On November 8, 2022, Americans will go to the polls in the Midterm Elections. Among the many offices being decided, control of the United States Senate will hang in the balance. Several battleground Senate seats will be up for election next year, including in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia. Currently, Democrats control the evenly divided 50-50 Senate by way of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. A GOP gain of just one seat in 2022 would hand back control to Mitch McConnell and the Republicans.
Conversely, if Democrats gain one or more seats, they may be able to further implement President Joe Biden’s agenda. It is currently stalled due to two moderate Democratic Senators (Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema). Since I last wrote about the 2022 Senate races, many things have changed. This includes new candidates, new endorsements, and perhaps most importantly, new fundraising. So let’s dive into what the 2022 Senate map might look like and who might control the chamber come 2023.
Senate Seats Targeted By Democrats
As it stands, Democrats have four legitimate pickup opportunities in key battleground states come 2022. Those states would be Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida. More long-shot states could include Missouri (where scandal-plagued former Governor Eric Greitens is the GOP frontrunner) and Ohio (where a messy Republican primary may give Democrats an opening). But for now, let’s focus on the first four states where Democrats have the best chance to gain seats.
In Pennsylvania, where Republican Senator Pat Toomey is retiring, Democrats see perhaps their best pickup opportunity. The state, which former President Trump narrowly won in 2016 and President Biden narrowly won in 2020, is a perennial swing state (at least in Senate contests). The Democratic field currently includes Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the biggest fundraiser in the race so far, more moderate Representative Conor Lamb, Montgomery County Commission Chairwoman Val Arkoosh (who has the backing of the Progressive Emily’s List), and state Representative Malcolm Kenyatta. Fetterman appears to be the frontrunner at this point. Lamb, however, may give the former mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania a run for his money, especially considering Pennsylvania is more of a swing state than a safe Democratic state despite Fetterman being very Progressive.
On the Republican side, author and army veteran Sean Parnell is running after losing a hotly contested congressional race to Lamb in 2020. Also in the race is real estate developer Jeff Bartos and Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands. Trump endorsed Parnell on September 1, making him the presumptive frontrunner. However, Bartos’ campaign revealed that Parnell’s ex-wife sought a restraining order against him on two different occasions. This, combined with Parnell’s Conservative background, may make it difficult for the GOP to hold onto this key battleground seat. I will predict Lamb ultimately gets the Democratic Nomination, Parnell gets the Republican nomination, and the two former congressional foes face off once again. With the political climate trending towards the GOP, especially with a Democratic president, Parnell will make this a close race. But ultimately, I’d guess Lamb will prevail by winning about 53% of the vote.
In Wisconsin, Democrats are targeting Senator Ron Johnson’s seat. The GOP Senator, who has increasingly aligned himself with Trump, is one of the Democrats’ biggest targets in 2022. They believe Johnson to be too Conservative for a perennial swing state that Biden won in 2020, albeit narrowly. On the Democratic side, Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes is easily the frontrunner at this point, raking in the most donations and the most endorsements thus far. Other candidates include state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outagamie CEO Tom Nelson. It’s probably a pretty safe bet to conclude Barnes will get his parties’ nomination, as the former state Assemblyman had a commanding 29 point lead over his challengers in an internal poll released by his campaign in September.
On the Republican side, Johnson has still not announced his intentions on whether to seek a third term. Wisconsin’s Senior Senator previously said in his 2016 reelection campaign that he would not seek a third term in office. However, he walked back that comment in subsequent years. If Johnson decides not to run, GOP Representative Mike Gallagher would likely be his heir apparent. Gallagher, who hails from Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, is almost as young as Barnes (37) and is well known in Wisconsin as a relatively moderate Republican congressman.
At this point in time, it still looks as if Johnson will seek a third term, but anything is possible. It should be noted that Trump has already endorsed the two-term Senator and has openly encouraged him to run. My prediction for this race is a very close contest where Barnes ultimately prevails over Johnson. These two men are the most likely candidates, and Barnes’ name recognition combined with Johnson’s unpopularity in the state will be just enough for Barnes to squeak out a win with about 51% of the vote.
In North Carolina, where incumbent GOP Senator Richard Burr is retiring, a hotly contested Senate race is heating up. On the Democratic side, former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley is currently the front runner. Beasley, who would be the first African American woman elected to the Senate from North Carolina, has led her other Democratic opponents in fundraising since the summer. However, state senator Jeff Jackson and former state senator Erica Smith are both still in the race. It seems Beasley will likely emerge from the field given her popularity throughout the race and her history-making campaign. On the Republican side, things are more complicated. Representative Ted Budd, who Trump endorsed in June, is currently locked in a tight race with former Governor Pat McCrory. Former Representative Mark Walker is also still in the race.
North Carolina may be a bellwether for whether or not Trump’s endorsement prowess comes to fruition. Polls have mostly shown Budd with the lead as Trump’s endorsement helped the congressman skyrocket in fundraising and name recognition. The most likely scenario is Budd winning the nomination with Trump’s help, but don’t rule out a McCrory come from behind victory. The former governor is still popular in the state and has every bit as much name recognition as Budd. Ultimately, I think Budd will prevail on the GOP side and Beasley will win the nomination on the Democratic side. This will set up a Progressive candidate facing off against a Conservative candidate. With North Carolina leaning slightly red, I will predict Budd wins with about 52% of the vote.
In Florida, two-term Republican Senator and former Presidential candidate Marco Rubio is running for reelection. Florida has trended more red in recent years, with Trump winning it in both 2016 and 2020. This is a more longshot state for Democrats, but they still have confidence in their ability due to their candidate. Florida Representative Val Demings, the former Orlando Police Chief, is currently the front runner to take on Rubio in 2022. She has raised more than $14 million, making her the top fundraiser of any Senate candidate in the country. Rubio, for his campaign, has raised more than $12 million.
It seems both Democrats and Republicans are putting high stock into this crucial Senate race, one that could ultimately determine who controls the Upper Chamber. Even though Demings’ financial haul is impressive, it will still be an uphill climb for the congresswomen to defeat Rubio. Florida’s Senior Senator has been one of the most well-known GOP lawmakers during his time in the Senate and had no problem holding off former Representative Patrick Murphy in 2016 who also outraised him. He ended up defeating the Jupiter Congressman by eight points. While 2022 may be closer, it still looks as if Rubio has the edge. I will predict the former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives wins reelection with 54% of the vote.
Senate Seats Targeted By Republicans
Republicans have four legitimate Senate seat pickup opportunities in 2022. This includes Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Nevada. Special elections in Georgia and Arizona helped put Democrats over the top in 2020 to win control of the Senate. Now, both will hold regularly scheduled Senate races where two Democratic incumbents (Raphael Warnock in Georgia and Mark Kelly in Arizona) are seeking full six-year terms. Outside of these four states, Republicans do not have a lot of other opportunities to pick up seats. Perhaps their best would be in Colorado, a state that has trended blue and would be difficult for Republicans to flip outside of a wave election (similar to 2014 when former Republican Senator Cory Gardner was elected).
In Georgia, the aforementioned Raphael Warnock is seeking a full term after serving out the remaining two years of former Senator Johnny Isakson’s term. Warnock is currently raking in donations, accumulating over $9 million in just the past three months. It seems Democrats are pouring in resources for the first-ever African American Senator from Georgia to keep his seat blue. On the Republican side, former University of Georgia and NFL star Herschel Walker is Warnock’s chief opponent. The businessman and close friend of former President Trump has also raised a large sum of money. He raked in over $3.7 million in just the first five weeks of his campaign. And he has also received key endorsements, including from Trump and from the top two Republicans in the Senate, Mitch McConnell and John Thune.
While other GOP candidates like Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, former Trump National Security Council Aide Latham Saddler, and Businessman Kelvin King are also in the race, it seems Walker, with his name recognition and fundraising prowess, will run away with the nomination. However, the former Cowboys and Vikings running back is not free from controversy. Recently, a report from the Associated Press showed Walker allegedly threatened his ex-wife with a gun on multiple occasions. This has made some Republicans like Mitch McConnell nervous about the potential of Walker getting the nomination, especially considering he is new to politics. Ultimately, it seems a Warnock Walker head-to-head match-up is inevitable. With Georgia still very much a swing state and the political climate favoring Republicans, I will predict Walker comes away with a slight victory, taking in 51% of the vote.
In Arizona, incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is running for reelection. Holding the seat once held by John McCain, Kelly is a skillful fundraiser and relatively moderate. However, his fellow Democratic Senator Krysten Sinema (who is facing her own reelection troubles in 2024) often gets more headlines. Kelly is seeking a full six-year term in a state that has trended blue recently. Biden won a close race in Arizona by just over 11,000 votes in 2020 after Trump won it in 2016.
On the Republican side, Attorney General Mark Brnovich and President of the Thiel Foundation Blake Masters currently lead the pack. Also in the race is solar power executive Jim Lamon and retired Major General Michael McGuire. It seems Brnovich is the most likely nominee; however, Trump has yet to wade into Arizona via an endorsement. Polls conducted by the Hill show Kelly leading all four of his potential 2022 rivals, with Brnovich doing the best at 39 percent to Kelly’s 43 percent.
Overshadowing everything in Arizona is the recent audit into Arizona’s Maricopa County. The audit that former President Trump demanded showed Biden maintaining and even slightly expanding his lead over Trump in the county and state, cementing his win. Each prospective GOP Senate candidate has addressed the audit differently. Brnovich has said he will act lawfully in regards to voter fraud and protect people’s right to a fair election. Brnovich has also said he will continue to investigate the 2020 Election in the state despite the audit confirming Biden’s win. Trump has signaled that perhaps Brnovich has not gone far enough in his statements regarding voter fraud and that the issue is at the top of minds for Republican voters. Ultimately, Brnovich will likely be the GOP nominee to challenge Kelly. So, I predict Kelly will hold on to his seat with a slim victory, winning about 52% of the vote.
In New Hampshire, an interesting Senate race is potentially shaping up. Incumbent Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan is running for reelection in the Granite State. What makes the race intriguing is the possibility that current Governor Chris Sununu may jump into the race. Sununu, whose father and brother also served in the Senate, is a popular Republican Governor in a blue-leaning state. National Republicans have been clamoring for a Sununu run for the better part of this year. The governor has said he will make his decision in the next few weeks. Hassan, Sununu’s predecessor as governor, is relatively unpopular in New Hampshire. Just one-third of voters say they approve of her according to a University of New Hampshire Survey.
Conversely, 54% of voters currently approve of Sununu’s job as governor, with 40% disapproving. This is actually a drop for the governor as he reached as high as 82% approval for his leadership during the first half of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Polls have shown Sununu with a slight albeit steady lead with regards to a potential head-to-head match-up. The University of New Hampshire poll shows Sununu leading Hassan by three points, 45% to 42%. Sununu is not officially in the race yet, so the only current GOP candidate running is veteran Don Bolduc. It is likely that if Sununu enters the race, he will have a good shot of taking down Hassan, who only defeated former GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte by just over 1,000 votes in 2016. I will predict that Sununu gets into the race and ultimately defeats Hassan with about 53% of the vote.
In Nevada, first-term Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is running for reelection. She was the first Latina ever elected to the Senate, replacing longtime Senator and former Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Two main Republican challengers have lined up to run against Cortez Masto. Those would be former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018, and army veteran Sam Brown. Laxalt is overwhelmingly favored to win the GOP nomination in Nevada, as he is well known within Republican circles. However, Brown has raised over $1 million since he began his campaign and can not totally be ignored. Laxalt, the son of former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici, signed on to a case to challenge Nevada’s election results.
This is already being used by Democrats and Cortez Masto as campaign fodder. In addition, Laxaut disappointed many when he lost his bid for governor in 2018, a race many saw as winnable. Now, with Laxault, who is easily the front runner as of now, and former Senator Dean Heller running for governor, the GOP is looking at a repeat of its ticket from 2018, just with the candidates switching offices. Both Laxalt and Heller lost in 2018, so it is a curious choice for both to run again. Regardless, Nevada will be an especially close state when it’s all over. After all, Biden only won the state by about 2.5% in 2020, one of the closest states in the country. Based on Democrats’ recent success in Nevada as well as Laxault’s potential baggage, I will predict Cortez Masto wins reelection by taking 53% of the vote.
The 2022 Senate Map Roundup
As the 2022 Midterm Elections quickly approach, one thing is for certain. No less than eight states will hold hotly contested Senate races that will ultimately determine who controls the Upper Chamber. Democrats have opportunities to pick up seats in at least four states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida. For Republicans, they also have at least four opportunities to gain seats, including in Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Nevada. In the next twelve months, hundreds of millions if not billions will be spent trying to get many candidates elected.
It is certainly possible that several races and several individual candidates cross the $100 million line in campaign fundraising. Jaime Harrison’s massive fundraising haul in his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Lindsey Graham in 2020 is just the beginning of massive fundraising races. For my final prediction, I will say that the 2022 Midterm Elections will cost the United States around $6 billion. Politics and races like those for Senate in 2022 are just too impactful to the country to expect anything less.