Wednesday, August 2, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Senate Control In 2024 Up In The Air

The contests for control of the U.S. senate in 2024

are shaping up to be very different from those which

took place in 2022.

First of all, there are many more Democrat incumbent

seats than Republican seats in play, more than

twice as many. Second, virtually all the vulnerable

incumbents are Democrats. Third, it is a presidential

election year. Fourth, the national Republican

Senate Campaign Committee (RSCC) is actively

recruiting its challenger candidates in battleground 

elections. (In 2022, the RSCC mostly deferred to the

individual state campaigns — resulting often in GOP

nominees who were flawed or weak in the general 

election, and thereby lost.)

Republicans were overconfident in 2022, and were

disappointed with many results, including losing

control, albeit narrowly, of the U.S. senate when they

had anticipated picking up 2-4 seats. In fact, they

lost one.

Reasons for this were not limited to nominating poor

candidates. Democrats in 2018-20 had modifed

election laws and procedures to their advantage,

including expanded early and mail-in voting, 

so-called ballot harvesting, and relaxed voter I.D.

rules. In the post-pandemic era, election day had

become election month, and Democrats took full

advantage of the new rules.

In close races, Democrats also were clearly more

aggressive, attacking their opponents and playing

hardball politics.

Senator Stephen Daines of Montana, the RSCC

chair, has signaled a profoundly more hands-on

approach than his 2022 predecessor, and is already

deeply involved in recruiting challengers in the

battleground contests. This has delayed the

selection of likely nominees in several races, e.g.,

Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Delaware and

Virginia; but has produced likely better outcomes

in Pennsylvania, Montana, Michigan, Nevada and

West Virginia. Daines has also promised

encouraging GOP voter participation in “election

month” (including encouraging mail-in voting and

ballot harvesting). Lastly, Daines has planned for

much expanded RSCC 2024 opposition research.

In 2022, several GOP senate candidates’

nominations were enabled by endorsements by

former President Trump, and proved unable to

win in November. This cycle, Mr. Trump is himself

running for president, and so far appears to be 

mostly letting Senator Daines (who has endorsed 

him) and the RSCC do the recruiting.

One major challenge facing the GOP has not yet

been met. Democrats in 2020, 2022 and so far in

the 2024 cycle, are significantly outfundraising

Republicans in  competitive senate and house 

races. Part of this, of course, is that most

vulnerable senators are incumbents — who

traditionally have an easier and longer time to

raise campaign funds. Democrats also in recent

years have attracted affluent voters and donors,

while Republicans have attracted working class

and less affluent voters and donors. But Democrats

also initiated Act Blue, a grass roots fundraising

effort which has been very successful. The GOP

has so far failed to match this.

Because political campaign fundraising has

become so important, and Republicans remain at

a disadvantage in this, the 2024 prospects for

the GOP retaking control of the U.S. senate

remain in doubt. Delay in deciding their likely

nominees also means less time to raise money

and promote the campaigns for challengers.

Uncertainty in the presidential race also hangs

over several likely competitive contests.

President Biden’s seemingly certain renomination

is becoming less and less likely. Some incumbent

senators from his party might be drawn into that

race if Mr. Biden retires. Although Mr. Trump has a

big lead now in the polls, his nomination is not at

all certain. A presidential race without one or both

of these current frontrunners could produce a very

different campaign chemistry in 2024, and affect

senate race outcomes.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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