There were a few exceptions to the stable seats, like North Carolina's Republican Sen. Richard Burr announcing his retirement well before the 2020 elections and Pennsylvania's Republican Sen. Pat Toomey announcing his retirement this last October. On the Democrat side, one of Georgia's just-elected Democrat Senators, Rev. Raphael Warnock, won by a thin margin in 2020, and Maggie Hassan won New Hampshire's seat in 2016 by 0.1%.
But just recently, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman has announced that he will not run in 2022, either. There are rumors circling Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, too. That makes potentially four Republican retirements in states that have been moving blue in the last few years (out of five that 270toWin has listed as vulnerable), and they may not be the last. Meanwhile, the other vulnerable states for Democrats are Arizona (where Kelley won by 2.4%), Colorado (Bennet won by 5.7%), and Nevada (Masto by 2.4%).
So which way could these closer ones go?
- Kelly (AZ) is running in a state with a badly fractured GOP. They could decide to run Martha McSally again (or maybe not, after two losses), and state GOP Chair Kelli Ward has discussed it. Both are extremely pro-Trump, and that might seal Mark Kelly's victory.
- Warnock (GA) has an uphill battle keeping his Senate seat. Georgia is fickle, and could easily flip back to back a Republican if the Democrats' ground game is weak. I think this is one of the most likely to change of all of the states.
- With Burr's (NC) retirement, NC is absolutely a toss-up. The state has drifted slowly toward blue of late, but that doesn't mean that a solid Republican couldn't win. Republican Thom Tillis was expected in some quarters to lose his seat last November, and he prevailed, so who knows? Then again, Donald Trump's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, has been talking about running for Burr's seat. That could create some real difficulties for the GOP in the state.
- While Hassan (NH) barely won back in 2016, the state went from a near-tie in the 2016 presidential election to a 7-point Biden victory in 2020. I'm not as familiar with New Hampshire politics, but that has to look good for her chances.
- Portman's (OH) retirement brings up questions about the next candidates. There are rumors that Rep. Jim Jordan might run for the seat. While Ohio is still pretty strongly Republican, Jordan's popularity is low, and many in his party think he's a buffoon after his attacks on witnesses at the first impeachment hearings and his support of defying the Electoral College even after the insurrection on Jan 6. If he's the candidate, there's a decent chance for Democrats to get both Ohio Senate seats since 1992. I think most other Republican candidates would hold it fairly easily, though.
- Toomey's (PA) retirement is another case of a Republican leaving office in a state that has moved toward Democrats recently.
- Ron Johnson (WI) may face an uphill battle in 2022 if he doesn't retire. The state is drifting blue, with a Democrat governor and a strong flip against Trump. Tammy Baldwin won in 2018 by 10.9%, while Johnson won in 2016 by 3.4%. This seems like a toss-up at best.
There's are a few more long-shot but not quite total fantasy possibilities.
- Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley. He's 87 and maybe has had enough. Iowa has been teetering for a few years, but hasn't yet tipped over.
- Missouri Republican Roy Blunt. He not only voted in favor of accepting the Electoral College, but spoke at Biden's inauguration. There have been some suggestions that he might retire, and that could open up the state to change, depending on who runs. However, when looking into this, the state's papers--including the liberal ones--don't seem to think there are any really viable Democratic candidates.
- Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy. He's 80 and is currently on his eighth term, one of the last members of Congress still serving who is technically eligible for the old retirement system, if he didn't choose the new one (for certain definitions of "new," here meaning from the mid-1980s). He also went the hospital on a couple of nights ago but was released a few hours later. Vermont has a popular Republican governor who might be interested in Leahy's seat should the incumbent decide not to run.