With twin runoff showdowns in Georgia on Jan. 5 that will determine whether the Republicans keep their Senate majority or if the Democrats will control both houses of Congress and the White House, the 2020 elections are far from over.
But regardless, the 2022 battle for the Senate is already underway and one candidate has already thrown his hat into the ring.
Retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc, who was defeated this year for the GOP Senate nomination in New Hampshire, last week announced his candidacy for 2022, when former governor and first-term Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan is up for re-election.
While Bolduc appears to be the first candidate to publicly make it official, behind the scenes the early moves are already underway.
And similar to this cycle, the Republicans will once again start on defense, with the Democrats hoping to make gains. But they’ll face political headwinds with a Democrat in the White House.
As it stands right now, the GOP will be defending 21 of the 34 seats up for grabs in 2022. But if appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia – a Republican who’s running to serve out the final two years of the term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson – loses in the runoff election, the math would slightly change to 20 Republican and 14 Democratic seats in play in the 2022 midterms.
Regardless, the scenario is similar to this year, when the GOP was defending 23 seats and the Democrats just 12 seats. But the Democrats’ hopes of a blue wave never materialized this year, as GOP candidates outperformed the public opinion polls, and the Democrats at best will have a 50/50 Senate with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote.
While the map once again looks favorable for the Democrats in 2022, Democrat Joe Biden will be in the White House, and the president’s party traditionally loses seats in Congress in their first midterm election.
“The president’s party typically does lose seats,” noted Jessica Taylor, who covers and analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report, a leading non-partisan handicapper. But she suggested “that could be mitigated somewhat an overall favorable map for the Democrats.”
The difficult map isn’t the only obstacle facing Republicans. They’re also defending two open seats in crucial battleground states due to retirements. Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina are not running for re-election.
And the GOP could have to work hard in Iowa and Wisconsin to keep control of Republican held seats. In Iowa, 87-year-old GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s staying mum so far on whether he’ll run for an eighth six-year term. And Democrats will be gunning hard for Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a state that Biden narrowly flipped from red to blue in this month’s presidential election.
“I’ve got to recruit somebody in Pennsylvania, and somebody in North Carolina, for Richard Burr and Pat Toomey, so that will be work. But if we do that, I think we have a good opportunity to not just defend but pick up,” incoming National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chair Sen. Rick Scott told Fox News.
The possible GOP pickups could come in Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire. First-term Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro is up for re-election in Nevada, which remains a key swing state. Biden narrowly defeated President Trump in Nevada this month, after Trump was slightly edged out in the state four years ago by Hillary Clinton.
In Arizona, Republicans will be targeting Democrat Mark Kelly, who will serve the final two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s term after winning this month’s special election. And Republicans also view Hassan of New Hampshire as potentially vulnerable.
Pointing to Arizona, Nevada, and New Hampshire, Scott told Fox News that “those are clearly areas that we have a chance to pick up.”
But Scott, who takes over the re-election arm of the Senate GOP in January, eyed a possible wider map.
“If you take states like Illinois and Connecticut, they’re really reeling and they’re mad at their government,” he said. “We have a shot across the country if we have good candidates and we raise our money and we run good campaigns.”
GOP incumbents were dramatically outraised and outspent by their Democratic challengers during much of the 2020 cycle, until a late infusion of cash helped boost them in the final weeks leading up to the election.
One well-known Republican whom Scott may be looking towards to help raise money for GOP senators and candidates in the 2022 cycle is President Trump.
President Donald Trump dances as he walks off stage after speaking during a campaign rally at Miami-Opa-locka Executive Airport, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, in Opa-locka, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
“He’s been a prolific fundraiser,” Scott said of Trump, who has strongly signaled he will stay very much involved in GOP politics after he leaves the White House in January. Last week Trump moved to set up a leadership PAC, which will allow him to raise and spend money on behalf of other Republicans.
Scott shared that Ivanka Trump reached out to him a few days ago “and said she wants to help. I think all the Trump family is going to want to help us raise money to make sure we keep a Republican Senate.”
And Scott predicted that “I think there are places where he’s (Trump) going to continue to be very popular and be helpful.”