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JAMES CARTER And JIM ELLIS: Is The Red Wave Finally Coming To The Senate In 2024?

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The 2024 US Senate races are pivotal, particularly for Republicans. The Senate map forces Democrats to defend 23 in-cycle seats and Republicans only 11. Perhaps the biggest GOP advantage is having so few seats to defend. Within their subset of 11 in-cycle races, one can reasonably argue that only one, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz defending his seat, is even moderately competitive.

Such an electoral matrix is a major plus for the Republicans, especially when the Senate majority is well within their grasp. With a 51-49 Democratic chamber edge, Republicans not only need to at least reach 50, or 51 to defend against the possibility of a Biden reelection, but they realistically must move well beyond 51 to protect themselves against favorable Democratic maps in 2026 and 2028.

Aside from the six obvious targets in Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and the wild card race in Arizona featuring Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, where could the Republicans put other states in play? There are three such potential options coming to the forefront: Minnesota, New Mexico, and now Maryland.

Winning all of these states is highly unlikely. The Republicans winning one or even two, however, may not exceed the realm of possibility.  

In Minnesota, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the former presidential candidate, stands for reelection to a fourth term, and she will obviously be difficult to defeat.

Several points are important to consider, however. Often failed national candidates don’t fare well when they try to return home and convince their longtime constituents that they are the top priority. Second, there is a chance Minnesota could come into play in the presidential race meaning serious political competition and heightened interest.  The most recent Minnesota poll, from Survey USA at the beginning of February, found Donald Trump coming to within three points of President Biden in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  

Remember, in the 2016 election when we saw several minor party or independent candidates qualify for the ballot, the Minnesota election came within 44,765 votes, or 1.5 percentage points (Clinton over Trump) between the major party contenders. With Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the ballot and possibly a strong entry on the No Labels Party line along with Jill Stein as the Green Party nominee, we could see the major party vote share shrink even further in 2024.

Additionally, Minnesota is home to more than 115,000 Muslims. According to Emgage, the self-proclaimed “preeminent Muslim American civic engagement organization,” 80% of the Muslims who voted supported President Biden in 2020. Now, their surveys show his support dropping to a shockingly poor 5% within this segment. Just these factors could put Minnesota in play for the presidential contest, which also may give a credible Republican Senate candidate some chance for an upset.

In New Mexico, Republicans have already seen a credible candidate come forward in Nella Domenici, the daughter of the late Republican Sen. Pete Domenici who represented New Mexico in Congress for 36 years. Domenici is a committed conservative with decades of experience in the private sector and the resources to give Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich the race of his life. (RELATED: JAMES CARTER And JIM ELLIS: Things Could Get Even Worse For The Biden Campaign)

In his two successful Senate elections, Sen. Heinrich averaged only 52.5% of the vote. With Hispanics now becoming a majority within the New Mexico population (50.2%), and Republicans beginning to make more serious inroads within the community, we could see a more competitive atmosphere. The last two presidential polls, conducted back in August, found Mr. Trump coming within six and eight points of the president.

The emergence of former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in the Senate race puts a heretofore unthinkable GOP reach state very much in play. Mr. Hogan was twice elected, and left office as the most popular two-term governor in state history. In fact, a new Emerson College poll conducted after Mr. Hogan declared his candidacy already finds him pulling even with the Democratic primary leader, Democratic U.S. Rep. David Trone, who has already spent $23 million on his campaign. Yet, the two are tied at 42% according to the Emerson College statisticians.

While we will see major U.S. Senate action occurring in multiple venues, it is important to remember the outliers such as described above. A political lightning strike or two could well launch the GOP to a long-lasting majority.

According to the recently released report, “CBO’s Current View of the Economy From 2023 to 2025,” the economic growth rate will plummet by 40% this year while the unemployment rate ticks up and job growth slows to a crawl.

More precisely, CBO anticipates monthly job growth will drop by 80% in the months leading up to the election. This promises to grow the ranks of the unemployed by more than 1,000,000, or nearly 20%.

If CBO’s forecast proves accurate, the timing could hardly be worse for all Senate Democrats seeking reelection.

Similarly, in 1980, a time of high inflation and economic turmoil, Republicans picked up 12 Senate seats, flipping majority control for the first time since 1955! Could something similar happen in November?

Given the vast number of Democrat-held seats in-cycle, the potentially dire economic outlook, and Republicans fielding strong candidates, we could be witnessing a developing wave election.

James Carter was a Deputy Undersecretary of Labor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President George W. Bush. Jim Ellis is the founder of the Ellis Insight election analysis service.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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