Possible retirements before 2024 have Senate Democrats nervous

Senate Democrats returned to Washington to exercise their newly expanded majority this week, but the specter of possible withdrawals in their ranks is already raising anxiety about their prospects in the upcoming election.

Democrats will defend a sprawling map of 23 Senate seats in 2024, and three of their incumbents are in states President Donald Trump won in 2020: Ohio, West Virginia and Montana. They are also defending seats in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Michigan.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) plans to run for re-election, he says, but Democrats are holding their breath waiting for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) to decide whether to they will stick around for re-election battles in red states where they have shown surprising staying power. The suspense comes as national Democrats face questions about whether they will endorse newly independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema should she run for re-election in Arizona or leave her endorsement behind her. his likely Democratic challenger, Rep. Rubén Gallego, who announced his candidacy earlier this week.

“I devoutly and fervently hope they run,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), adding that he had encouraged Manchin and Tester to stay. “There is no question that they are in really challenging states in a difficult political environment.”

Both men said this week that they were still weighing their decisions.

“To be honest with you, people want me to be home,” Tester said, adding that he would make the decision in the first half of the year. “But they also want me to be here. So we’ll figure it out.”

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One factor Democrats are aware of is that Tester’s long commute to his Montana farm is wearing him down. “You don’t win elections alone, you have to have a family that is solidly behind you,” Tester said.

Manchin said Monday that he did not have a timetable for his decision. “I’m not being pressured in West Virginia,” he said.

Democrats attribute part of their surprising success in last year’s midterm elections to Senate incumbents running for re-election, while many Republicans decided to drop out. In 2022, Republican senators from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina all withdrew, leading to races that were more competitive than Republicans wanted and the only comeback for Democrats during a midterm election year than in the past. tended to benefit the party out of power.

“It’s their call what they want to do, but clearly I would love to see all of our incumbents up for re-election and I’m excited to make sure they get re-elected,” said Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the chairman of the Committee on Democratic Senate Campaign. “If our incumbents run, we will get a majority.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) announced her retirement earlier this month, setting up a potentially crowded Democratic primary to replace her and putting the seat closer to Republicans.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)’s announcement last week that he would seek re-election was greeted with sighs of relief, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the House’s No. 2 Democrat, said by Democrats who they were worried that he might retire. “I’m very glad he’s on board, he’s a great senator,” he said.

Ten of the senators meeting with Democrats running for re-election in two years are over 70, including 89-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (California), who told CNN she would decide whether to run again for The charge. in the coming months. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an 81-year-old independent, said he would make an announcement about his future at the “appropriate time.”

Among Democrats, Sen. Tammy Baldwin has not officially announced her plans, but told a local news station in December that it was “widely expected” that she would run again in Wisconsin. In Nevada, Senator Jacky Rosen is also expected to make another offer. In Pennsylvania, however, Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., who is battling prostate cancer, said he’s only focused on that before making a final decision in 2024. “I just want to get through this,” he said. monday.

The 2024 Senate map is a Republican dream. But the strength of the candidates is unstable.

Sen. Ben Cardin, 79, said he is undecided about running again in Maryland, while a spokesman for Sen. Angus King, a 78-year-old independent who caucuses with Democrats, responded to a question about whether he was running for re-election with a link to a local news item that says he is preparing a campaign operation.

Brown said he didn’t think a pack of Democrats would head for the exits, even if Manchin or Tester decided not to run. “What happened to the Republicans last time is there was a bit of a domino effect. [former senators] Toomey and Portman and North Carolina and Missouri,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be that this time, I’m not worried about that at all.”

The new chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Steve Daines (Mont.), said he believes that even if Tester doesn’t resign, Republicans will be able to run a strong race against him.

“There will be a real contrast there if he decides to run again,” he said, citing inflation, energy and the Second Amendment. National Republicans believe that Rep. Matthew M. Rosendale (R-Mont.), whom Tester defeated in 2018, and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) are interested in the seat, though neither has announced their intention. to apply for him.

Although Republicans have far fewer candidates for re-election, Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) is one of them, and he said Monday that he has not yet made up his mind to run for his seat. Romney, 75, could face a tough Republican primary because of his public rifts with Trump. The withdrawal of Sen. Mike Braun could also lead to a disorderly Republican primary in the Republican state of Indiana, where Rep. Jim Banks has announced he will seek the seat and the more established former governor, Mitch Daniels, is also considering running, despite the objections. from conservative critics, including Donald Trump Jr.

Perhaps the most difficult situation facing the Democrats in 2024 is how to handle the race in Arizona, where Sinema, who is an independent but joins them, is up for re-election but already faces a challenge from Democrat Gallego. If Sinema decides to run again, she would set up a three-way race that would likely propel a Republican nominee. She is a key vote for the narrow majority of Democrats to confirm President Biden’s nominees and other issues.

Peters said it was too soon to discuss whether the party’s national apparatus would back Sinema and had not spoken to her about whether she plans to run again yet.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) called Sinema an “excellent” senator but stopped short of committing to endorse her. “She’s done a lot of good things here, but she’s too early,” he said.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seemed to enjoy the drama, praising Sinema and saying he was looking forward to reading how Democrats were answering questions about whether to endorse her.

“It’s a big dilemma for the Democratic majority in the Senate to decide whether to support her or someone running for the Democratic ticket,” he told reporters with a smile. “I’m pretty sure you were asking a lot of questions along those lines just before we came here. I look forward to reading what responses, if any, you got.”

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