in $3.6 million and McCormick's campaign raising a total of $5.5 million, including $1 million contributed by McCormick himself. Casey ended the year with $9.4 million, while McCormick had $4.2 million.

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In Michigan, Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin is running to succeed Senator Debbie Stabenow. Slotkin, a Michigan native and former CIA analyst, currently represents the state's 7th Congressional District. Last quarter, Slotkin outraised all her GOP opponents, bringing in $2.8 million and finishing the year with $6 million cash on hand. Among the Republican candidates, former Michigan Representative Mike Rogers, who is backed by Senator Daines, raised $1 million. Businessman Sandy Pensler brought in $1 million, mostly through personal loans, and former Representative Peter Meijer, who lost a House primary in 2022, raised just over $508,000, with nearly $93,000 in loans. Michigan voted for Trump in 2016 by a slim margin but flipped back to the Democrats in 2020, with Biden winning the state by roughly 3 points.

While Democrats face a challenging map in the upcoming Senate elections, they are hoping for long shot victories in Texas and Florida. However, both states have historically leaned Republican. In Florida, Democratic Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, the first South American immigrant elected to Congress, will face two-term Senator Rick Scott. FEC filings revealed that Scott contributed the majority of funding toward his campaign last quarter, raising $4.7 million, with $3million coming from his own pocket. Mucarsel-Powell, on the other hand, raised $1.6 million and ended the year with $2.4 million cash on hand. Florida is a crucial battleground state, and Democrats are hoping to capitalize on changing demographics and voter turnout to secure a victory.

In Texas, former Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who narrowly lost to Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, is considering another run for the Senate. O'Rourke, known for his grassroots campaigning and ability to energize young voters, raised an impressive $3.6 million last quarter, despite not officially announcing his candidacy. Cruz, a well-established conservative figure, raised $3.3 million in the same period. Texas has been a Republican stronghold for decades, but Democrats are hopeful that shifting demographics and changing political dynamics could give them a fighting chance.

Overall, Senate Democrats face an uphill battle in the fall elections. With a slim majority to defend and several vulnerable seats in Republican-leaning states, they will need to mount strong campaigns and raise significant funds to hold onto their majority. While there are a few potential opportunities for pickups in states like Texas and Florida, the odds are still stacked against them. The outcome of these elections will have a significant impact on the balance of power in the Senate and the ability of President Biden to advance his legislative agenda.

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