NEW YORK (AP) – Democrats celebrating a successful attempt to retain control of the U.S. Senate this year will soon face a 2024 campaign that may prove more challenging.
The party enters the next cycle defending 23 seats, including two by independents partying with Democrats. That compares to just 10 seats that Republicans hope to keep in their column.
Adding to the potential hurdles is that some 2024 contests will be held in states increasingly hostile to Democrats, including Montana, Ohio and West Virginia. Other seats held by Democrats are in some of the same hotly contested states that were the focus of this year’s Midterms, such as Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada. And while the Democrats ran each of these races, they did so at great expense and with sometimes tight margins. In Nevada, for example, Democratic incumbent Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won by less than a percentage point, or about 9,000 votes.
For now, both parties insist their focus is on coming out on top in the December 6 Senate runoff in Georgia. But Democrats running for election in 2024 know they could face stiff headwinds and are studying the results of this year’s election when the party beat expectations.
For Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada, a Democrat facing her first re-election campaign, that means continuing to focus on issues around the kitchen table and announcing legislation like the infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden and gun violence legislation.
“We know races are always close” said Rosen in an interview. “We don’t take anything for granted.”
The dynamics of the next Senate campaign could be influenced by a variety of external factors, most notably the presidential election and the attention it brings. Biden, who turned 80 this month, has said his “Intention” to stand for re-election and will make a final decision early next year. Former President Donald Trump has already announced a third White House bid, and several other Republicans are lining up to launch campaigns. The eventual nominee in each party could have a profound impact on voting races, including those for the Senate.
But perhaps the biggest question for Senate Democrats seeking re-election will be who the Republicans will nominate as their opponents. The GOP lost several Senate elections this year, including those in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada, after Trump-backed candidates struggled to raise money and connect with a broader, more moderate constituency during the general election.
In Nevada, the Republican field to challenge Rosen has not yet developed, but is expected to attract several contenders. One name that’s grabbing attention is Sam Brown, a former US Army captain who was awarded a Purple Heart after being badly wounded in Afghanistan. Brown ran for the Senate this year and came out strong in the Republican primary before losing to Adam Laxalt, who lost to Cortez Masto in the general election.
Richard Hernandez, who was Brown’s campaign adviser, said: “He has pledged to his supporters that he will never stop fighting for their causes, but he has made no decisions about whether that includes running for office in the future.”
Also in the Southwest, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a centrist Democrat, is up for re-election. The race, like other recent Arizona statewide competitions, is expected to be very competitive. But Sinema will likely face a well-funded key challenger first, having angered much of the Democratic base by blocking or watering down progressive priorities like a minimum wage hike or Biden’s big social spending initiatives. She has not said whether she intends to stand for re-election.
Sinema’s most prominent potential main challenger is US Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has a long history of feuding with Sinema. Gallego has not revealed his plans for 2024 but has made no secret that he is considering challenging Sinema. He even raised money for the prospect of defying Sinema.
An independent spending group is also raising money and says it will support grassroots organizations working to defeat Sinema in a Democratic primary.
Republicans are hoping a bloody Democratic primary could give them a chance to win the seat after losing three consecutive elections in the Arizona Senate.
Sinema is among a trio of moderate Senate Democrats who have sometimes used their influence in an evenly divided chamber to block or blunt some of Biden’s plans and nominees. They will remain among the party’s most vulnerable incumbents in 2024 as well.
The other two senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, will run as Democrats in states comfortably carried by Trump in 2020.
Manchin has already drawn a GOP challenger in US Rep. Alex Mooney, who said a week after winning re-election that he aspires to higher office. Manchin has not yet said whether he will stand for re-election.
Republicans see Tester, a three-term senator, as vulnerable, and the opportunity to run for the seat could lead to a heated primary battle between former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Rep. Matt Rosendale. Zinke, who won a seat in the House of Representatives in this year’s midterm elections, said he will decide whether to run next year and Rosendale declined to answer.
The tester hasn’t announced if he’ll seek another term, but he expects 2024 to be just as tough as his last race in 2018 when he beat Rosendale in a close contest.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic US Senator Bob Casey has not said if he intends to run for a fourth term. Casey easily won re-election in 2018, but Pennsylvania has been competitive for Republicans, including in that year’s Senate race, which Democrat John Fetterman won.
One potential Republican challenger whose name has been floating around in Pennsylvania is former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who narrowly won the Republican primary in this year’s race against famed heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz lost. McCormick advisers declined to comment on the prospect. Conservative activist Kathy Barnette, who finished a close third in the Republican primary, did not respond to news about whether she is considering a 2024 campaign.
Wisconsin, where Republican Sen. Ron Johnson narrowly won re-election this year, is expected to have another Senate race in two years.
Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin is widely expected to seek a third term, but hasn’t officially announced it. There are no official Republican candidates, but US Rep. Mike Gallagher has been raised as a possibility.
Gallagher brushed off a question about whether he was considering challenging Baldwin and said in a statement that his focus over the next two years is on tackling issues like inflation and the border, having just won re-election.
“Any talk about the next election, especially since we’ve just had an election, distracts from the serious work we have to do.” he said.
A number of high-profile Republican senators will also stand for re-election in 2024, including Texas’ Ted Cruz, Missouri’s Josh Hawley and Florida’s Rick Scott.
On the Democrat side, some of the party’s former presidential candidates will face voters. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have all said they will seek another term.
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is Democrat-partisan and one of the most influential progressives in Congress, has not said if he intends to run for re-election.
In Utah, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney will face his first Senate reelection bid — if he chooses to run. Romney remains popular with many Utah residents, but has faced backlash from his own party for being the only Republican to vote twice to remove Trump from office after his two impeachments by the House of Representatives.
When asked if Romney plans to run for re-election, his spokeswoman Arielle Mueller didn’t provide details about his plans, instead saying that the senator was focused on fighting “significant challenges for the country”
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, a Republican who was a Trump ally, is one of the GOP figures who has been considered a potential candidate for the 2024 Senate in the state. Longtime Reyes political adviser Alan Crooks declined to say whether the attorney general will launch a campaign, but argued he was receiving pressure from inside and outside the state to make it work.
“He’s certainly ready to run, but that doesn’t mean he’s considering it.” said crook.