2022 Senate Guide: Republicans Favored to Flip Senate
Updated: Mar 29, 2022
Although Democrats currently cling to power in the Senate through Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaker vote, Republicans are incredibly optimistic about their chances of flipping the chamber this November. In the long term, the Senate boasts a substantial (5-6%) pro-Republican bias, but the 2022 map is not bad for Democrats. While no Democratic incumbents will defend their office in a Trump-won state, Republicans have to hold seats in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two states Biden carried in 2020. Republicans only need to achieve a net gain of one seat, which should be relatively easy in such a strong political environment. Our analysis estimates that the national political environment will move 8 points to the right between the 2020 Presidential Election and the 2022 Midterm Election, from D+3 to R+5. Although betting markets only give Republicans a 75% chance of flipping the chamber, our analysis indicates that this number is substantially higher, closer to 84%.
Vulnerable Seats for Democrats
Georgia (Lean R)
Democratic Incumbent Raphael Warnock is more likely than not to lose his seat just two years after defeating appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler in a dramatic January 5th election to decide Senate control. Warnock is most likely to face Republican challenger and three-time All-American running back Herschel Walker, endorsed by former President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Walker is expected to win the Republican Primary in a dominant fashion and polls slightly ahead of Warnock in hypothetical general election polling. However, some Republicans doubt whether Walker is a strong enough candidate to win a general election. Walker has been diagnosed with a dissociative identity disorder and is a national advocate for mental health awareness. He says he is “accountable” for previous violent actions against his ex-wife, such as holding a razor to her neck and threatening to kill her. In a light red state with such an excellent national environment, national Republicans would be very disappointed if Warnock managed to win re-election.
Arizona (Tilt R)
Two years after Incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly defeated Martha McSally, he will face a re-election campaign against a new Republican challenger. Three Republicans—Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Venture Capitalist Blake Masters, and Businessman Jim Lamon—are locked in an intense fight to challenge Kelly. Brnovich is widely considered the strongest Republican candidate, but Masters boasts endorsements from Freedom Caucus-aligned Republicans such as Madison Cawthorn and Tucker Carlson. Although Arizona is right of the nation as a whole and Republicans enjoy a strong national political environment, Kelly could prove too tough of an incumbent to oust, especially with a potential sub-optimal challenger.
Incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto will likely face former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, the de-facto Republican nominee for Senate in 2022. Cortez Masto boasts a strong electoral record in Nevada, winning her previous two statewide races (2010 and 2016) by an average of 9 points in a strong Republican environment. However, she is still a very vulnerable incumbent in a state that is slowly moving away from the Democratic Party. Specifically, watch for trends in the Republican-trending, heavily Hispanic North Las Vegas area. If trends from 2016 to 2020 continue, Nevada’s race could move to the right of races in Arizona and Georgia and could be the tipping point of the Senate.
New Hampshire (Tilt D)
Although Democrat Maggie Hassan is not as strong as an incumbent as Jeanne Shaheen (D), who won re-election by 16 points in 2020, she is still favored to defeat her Republican challenger this November. Republicans will likely nominate General Don Bolduc to contest Hassan. Hassan polls comfortably ahead of Bolduc in a state that Biden won by over 7 points in 2020. With New Hampshire trending to the left, it is difficult to see this race being essential to determine Senate control—there are significantly better pickup opportunities for Republicans. However, if Bolduc does defeat Hassan, this could boast Republican hopes for a supermajority in 2024 and 2026.
Colorado (Likely D)
Popular Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet should comfortably win re-election in 2022, even in a great national environment for Republicans. Biden carried Colorado by over 13 points, and the state continues to trend left relative to the nation as a whole. Republicans will nominate athlete Eli Bremer, who notably questioned the validity of the 2020 Election in early 2022. If Bennet loses to Bremer, Democrats have much more severe problems on their hands than expected, and Republicans have an unlikely but clear path to a supermajority in 2024.
Vulnerable Seats for Republicans
Pennsylvania (Likely R)
With popular, somewhat bipartisan Senator Pat Toomey (R) making good on his promise to serve a maximum of two terms, Republicans have to defend an open seat in Biden-won Pennsylvania. US Treasury Secretary David McCormick leads a field of Republican candidates contending to replace Toomey, including celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz and Businessman Jeff Bartos. On the Democratic side, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman leads US Congressman Conor Lamb and State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, but a plurality of voters are still undecided, according to recent polling. McCormick is the favorite to win the office but could be defeated in the Republican Primary or the general election. This race will take a more solid shape after Pennsylvania's May 17th Primary Election. Pennsylvania could potentially be the tipping point of the Senate as a whole in 2022, especially if there is some reversion of Democratic gains in the Sun Belt.
North Carolina (Likely R)
With Incumbent Richard Burr retiring in 2022, Republicans have to defend another open seat election in a competitive state as they try to gain senate control. While Democrats already have a presumptive nominee, former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, three Republicans are locked in an intense primary battle. Former Governor Pat McCrory is endorsed by Burr and leads polls over Tea Party-aligned former Representative Mark Walker and Trump-endorsed Representative Ted Budd. Republicans should be able to comfortably hold a state Trump won in 2020 in such a good environment, but the primary serves as a test for Trump’s hold on the GOP.
Wisconsin (Likely R)
Unlike fellow Republican Incumbent Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson has decided to run for a third term, contrary to his original pledge to only serve two terms. Johnson is most likely to face progressive Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes or Milwaukee Bucks Vice President Alex Lasry. Johnson is unlikely to be defeated in such a strong political environment for Republicans, especially in a state that is slightly to the nation's right. Democrats will only have a chance in the seat if a strong leftward shift in the national political environment occurs before November.
To see the national picture in more detail, check out our full 2022 Senate Forecast here.