Senate rankings: 10 seats most likely to flip

Senate rankings: 10 seats most likely to flip

Republicans are increasingly optimistic they can end their four-year stint in the Senate minority and topple the incumbents Democrats are relying on to carry the cycle with less than six months until Election Day.

Top Republican party figures are quick to note they only need a single victory — on top of an all-but-certain win in West Virginia — with a pair of ruby-red states and a hoard of purple states where they are within striking distance on the table.

Still, they are publicly downplaying that confidence after being burned in each of the past two cycles.

“We never said it was going to be a piece of cake,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week.

Here are 10 Senate seats that could change hands later this year.

West Virginia

To keep it short and sweet: Unless something drastic happens, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) will replace retiring Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) next year. The only question is how big his victory will be.


The battle in Big Sky Country is one of the most important races on the map, with Sen. Jon Tester (D) and businessman Tim Sheehy locked in a battle that could go down to the wire.

Tester has attempted to burnish his border bona fides as the issue continues to be a top concern and potential headache in his quest to win over supporters of former President Trump, who carried the state by more than 16 points.

Staring down GOP ads on the topic, the three-term senator in recent weeks has confronted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over the “unacceptable” situation at the border and became the first Democrat to sponsor the GOP-led Laken Riley Act (despite voting against it as an amendment). He also voted for the bipartisan border bill that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) brought to the floor.

Whether that will be enough to overcome popular conceptions about Democrats and the border is an open question.

“Few Democrats take border security as seriously as Jon Tester, but he and other battleground state Democrats are fighting an uphill political battle given the Democratic Party’s abysmal brand on this issue,” said John LaBombard, a Democratic strategist with Rokk Solutions who previously served as a top aide to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

“Every opportunity to remind voters of his record, and that he is independent from the party base on this issue, will help on the margins,” LaBombard said. “And in this race, the margins will matter.”


The other unquestioned top-tier race is in the Buckeye State, where Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) is attempting a high-wire act in order to defeat Republican Bernie Moreno and secure a fourth term in office.

Despite Ohio’s rightward turn during the Trump years, Brown remains the rare Democrat voters still view in high regard. A March poll showed Brown holds a double-digit net-positive approval rating, giving him a leg up in what was once the most prominent battleground state in the country.

But the national political environment is doing Brown no favors this year. Democratic operatives expect Biden to fall in the state by at least 8 percentage points, with that figure potentially hitting double digits. That would create a big mountain for Brown to climb, requiring hundreds of thousands of ticket splitters.

For now, Brown’s game plan centers on using his big-money operation to bruise Moreno. One Democratic operative noted that outside of Trump’s endorsement of the GOP nominee, not much is known about the Republican nominee.

Despite the state’s red hue becoming redder by the year, Republicans know they are in for a fight in November.

“It’s a tough challenge. Sherrod’s a popular incumbent. People know who he is,” said Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio). “I think that Bernie’s going to win, but it’s not going to be an easy race.”


When McConnell was asked recently about the states the GOP has in its sights, he name-checked Pennsylvania, where Republicans are looking to David McCormick to topple Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.

Republicans are largely united on two points: that McCormick is doing everything he possibly can to put himself in position for a November win, but that actually beating Casey, the scion of a formidable political family in the state, is one of the most difficult tasks at hand this cycle.

“He’s doing everything right. He’s running the campaign he should have run the first time around against [Mehmet Oz],” one Pennsylvania GOP strategist said. “Smartly, he’s actually fundraising instead of self-funding, and, most importantly, he’s been super visible.”

Republicans fear that all Casey needs to do to win is be mistake-free, with the GOP strategist in the state saying he is “Teflon” and “nothing sticks.” Republicans are increasingly of the belief that the most likely avenue for McCormick to get across the finish line is a bottoming out by Biden ahead of November.

According to the Pennsylvania-based GOP operative, internal polling across the state is showing Democrats ahead of Republicans across down-ballot races, including at the local and congressional levels.

“But the one constant is that Biden is underwater everywhere,” they added.


Sen. Jacky Rosen’s (D-Nev.) bid for a second term is running into national turbulence.

Rosen, a first-term senator, has long been considered a difficult opponent for Republicans. With little to effectively attack her personally, the GOP has been forced to tie her to larger Democratic narratives and hope the political environment can carry the day — and they might just get that this cycle.

“Southwestern states are feeling the brunt of the economic pain more than anywhere,” the Democratic operative said. “And it’s hard to see what the Biden campaign is doing to change the narrative.”

Most surveys of the state show a tight race at the top of the ticket, with Trump either leading Biden narrowly or a deadlocked race. The question is whether the former president can help likely Republican Senate nominee Sam Brown rise in the Senate race.

Brown, the prohibitive favorite for the state’s June GOP primary and the choice of national Republicans, was buoyed by a recent New York Times/Siena College poll that showed the race tied, though a second survey by Emerson College/The Hill shows Rosen holding an 8-point advantage.


It’s been a rollicking couple of months in Arizona. Republican Kari Lake’s fortunes fell precipitously as Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) gained an early advantage in the key battleground state.

Lake, who lost the 2022 gubernatorial contest, has experienced a tumultuous stretch in recent months. On abortion, one of the hot-button issues of the 2024 cycle, Lake criticized state officials for not enforcing a Civil War-era abortion ban that the Arizona Supreme Court reinstated (it was later overturned by the state Legislature), despite having initially called for it to be repealed.

She has also been on the back foot on the airwaves and has been unable to catch up to Gallego’s fundraising. Gallego raised $7.5 million in the first fundraising quarter compared to $3.6 million for Lake, who continues to struggle to pull moderate Republicans and independents into her fold.

Multiple surveys show Gallego in the driver’s seat to replace Sinema, who decided against seeking a second term. Polls conducted by CBS News and Noble Predictive Insights show him with 13- and 10-point leads over Lake.


Both parties are keeping a keen eye on the battle in Michigan as Republicans look to nab their first Senate win there in more than two decades.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) is the slight favorite to replace Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the No. 3 Senate Democrat who is retiring after four terms in office. But Republicans are putting their best foot forward after they successfully recruited former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), something party leaders have tried and failed to do since he left the House a decade ago.

Rogers has widespread institutional support, including Trump’s endorsement and the backing of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But Michigan’s primary isn’t until August, leaving the door slightly ajar to a challenge from businessman Sandy Pensler, which has yet to materialize.

According to an Emerson College/The Hill poll taken in the last month, Rogers holds a commanding lead over the primary field, which also includes former Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.).

While the race remains an uphill climb for Republicans given the dynamics of the state, Democrats are watching how much national GOP groups spend on the race in the coming months in order to keep a lid on Slotkin’s favorables, and how money on each side of the aisle moves in and out of the state.

“Where does the map shift late? Slotkin is the favorite, but in past cycles there are shifts late where states that are percolating around edges either fall off or come online,” the Democratic operative said. “If Ohio and Montana look out of reach for Dems, do Republicans get greedy and try to pick up a state like Michigan?”


It hasn’t been the easiest couple of months for Eric Hovde.

Hovde, the likely GOP nominee, is set to face off with Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) in November, but has found himself behind the eight ball early on in multiple ways.

The wealthy businessman found himself in hot water last month when he said that older voters living in nursing homes “have a five-, six-month life expectancy” and that “almost nobody in a nursing home is at a point to vote.” Democrats immediately seized on those comments, with Baldwin saying Hovde “does not have a clue what he’s talking about.”

Hovde also has found himself behind in early polls. Five surveys released since mid-April have shown Baldwin leading by between 3 and 13 percentage points.

“He needs to win every month, and I don’t know that he’s won one yet,” one national GOP operative said.

But Baldwin is not out of the woods by any means. She, like many others on this list, is contending with the Biden factor, but has thus far found herself running far ahead of him in what will be one of the hardest-fought battleground contests this year.


Democrats are breathing easy after Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) defeated Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) in what ended up being one of the bloodiest primary fights on either side of the aisle.

But the work on the left is far from over, as Alsobrooks will square off with former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in November.

Democrats are squarely in the driver’s seat given the state’s dark-blue hue, with Biden carrying the state by 32 percentage points four years ago — the third-biggest win margin of any state he carried. But they are not underestimating the super-popular Hogan, who enjoyed sky-high approval ratings during his eight years in Annapolis that follow him today.

Still, top Democrats remain confident.

“She will beat him. She will absolutely win this election,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill. “But this is going to be a tough race, and she will take nothing for granted. None of us are taking anything for granted in this race.”

Hogan has made waves in recent weeks by declaring himself pro-choice and saying abortion rights should be codified, which Democrats say is a pure flip-flop.

“Now people are asking: Which Larry Hogan am I talking to today?” Van Hollen said.


It’s become a familiar refrain: A much-derided Senate Republican runs for reelection in a red state, prompting Democrats and progressives to flood the state with money in a bid to take them down.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was the subject of such a push six years ago, but survived a real challenge from former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). Now, Democrats are trying again with Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas).

Despite their high hopes, Cruz remains in pole position to win a third term, with his supporters seeing little in common between his 2018 challenger and the Democrat looking to unseat him this go-around.

“Beto fancied himself the next JFK. … He really played up that image,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said. “[O’Rourke] was just kind of like the next coolest thing, but I don’t think Allred’s got that going for him.”

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