Democrats kept the Senate this year, but 2024 may be harder

Democrats celebrating a successful effort to keep control of the U.S. Senate this year will soon confront a 2024 campaign that could prove more challenging.

The party enters the next cycle defending 23 seats, including two held by independents who caucus with Democrats. That’s compared with just 10 seats that Republicans hope to keep in their column.

Adding to the potential hurdles is that some 2024 contests are in states that have become increasingly hostile to Democrats, including Montana, Ohio and West Virginia. Other Democratic-held seats are in some of the same hotly contested states that were at the center of this year’s midterms, such as Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada. And while Democrats carried each of those races, they did so at great cost and with sometimes narrow margins. In Nevada, for instance, Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won by less than 1 percentage point, or about 9,000 votes.

For now, both parties insist they’re laser focused on coming out on top in the Dec. 6 Senate runoff in Georgia. But Democrats who are on the ballot in 2024 know that they could face fierce headwinds and are studying the results of this year’s election, when the party outperformed expectations.

The dynamics of the next Senate campaign could be influenced by a variety of outside factors, particularly the presidential election and the attention it generates. Biden, who turned 80 this month, has said his “intention” is to run for reelection and that he will make a final decision early next year. Former President Donald Trump has already announced a third White House bid, and multiple other Republicans are lining up to launch campaigns. The eventual nominee in each party could have a profound impact on down-ballot races, including those for Senate.

But perhaps the biggest question for Senate Democrats seeking reelection will be who Republicans nominate as their opponents. The GOP lost several Senate elections this year, including those in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Nevada, after Trump-backed candidates struggled to raise money and connect with a broader, more moderate range of voters during the general election.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has not said whether he intends to run for a fourth term. Casey easily won reelection in 2018, but Pennsylvania has been competitive for Republicans, including in this year’s Senate race won by Democrat John Fetterman.

One potential Republican challenger whose name has been floated in Pennsylvania is former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who narrowly lost the Republican primary in this year’s race to celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz. McCormick advisers declined to comment on that prospect. Conservative activist Kathy Barnette, who finished a close third in the Republican primary, didn’t respond to messages about whether she’s considering a 2024 campaign.

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