The Most Vulnerable Democrat Senators in 2022

Following the 2020 election cycle, the Democrats and Republicans will each have 50 seats in the United States Senate. Because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will act as the tiebreaker as President of the Senate, the Democrats will effectively have a majority in the upper chamber of the United States Congress. 

With control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, the Democratic Party now has a green light to push their favored policies through the House of Representatives, Senate, and White House. In addition to a new round of stimulus checks and COVID-19 relief, Democrats may be considering statehood for Puerto Rico, Guam, and Washington, D.C., extensive green energy initiatives, and packing the Supreme Court.

Sen. Minority 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 are ready to act on their agenda.

However, 34 of the 100 Senators — 14 incumbent Democrats and 20 incumbent Republicans — will be up for reelection in two years. Republicans have a 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 Senator 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 recently emerged of Warnock’s ex-wife explaining to officers that Warnock had run over her foot with his car during an argument.

The current tally shows Warnock snagging 51% of the vote — only 2% higher than Sen. Loeffler. 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%.

If Warnock aids the Democrats in a particularly aggressive push toward radical policies, 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% margin.

Arizona has historically been a Republican stronghold. The 2020 election marked only the second Democratic presidential victory in the state since the 1950s.

When Sen. Kelly — who assumed office on December 2 — faces reelection in 2022, he could quite possibly be defeated by a Republican challenger.

Sen. Michael Bennet — Colorado

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) will also face reelection in 2022. 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 charismatic Republican candidate who successfully ties Bennet to a 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-elect Biden in the 2020 election, but she announced that she had withdrawn her name for consideration. 

Cortez Masto has close ties to the Biden family, having worked closely with Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, the son of President-elect Biden, prior to his death in 2015.

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.

A Republican candidate could emerge victorious in the Silver State, especially if a future Cabinet appointment for Cortez Masto leaves a vacuum on the Democrats’ side of the ticket.

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 be within striking distance of winning a Senate seat in the 2022 cycle.

Benjamin Zeisloft is Editor-in-Chief of the UPenn Statesmen and a Senior Correspondent for Campus Reform.

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