Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, John Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio have something in common: They are the last Democrats to hold statewide elected office in states that have realigned Republican in the last decade.
These endangered species are up for reelection in 2024 and will have massive targets on their backs as Republicans seek to take advantage of a more favorable Senate map.
Of the 33 seats up for grabs, Senate Democrats and independents who caucus with the party hold 23 of them. Republicans need to defend only 10 seats.
“This is an incredibly challenging map for Democrats,” said Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with Inside Elections, a nonpartisan campaign tracker. “In a vacuum, this map is more challenging for Democrats than the 2022 map was, and the reason for that is just the total lack of realistic pickup opportunities for the party.”
Indeed, both parties had their fair share of reasonable pickup opportunities in the 2022 midterm election.
Sen. Raphael Warnock’s win in Georgia closed out an election cycle in which Democrats netted one additional seat — overcoming concerns about inflation and the economy, and benefiting from the GOP recruiting untested and unconventional candidates.
Democrats also defended seats in Arizona and Nevada and picked up a seat in Pennsylvania after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated Republican Mehmet Oz. Republicans, meanwhile, defended seats in high-profile races in North Carolina and Wisconsin.
For Democrats, the thrill of victory was short-lived.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s post-election announcement that she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an independent put a damper on things, upending the 2024 political landscape.
Ms. Sinema still plans to caucus with the party in the Senate but has yet to indicate whether she plans to run for re-election.
What is clear is that she concluded she could no longer win a Democratic primary after thwarting the party’s base on various fronts, including her refusal to vote to abolish the legislative filibuster or support massive spending proposals.
Ms. Sinema’s move further complicates the map for Democrats, and it has raised questions about what the party will do if she runs as an independent.
In Arizona, Rep. Ruben Gallego is openly considering a bid for the Democratic nomination for the seat held by Ms. Sinema. Rep. Greg Stanton, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, and Tucson Mayor Regina Romero also are thought to be possible primary contenders.
Republicans in the state, meanwhile, see it as a major pickup opportunity. Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term-limited, has been encouraged to run, while others are keeping a close eye on Kari Lake’s future plans in the wake of her gubernatorial loss.
Democrats now have to worry Ms. Sinema will split the vote if she runs as an independent, possibly playing into the GOP hands.
Mr. Rubashkin said the situation has added to the challenges confronting Democrats in 2024.
“If you look at the most competitive seats on this map, all of them are held by Democrats,” Mr. Rubashkin said. “You have to squint very hard to find pickup opportunity for Dems on this map.”
He said Democrats’ best opportunity of picking up a seat could be in Florida, where Republican Sen. Rick Scott is up for reelection. But that could be wishful thinking.
“The No. 1 pickup opportunity is probably Florida, which just voted for a Republican by 17 points,” he said, referring to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ landslide victory for reelection in November.