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Congress has just started its new term, but many senators and Senate hopefuls are already thinking about the next election. Rep. Adam Schiff became the second Democrat to jump into the race for Senate in California, and Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego announced he's running against Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter joined Geoff Bennett to discuss.
Congress has just started its new term, but many senators and Senate hopefuls are already thinking about the next election.
Just today, Congressman Adam Schiff became the second Democrat to jump into the 2024 race for the Senate in California. And, earlier this week, Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego announced he's running for the Senate seat in Arizona. His campaign announcement took aim at the incumbent, newly independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Senatorial Candidate: If you're more likely to be meeting with the powerful than the powerless, you're doing this job incorrectly.
I'm sorry that politicians have let you down. But I'm going to change that.
I'm Ruben Gallego. I'm running to be the senator of Arizona, because you deserve somebody fighting for you and fighting with you every day.
Arizona is always a closely watched state. And the 2024 Senate race is no exception. It's rated a toss-up and is one of nine key Senate battlegrounds, according to The Cook Political Report With Amy Walter, which released its first 2024 analysis this week.
And joining us now is our friend, the aforementioned Amy Walter.
It's great to see you.
Amy Walter, The Cook Political Report:
Good to see you, Geoff. Thank you.
So, Democrats are expected to have a tougher map in 2024, as they try to defend their slim Senate majority. They're on defense in states like Arizona, Michigan, Nevada.
What are you watching for?
Well, I'm glad you brought up Arizona, because that's the most complicated of all these.
As you pointed out, Ruben Gallego is a Democrat. Kyrsten Sinema used to be a Democrat not that long ago. It sets up the possibility here, in a state where Democrats have been doing really well for the last few years, right, winning two Senate races, Biden won there, won a governor's race.
But if Sinema is running, Gallego, the Democrat, is running, they could split up that pool of independent and Democratic votes, allowing a Republican to win there. It also puts the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, the people who are in charge of helping incumbents, in a pretty awkward position too. Technically, she's not a Democrat, but she still votes with Democrats, right? She's still…
They have got some tough decisions to make, yes.
And I think, secretly, a lot of them are hoping that, well, maybe she just doesn't run for reelection, and then that makes their job a little bit easier.
But, if she does, it makes it much more complicated.
You have also got three states on your radar that voted for Donald Trump in 2020, but are represented by Democratic senators, Ohio, Montana, and West Virginia.
Sherrod Brown says he's going to run again in Ohio. We haven't heard yet from Jon Tester and Joe Manchin. Do those senators need to run in order to help Democrats keep those states?
I never say anything's impossible, Geoff, but holding on to those two states without those two senators, Tester and Manchin, is all but impossible.
Remember, West Virginia especially, a state that went for President Trump by almost 40 points, this is a state that is so deeply red, it's quite remarkable that Manchin has been able to hold on to this state year after year, election after election.
Now, he also turns 77 by the time we hit 2024. So besides the fact that he's in a red state, he's got the issue of his age. And the question is whether the popular incumbent governor, who himself was once a Democrat, Jim Justice, runs. That's a much more difficult race than Manchin's ever had to face before.
Jon Tester is also in a unique position in a state like Montana, which, again, pretty red, but he's outperformed the Democratic presidential candidate time after time. What's getting harder and harder, though, Geoff, as you probably know, is running as a candidate from a state that is different from your party, that has voted for the presidential candidate of the other party and winning in a presidential year.
In 2016, there was not one Senate candidate who won in a state that their presidential nominee didn't win in. In 2020, the only person to win was Susan Collins. She won in Maine, even as Joe Biden carried that state as well.
For the Democrats, though, apart from the personalities, what can they do policy-wise to help their chances?
You know, that's a really good point.
And a lot of Democrats, after the 2022 election, said, we were able to pick up a seat in the Senate, not just because Republicans put up really bad candidates, right? That was the conventional conversation both during and after…
Even Mitch McConnell said that, yes.
Yes, exactly — both during and after the campaign was, if Republicans had put up better candidates, Republicans would have won.
But Democrats also had a story to tell, which was they passed a lot of legislation in the basically early to late summer of 2022, everything from infrastructure, the CHIPS Act on more domestic manufacturing of microchips, and, of course, the Inflation Reduction Act.
The good news for Democrats is, even though there's not a likelihood you're going to see big pieces of legislation pass in the coming year with a divided Congress, those pieces of legislation are still doling out money, right? There's still infrastructure going on. The president himself seems to be going to a swing state every week highlighting new projects that have been funded by these very pieces of legislation.
Let's talk about the Republicans, Amy, because, in looking at your analysis, I noted that you see only one GOP-held seat potentially in play. And that's Florida.
Really? Only one?
Republicans have a very good map this year, in the same way Democrats had a very good map in 2022.
They only have 11 seats to defend. Most of them are in dark red states. Now, Florida — remember when Florida used to be a toss-up state?
Barely. Barely remember it.
You barely remember that.
It's moving further and further and a bit off of the map for Democrats.
And the bigger question for Democrats is, where do you invest, right? They have to play so much defense. Are they going to have enough money especially to play in an expensive state like Florida? Texas is also up. Remember, in 2018, that was a very competitive race with Beto O'Rourke and Ted Cruz, but again, a really, really expensive state.
And, right now, you're just not hearing Democrats get particularly excited about it.
Amy Walter, always great to speak with you. Thanks for coming in.
Good to see you. Thank you.
Watch the Full Episode
Geoff Bennett serves as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour. He also serves as an NBC News and MSNBC political contributor.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
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