Following the 2020 election cycle, the Democrats and Republicans each earned 50 seats in the United States Senate.
Because Vice President Kamala Harris can act as a tiebreaker, the Democrats entered the most recent Congress with an upbeat attitude. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted two simple words — “Buckle up!” — on the morning after the Georgia special elections, indicating that he and his party were ready to act on their agenda.
By progressives’ standards, however, the first year of the Democratic regime has been a disappointment — largely due to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who have been hesitant to endorse the more radical portions of their colleagues’ agenda. President Joe Biden only has one legislative victory under his belt — the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, passed in the first weeks of his administration.
As 34 of the 100 Senators are up for reelection in this year’s midterms, it seems more and more unlikely that the Democrats’ situation will improve. President Biden’s approval rating continues to plummet amid countless foreign policy and economic crises. In a foreboding omen for progressives, voters in Virginia — which the Commander-in-Chief won by 9 points in 2020 — was recently clinched by Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin.
As Americans smell a Republican bloodbath in the midterms, the GOP have a promising shot at retaking the Senate in 2022 by winning a handful of key victories.
Sen. Raphael Warnock — Georgia
Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock defeated incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) by a slim margin in the 2021 Georgia special election. Because he is finishing the term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who was elected in 2016, Warnock will be up for reelection in 2022.
Warnock was a highly controversial and polarizing candidate. In his capacity as a minister, Warnock once demanded that America “repent of its whiteness.”
In the days before the special election, a man alleged that he suffered abuse at a church camp formerly overseen by Warnock. Police body-cam footage emerged of Warnock’s ex-wife explaining to officers that Warnock had run over her foot with his car during an argument.
In his contest against Loeffler, Warnock snagged 51% of the vote. In the first Democratic presidential victory in the state since 1992, President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by a razor-thin margin of just 0.24%.
With political headwinds bent against the Democrats, a strong challenger could easily swing the Peach State back to the GOP.
Sen. Mark Kelly — Arizona
In the 2020 election, former astronaut Mark Kelly defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in Arizona’s special election. McSally was completing the term of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was elected in 2016 but passed away in 2018.
As with Warnock, Kelly won by a relatively small margin, earning 51.2% of the vote against McSally’s 48.8%. Biden was victorious over President Trump in the state by a mere 0.31%. However, Arizona has historically been a Republican stronghold, and the 2020 election marked only the second Democratic presidential victory in the state since the 1950s.
In order to win reelection, Kelly will have to join other red-state Democrats in surmounting the burden of Biden’s disastrous first year.
Sen. Michael Bennet — Colorado
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) will also face reelection this year. Though Democrats won the state in the last four presidential elections, Colorado remained somewhat competitive for President Trump in 2020.
Bennet ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States during the 2020 cycle. Though he participated in the first two rounds of debates, Bennet failed to qualify for the third round, proving to be a lackluster candidate who did not excite the Democratic base. He ended his presidential campaign in February 2020, one week after the Iowa caucuses.
A Republican candidate who successfully ties Bennet to the radical Democratic legislative agenda could manage to achieve an upset and flip the blue-leaning state to the GOP.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — Nevada
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) gained the seat of former Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid in the 2016 election.
Cortez Masto — a former Nevada state attorney general — was floated as a potential running mate for President Biden in the 2020 election, but she announced that she had withdrawn her name for consideration.
Though former President Barack Obama won Nevada in both 2008 and 2012, Cortez Masto only defeated Republican Joe Heck in 2016 by three points, and President Trump lost Nevada in 2020 by only two points.
Indeed, Nevada is another state in which Democrats can place no confidence in the outcome of 2020.
Sen. Maggie Hassan — New Hampshire
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) won her first election to the Senate in 2016. A former attorney, she previously served one term as the governor of New Hampshire.
President Trump lost New Hampshire to Biden by seven points in the 2020 race, marking the fifth consecutive electoral victory for the Democrats in that state. However, Hillary Clinton won the state by a slim 0.4%, proving that success for Republicans is by no means impossible in the Granite State.
A Republican could also be within striking distance of winning a Senate seat in the 2022 cycle.