On Friday, writing for The New York Times, Lauren Leatherby and Jonathan Weisman outlined the current state of play for control of the U.S. Senate in the November midterm elections. The upshot is that Democrats are in a better position than they were several months ago, but that there are still clear paths to Republicans getting the 51 seats they need to taking over Senate control — something that would require them to gain only one net seat.
“Earlier this year, Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat in Georgia, had been considered one of the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrats as he took on Herschel Walker, a scandal-prone Republican backed by former President Donald J. Trump,” they wrote — only for the race to be upended by Walker’s abortion scandal. Meanwhile, “A Democratic seat in Arizona may have at one point been vulnerable. But the enduring popularity of the incumbent, Mark Kelly, and the faltering campaign of his challenger, Blake Masters, may put it out of Republican reach.” In Pennsylvania, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is maintaining his lead, if somewhat diminished, against celebrity TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz — and polls also indicate a potential “sleeper” race in North Carolina between Democratic former state justice Cheri Beasley and GOP Rep. Ted Budd.
One place Democrats have not been able to put away their opponent is Nevada, where former GOP attorney general Adam Laxalt has posted margin-of-error polling leads against Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — but, they note, he “has yet to open a clear lead” and polls in Nevada have underestimated Democratic strength before. Also an issue for Democrats is Wisconsin, where notorious conspiracy theorist GOP Sen. Ron Johnson is “hanging tough against Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, who comes from the Democrats’ liberal wing and has proven vulnerable to attack, especially on crime.”
All this means that Republicans still have a couple of ways they can defeat Democrats for the majority — if a few things go their way.
“Republicans still have plenty of ways to win Senate control,” they wrote. “They could beat Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada and push Senator Raphael Warnock to a runoff in Georgia. They could overwhelm the Georgia race with cash to rescue Mr. Warnock’s opponent, Herschel Walker. They could also pull off a come-from-behind win in Pennsylvania.”
“But Democrats have options as well,” they concluded. “If they can seal a victory in Pennsylvania and defeat Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, it’s hard to see a way for Republicans to take three Democratic seats to compensate.”