In the 2018 Midterm elections, the Democratic Party utilized an anti-republican and an anti-Trump platform to maintain several vulnerable Senate seats in historically democratic but red-shifting states. The party came very close to retaining its incumbencies in several more.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin retained his Senate seat in West Virginia — the second reddest state in the 2016 presidential election — by 3.3%. Democratic Senator Jon Tester won Montana — a state Trump had carried by 20% in 2016 — by 3.5%. In Ohio, a swing state rapidly shifting towards Republicans, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown was re-elected by 6.8%.
Additionally, Democrats won and secured seats in several swing states, retaining Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Virginia, by significant margins, and flipping Nevada and Arizona.
All of these seats will be up for reelection in 2024, and all will be hotly contested. And unfortunately for the Democratic Party, nearly all the contested seats will be its incumbencies. At most, in a highly Democrat-favored environment, it could challenge Republican Senator Ted Cruz in Texas and Republican Senator Rick Scott in Florida. This is a stretch, as Florida shifts further towards Republicans, and Texas remains fairly Republican on a national scale. Even if Democrats can challenge these seats, they will still face uphill battles in West Virginia, Montana and Ohio.
Democrats are also likely to lose control of the House of Representatives in 2022, creating a gridlocked environment for the rest of President Biden’s term. Government shutdowns akin to the numerous shutdowns under the Trump administration’s split congress are likely, and it will be difficult for Democrats to pass through major legislation. Government shutdowns and congressional gridlock are usually looked down upon in public opinion, causing a decline in approval.
In addition, the Biden administration’s approval is already fairly shaky, and unless the economy improves significantly and polarization declines, it likely won’t be enough to create a blue wave in 2024.
This all means that the 2022 Senate elections will be of utmost importance for Democrats. With their thin 50-50 control of the Senate and Vice President Kamala Harris serving as tiebreaker, other control is in a vulnerable position.
Likely to automatically lose at least their two incumbencies in West Virginia and Montana, they would need to gain at least two seats to keep the chamber even. If Democrats wanted to prepare for the worst-case scenario in a 2024 red wave, they would need to secure even more seats.
Democrats have several options for pickups in 2022. Republicans are running relatively weak candidates to fill retiring incumbents in the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, with Dr. Mehmet Oz and J.D. Vance respectively.
Additionally, the swing states of Wisconsin and North Carolina serve as potential pickups. Unfortunately for the Democrats, they seem to be losing all of these except for Pennsylvania which, in my opinion, is a complete tossup.
To secure their future in the Senate chamber, Democrats need to think ahead. If they do not secure additional seats this midterm, they run the risk of losing several key Senate seats in the risky map that is 2024. It’s unclear who will win this year, and what the national environment will be like in the next election, but it is certain that picking up seats this midterm should be critical to the Democratic Party’s strategy.
Andrew Miller (he/him) is a freshman studying journalism and history.