The Senate is hanging in the balance with two runoff elections scheduled for January 5th in Georgia pitting two Republican incumbents against two upstart Democrats in a state Trump “lost” in November. The current partisan balance is 50-48 in favor of the GOP. Losing both seats would cede control of the upper chamber to the Democrats in a 50-50 split with Harris being the tie-breaker. Obviously, winning one race would keep it in GOP control and winning both would give the GOP a net loss of one seat over the previous Congress.
While some analysis has indicated on these pages that the GOP can take greater control, or (God forbid!) retake control come 2022, this writer is not so sure of that. There are 34 seats up for reelection in 2022 and 22 of them belong to Republicans. Hence, there is some defense to play and very little offense given the polarization in politics in the states affected. Of the 22 Republicans, three have indicated or announced they would not seek reelection in 2022. All three of them hail from swing states- Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Richard Burr in North Carolina, and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Fortunately, the Republican bench is deep in these states, but unfortunately, so is the bench of the Democrats in all these states.
Thus far, among the 19 incumbents not named Toomey, Johnson, or Burr, we know that seven have announced their intent to run for reelection and the intents of the other 12 are unknown. So let’s look at the Republicans first:
- Richard Shelby of Alabama- a shoo-in for reelection and expected to make an announcement on his intents in January, 2021;
- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska- definitely running;
- John Boozman of Arkansas- definitely running;
- Marco Rubio of Florida- definitely running;
- Mike Crapo of Idaho- intent unknown, but a likely GOP retention;
- Todd Young of Indiana- definitely running;
- Charles Grassley of Iowa- intent unknown, but likely a tough race if he opts for retirement;
- Jerry Moran of Kansas- definitely running;
- Rand Paul of Kentucky- intent unknown but a likely GOP retention;
- John Kennedy of Louisiana- intent unknown, but a likely retention;
- Roy Blunt of Missouri- definitely running;
- John Hoeven of North Dakota- intent unknown but a likely GOP retention;
- Rob Portman of Ohio- intent unknown, but has already drawn a potential primary opponent;
- James Lankford of Oklahoma- intent unknown, but a likely GOP retention;
- Tim Scott of South Carolina- intent unknown but a likely GOP retention;
- John Thune of South Dakota- definitely running, and;
- Mike Lee of Utah- intent unknown but a likely GOP retention.
Left off the list are the three who announced their intent not to run and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia who would have to run for a full term in 2022. The 2020 race was to complete the term of Johnny Isaakson.
Besides the three apparently or confirmed open GOP seats, assuming Loeffler prevails, the Democrats would realistically have five or six targets- Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida,and Georgia. One can throw in Alaska if Murkowski gets booted in a primary, mounts another independent run, and a Democrat slips in by splitting the potential GOP vote.
Now, let’s look at the Democrats up for election in 2022 and one can see the targets are slim pickings:
- Mark Kelly of Arizona- an intriguing and possible target if he draws the right opponent not beholden to the McCain Mafia in Arizona;
- Alex Padilla of California- Harris’ replacement, but it is California, so…;
- Michael Bennet of Colorado- definitely running- a potential but unlikely target;
- Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut- definitely running and will win;
- Brian Schatz of Hawaii- intent unknown but a Democrat retention;
- Tammy Duckworth of Illinois- definitely running and be for real;
- Chris Van Hollen of Maryland- definitely running and likely retention;
- Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada- definitely running and a possible target;
- Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire- definitely running and another possible target who has already drawn a GOP opponent;
- Chuck Schumer of New York- definitely running;
- Ron Wyden of Oregon- intent unknown but likely retention;
- Patrick Leahy of Vermont- intent unknown but likely retention, and;
- Patty Murray of Washington- intent unknown but likely retention.
To me, there are few opportunities. Kelly in Arizona, despite massive spending, did not exactly blow a weak opponent- Martha McSally- out of the water which should give the GOP some hope. A lot will depend on what type of Senator Kelly becomes. Will he go full blown socialist, or will he be more “moderate?” Both Cortez-Masto and Hassan in their previous election failed to garner 50% of the vote so with the right opponents, they are legitimate targets. Although Dan Bolduc has declared his candidacy against Hassan, should current Governor Chris Sununu opt for a run, it would clearly put this seat in play. The long shadow of Harry Reid looms large in Nevada and Cortez-Masto was his hand-picked heir to the throne, so that may be a longer shot.
Another consideration is that 2022 will be a midterm election and the party in the power in the White House traditionally and historically loses seats in Congress. Often, that scenario is most played out in the House, but has, at times, seeped into Senate races. However, given the lack of viable Democrat targets in 2022, unless there is a tremendous shift in the electorate which I cannot see at this juncture, the position of the GOP is actually more precarious than that of the Democrats.
Which brings me to Georgia on January 5th. It would be considerably better if both Republicans win reelection, although come 2022 Loeffler would not be out of the woods. Having 52 Senators on the GOP side is better than having 51, or the worse-case scenario, a 50-50 split. In either case, there are the three gadflies in the ointment to consider should the GOP keep the Senate: Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Lisa Murkowski. The latter can be handled in 2022 and methinks that given the vitriol thrown her way in the 2020 election and over the Kavanaugh hearing, Collins may actually show some spine since this will likely be her last six years in the Senate. It is Romney and his ambitions of leading a post-Trump GOP that is most troublesome.
Whatever happens, it is incumbent upon the voters of Georgia to do the right thing and return Loeffler and Perdue to the Senate NOW! To do otherwise would not only hand over control of the Senate to the socialist Democrats, but set the stage for potential future losses in 2022 which would only strengthen the hands of the Democrats outright.
For those who see a bright future for the GOP in keeping and increasing on their majority in the Senate in 2022, I just do not see it happening. There are more risks than advantages out there. Not being pessimistic…just realistic.