Balance of Power: A Partisan Convergence in the Senate

June 2, 2022

What is the balance of power in the Senate?

Democrats control the 50-50 chamber by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

Senate balance of power

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How many seats are up for election in 2022?

A total of 35 seats are up for election – 12 Democratic-held seats and 23 Republican-held seats.

Though Republicans are defending more seats overall, only five are rated competitively by the Cook Political Report. Democrats are defending four seats rated competitively.

A net change of one seat in either direction alters the balance of the chamber, either giving Democrats a clear majority or handing control to Republicans.

What is the outlook for the 2022 midterm elections?

Midterm elections tend to hurt the president’s party. In 15 of the last 20 elections, the president’s party lost ground in the Senate.

Aside from precedent that likely favors Republicans, each party is entering the midterm season with advantages, according to Bloomberg Government analysts.

Democratic advantages:

  • Not defending any competitive open seats or seats in states Trump won in 2020
  • Targeting three GOP seats where the incumbent is retiring
  • Races for the Senate are less susceptible to election waves than for the House, so it’s possible good campaigns overcome bad environment
  • Incumbents and candidates overall reported stronger 2021 and early 2022 fundraising than Republicans

Republican advantages:

  • Need to net only one seat to take control of 50-50 chamber
  • Biden’s approval rating has trended downward since April 2021
  • Targeting two seats that flipped to Democrats narrowly in 2020 special elections in traditionally GOP-leaning states that Biden also won
  • Campaign committee, aligned super PAC began 2022 with far more cash on hand than Democratic counterparts

What are the races to watch among 2022 Senate elections?

New Hampshire – leans Democrat: After a narrow win in 2016, Democrat Maggie Hassan will attempt to hold onto her seat.

Nevada – toss up: Adam Laxalt (R) lost the 2018 governor race by four points. He is challenging Democrat incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, whom he succeeded as attorney general in 2015.

Wisconsin – toss up: Republican Ron Johnson is seeking a third term in a state decided by less than a point in the last two presidential elections.

Arizona – toss up: Retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) seeks re-election after winning a 2020 special election to fill the remainder of the late John McCain’s term.

Georgia – toss up: Raphael Warnock (D) won a special election runoff in January 2021 and will face football legend Herschel Walker (R).

Pennsylvania – toss up: The open seat of the retiring Pat Toomey (R) is in for tight competition between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) and either David McCormick or Mehmet Oz, who are engaged in a Republican primary that’s still too close to call.

Florida – leans Republican: The state went red again in 2020, but Rep. Val Demings (D) has posted sizable fundraising numbers and may give Republican incumbent Marco Rubio a tough race.

North Carolina – leans Republican: Rep. Ted Budd, a Trump-endorsed Republican, will face Cheri Beasley (D) to replace retiring Sen. Richard Burr.

Ohio – leans Republican: J.D. Vance, another Trump-endorsed Republican, and Rep. Tim Ryan (D) will compete for the seat of retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R).

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