Republicans appear to be in a strong position to take back control of the Senate in 2024, where they only need to flip two seats, with numerous vulnerable Democrats set to appear on the ballot amid a contentious presidential election.
West Virginia provides Senate Republicans with their best chance, as Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin decided not to seek reelection in the state that went for former President Donald Trump by nearly 40 points in 2020. Other pick-up opportunities are in red states like Montana and Ohio, as well as presidential battlegrounds like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada.
“First, I do think we shouldn’t underestimate the power of incumbency. Senate incumbents are doing quite well these days and the best targets, even in red states, won’t be pushovers. They will have unlimited money,” Scott Jennings, a GOP strategist and veteran of numerous campaigns, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “That having been said, I think [West Virginia] is obviously gone for the Democrats, meaning at worst the Senate is 50-50. That puts pressure on Dems to hold all of these: Ohio, Montana, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Nevada. Plus the Vice Presidency.”
“That’s a great opening hand for the GOP in this cycle,” Jennings added
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, has been largely focused on the races in West Virginia, Montana and Ohio, all of which Trump won in 2020. Additionally, the group is targeting five swing states that President Joe Biden won by 3 points or less — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and Nevada.
After a failed red wave in 2022, the NRSC decided to get involved in the primary process and focus on recruiting candidates this cycle.
Jon McHenry, a GOP polling analyst and vice president at North Star Opinion Research, warned that while Republicans “have a very favorable map,” their “candidates matter.”
“Republicans threw away winnable races in the last few years with candidates who were less appealing in the general election than they were with a populist base,” McHenry told the DCNF.
The NRSC has recruited Republicans in Montana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and West Virginia, and is currently encouraging one to run in Wisconsin.
“Senate Republicans have a great map, but we can’t fall in love with the map. Incumbent Senators are extremely difficult to defeat, so we prioritized recruiting America First candidates who can appeal to our pro-Trump base and independent voters,” NRSC Chairman Steve Daines told the DCNF. “We are working closely with President Trump to elect a Republican majority who will confirm his appointments and back his America First agenda. It is critical that when President Trump picks up the phone to confirm a Supreme Court Justice that it isn’t Chuck Schumer on the other end of the line.”
Manchin, who has held the seat since 2010, is forcing Senate Democrats to go on defense in 2024. The senator is weighing a third-party presidential bid, and could run on centrist organization No Labels’ “Unity Ticket” next year.
Following his announcement, The Cook Political Report quickly switched Manchin’s seat from the “Toss Up” column to “Solid R.”
Republican Gov. Jim Justice is the NRSC-endorsed candidate, who also has Trump’s backing, and raised $1.5 million for the race this year, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Rep. Alex Mooney is also vying for the GOP nomination, but has raised less funds and has been polling behind Justice.
A Research America poll released Sept. 1 found Justice leading Mooney in the GOP primary by 30 points.
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is seeking a fourth term, and has already raised a significant amount of cash.
The senator brought in over $15 million this year, and currently has $13 million cash on hand. The NRSC recruited former Navy SEAL and businessman Tim Sheehy for the seat, who has already brought in $2.9 million with $1.1 million in campaign cash.
GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale, who ran against Tester and lost by 3.5 points in 2018, is considering another bid. Rosendale’s congressional campaign has raised $904,000 this year and currently has $1.7 million in hard dollars.
Earlier polling suggested Rosendale would win in a Republican primary by double digits, but a recent Co/Efficient poll found the former Navy SEAL up by 8 points for a head-to-head matchup. An Emerson College poll released in mid-October indicated Tester would beat Sheehy by 4 points, but a J.L. Partners survey from two months before found the senator losing by several points to both Republicans.
“This is the cycle where they finally beat Jon Tester,” said McHenry. “His repeated votes with Joe Biden will undo him this time around, especially if Biden is the Democratic nominee.”
Tester votes with Biden 91% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s estimate.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who has held his seat since 2007, is running in what could be his toughest race yet.
The NRSC is remaining neutral in the primary that is chock-full of prominent Republicans — businessman Bernie Moreno, who recently drew Trump’s backing, state Sen. Matt Dolan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Moreno and Dolan both ran in the 2022 Republican primary for the seat now held by GOP Sen. J.D. Vance.
The race has already become quite expensive as the three GOP candidates attempt to compete with Brown’s fundraising, totaling to $14.4 million this year with $11.2 million in the bank. Dolan has brought in $8.8 million compared to Moreno‘s $6.4 million, while LaRose, who got into the race most recently, has raised just over $1 million.
McHenry argued that the GOP should be able to pick up this seat, but cautioned that “the candidate really does matter.”
“Some of these states are just tough for Dems in a presidential cycle. Ohio and Montana for instance,” said Jennings. “Their states are obviously going to be tough for Biden. And they may not be able to escape the vortex even with unlimited money.”
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has already launched a bid for the seat, while several Republicans are vying for the nomination, including Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb and former GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake.
The NRSC hasn’t endorsed in the Arizona race, but the chairman has commended Lake for being “one of the most talented politicians we have running in the 2024 cycle.”
If Sinema runs, and Gallego and Lake are their respective party nominees, a contentious three-way race would ensue. Some polling has shown Gallego winning in such a scenario, while other surveys show Lake ahead.
Regardless, the polling largely finds Sinema coming in third, according to FiveThirtyEight’s survey compilation.
McHenry believes this is another strong pickup opportunity for the Republicans, as Sinema could split the Democratic vote, he told the DCNF.
Democratic Sen. Bob Casey is running for a fourth term in the upper chamber.
NRSC-recruit David McCormick is the only Republican in the race. The former hedge-fund CEO ran for the Senate GOP nomination in 2022 and narrowly lost to Dr. Mehmet Oz, who now-Democratic Sen. John Fetterman went on to beat.
Casey has already raised $7.7 million this year, and has $7.4 million cash on hand. McCormick’s fundraising numbers are not yet available.
Polling largely suggests Casey would beat McCormick in the general election. The seat is characterized by The Cook Political Report as in the “Lean D” column, along with other races in Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Democratic voters in the state have been leaving the party in droves for the GOP, according to voter registration data for 2023. Over 35,000 Democratic voters in Pennsylvania flipped Republican this year, compared to only 15,622 in the GOP who switched sides.
“There’s also a decent chance of winning in Pennsylvania as the GOP registration there is picking up strongly and Dave McCormick will be a strong candidate against the weakened career politician Bob Casey, Jr,” Mark Weaver, a national veteran Republican strategist, told the DCNF.
Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who has held the seat for over two decades, is retiring after 2024.
Rep. Elissa Slotkin is the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, and has reportedly expressed concern over sharing the ballot with Biden.
While several Republicans are vying for the seat, former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers is the NRSC’s pick. Former GOP Rep. Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump in 2021, and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig are also in the running.
“Michigan is one to watch. A solid Republican candidate should win that race with Trump (or even better, Nikki Haley) on the ballot against Joe Biden,” said McHenry. “Joe Biden’s support for Israel is the right thing morally and in a national security perspective, but Michigan is one of the states that it might hurt him politically as a swing state with a substantial Arab-American population.”
Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen is running for a second term.
Though numerous Republicans are running for the nomination, the NRSC tapped Army veteran Sam Brown, who came in second for the 2022 GOP Senate primary attempting to oust Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto.
Rosen has already raised $7.8 million for her reelection campaign, and has $8.8 million in the bank. Brown, who jumped in the race in July, has brought in $1.2 million with just under $1 million cash on hand.
A Tarrance Group survey, sponsored by the NRSC and released in early November, found Rosen up by 5 points against Brown for a general, and the Army veteran led the GOP primary field with a plurality.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin has served in the upper chamber since 2013.
While no Republican has yet to jump in the race, the NRSC is recruiting GOP businessman Eric Hovde. The Republican ran for Senate in 2012 but lost the GOP nomination to Tommy Thompson, who Baldwin beat in the general.
Baldwin has raked in $8.6 million this cycle with $6.8 million in hard dollars. There is no polling yet available for a matchup between the two.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pointed the DCNF toward an early November memo upon request for comment about the difficult map they face in 2024.
“One year from the election, three factors are contributing to Senate Democrats’ strong position to defend our majority: the strength of our candidates and campaigns, flawed Republicans fighting in vicious primaries, and the continued resonance of issues like women’s right to make our own health care decisions,” the memo reads
Mary Lou Masterson January 1, 2024