Republicans need to win back one Democratic Senate seat to regain the majority. History indicates they probably will. But reality indicates they have at least as much of a chance of losing a seat as gaining one. There are 34 seats being contested to one degree or another, 20 held by Republicans and 14 held by Democrats. So far all 5 senators who have announced their retirements are Republicans, giving the Democrats in their states more of a hope:
Richard Burr (R-NC)- Trump 49.9% ,Biden 48.6%
Rob Portman (R-OH)- Trump 53.3%, Biden 45.2%
Richard Shelby (R-AL)- Trump 62.0%, Biden 36.6%
Pat Toomey (R-PA)- Biden 50.0%,Trump 48.8%
Roy Blunt (R-MO)- Trump 56.8%, Biden 41.4%
There are 3 more senators on retirement watch:
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)- Trump 53.1%, Biden 44.9%
Ron Johnson (R-WI)- Biden 49.5%,Trump 48.8%
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)- Biden 66.1%, Trump 30.7%
A fourth senator, John Thune, could retire if whomever Trump's anti-Thune candidate is starts polling significantly better than Thune. But that would not lead to a party flip, just a trade of a relatively mainstream conservative for a probable fascist. Democrats are no longer viable in the Dakotas.
Republicans see their best shots at flipping seats in New Hampshire, where conservative Democrat Maggie Hassan is very weak and just alienated her base by voting against raising the minimum wage; Georgia where Raphael Warnock just won a special election in a state that Republicans still consider red; and Arizona where Mark Kelly also just won a special election in another state the Republicans consider red. Trump is complicating both races with bull-in-a-china-shop interference in the states' politics. There are no declared candidates in Arizona or Georgia yet, but lots of interest from potential candidates inch. In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu is likely to run and is polling miles ahead of Hassan. It would be hard to imagine her beating him. Last year, he was reelected 65.2% to 33.4% against the exact same kind of uninspiring middle-of-the-road Democrat as Hassan. She barely managed to win last time-- 354,649 (48.0%) to 353,632 (47.8%). Alienating Democrats and unions was probably a bad idea. I'd say that she's toast.
So if the Republicans can just manage to not lose any seats, Hassan's ineptitude will hand them the majority. "If" was the keyword in that sentence. The big non-defensive battlegrounds for Democrats will be Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina with secondary efforts in Florida and Ohio, possibly Iowa, Kentucky and one wildcard-- Missouri.
Missouri? The statewide PVI is R+9. It used to be thought of as a classic swing state-- but that was a long time ago. Although Bill Clinton won twice with pluralities, largely because of Ross Perot, the last Democratic majority for a presidential candidate was in 1976, after Nixon's disgrace, when Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford 51.1% to 47.5%. Trump won with 56.4% against Hillary and then beat Biden with 57.1%. In 2018 Josh Hawley unseated conservative Democrat Claire McCaskill 1,254,927 (51.4%) to 1,112,935 (45.6%), winning all but 5 of Missouri's 114 counties.
Doesn't sound very promising-- and it isn't. But... there is one politician who could win the Republican primary and then lose the general election... and he seems determined to run. That would be former Governor Eric Greitens, an ex-Democrat who switched parties in 2015, won the governorship the following year and then resigned in 2018-- rather than face certain impeachment-- in the middle of an s&m scandal. Everyone in Missouri know Greitens threaten the woman with photos he took without her permission, saying "You're not going to mention my name. Don't even mention my name to anybody at all, because if you do, I'm going to take these pictures, and I'm going to put them everywhere I can. They are going to be everywhere, and then everyone will know what a little whore you are." Greitens wouldn't let her leave his home until he blew him and was later physically abusive, slapping and smacking her across the face to satisfy his own sadistic impulses. Eventually the St. Louis prosecutor's office had made a deal with the twice-divorced Greitens that if he resigned, it would withdraw all felony charges against him.
He is also hated statewide for championing a virulently anti-union "right to work" bill that was overturned in a referendum 939,973 (67.5%) to 453,283 (32.5%). Before dawn this morning Alex Isenstadt introduced Greitens to Politico readers as the "disgraced former Missouri governor" and noted that he's "moving closer to a 2022 Senate bid, alarming top Republicans who worry he will jeopardize the party’s grip on the seat and imperil their prospects of seizing the majority." The mess, reported Isenstadt, "is giving Republicans nightmarish flashbacks to 2012, when they nominated a problematic Missouri Senate candidate, Todd Akin, who went on to lose the election." The only way Democrats can win in Missouri is when Republicans nominate unelectable Republicans. Many people think Greitens fits that description. Missouri Republicans have gone whining to Trump, who likes Greitens.
McConnell is the main opponent to Greitens and his SuperPACs are making plans to defeat him in the primary. Isenstadt wrote that "Some Republicans are skeptical that Greitens will be able to gain traction and say he'll have a ceiling of support given his substantial baggage. But others think they would be in for a fight. A December survey of likely Republican primary voters, conducted by Remington Research Group, found Greitens trailing Blunt just 43 percent to 32 percent, indicating that he maintains a base."
Greitens is also benefiting from what is expected to be a wide-open field of Republican candidates, leading to concerns they will divvy up the vote and give the ex-governor a plurality. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft-- the son of John Ashcroft, the former governor, senator and Bush-era attorney general — was regarded as someone who could have consolidated the party behind him but has opted against running.
“In official Washington, there’s a lot of concern because this was originally a seat that would be in Republican hands to stop the left,” said Gregg Keller, a longtime Missouri-based Republican strategist. “The easiest way to give this seat to a Biden acolyte is to have a divisive Republican primary, followed by someone incredibly damaged like Eric Greitens being the candidate in the general election.”
But Greitens would also face steep challenges. Some of the former political lieutenants who guided his successful 2016 campaign for governor aren’t expected to help him this time around, a list that includes campaign manager Austin Chambers and pollster Dave Sackett. The ex-governor has been calling around to operatives to put a team together.
Greitens has also lost some of his biggest contributors, including wealthy business executive David Humphreys, who gave more than $2 million to his 2016 campaign. Humphreys said there was “not a chance” he’d back a Greitens Senate bid, adding that he stood by his 2018 statement calling on the former governor to resign.
...Greitens has been a frequent guest on former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast and is being encouraged to run by Trump allies, including former NYPD Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and former White House aide Andrew Giuliani, the son of Trump attorney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Boris Epshteyn, another ex-Trump aide, recently took to Twitter to call Greitens a "MAGA Champion."
"Gov. Greitens is proud to stand with President Trump for America First values. Eric has always fought for other people-- as a Navy SEAL and as a governor," said Dylan Johnson, a Greitens spokesperson. "Eric is talking with friends and fired-up supporters about how to continue his service.
Those who’ve spoken to Greitens say it’s apparent that Greitens is seeking redemption and is convinced he can win.
“At this point, if Eric wants to return to politics, what does he have to lose?” said Travis Brown, a veteran Republican lobbyist in the state.
But Trump advisers say it’s hard to imagine that the former president will endorse Greitens, particularly if other Trump allies enter the race. Republican Rep. Jason Smith, a staunch Trump loyalist [and a closet queen], is among those contemplating a bid.
Greitens has an even bigger impediment to winning Trump’s support: Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. As state attorney general, Hawley was among the prominent Republicans who called on Greitens to step down, and the former governor was widely known to have despised Hawley for investigating him.
Hawley, who was elected to the Senate in 2018, has since become one of Trump’s closest allies. After Blunt announced his retirement, the ex-president called Hawley to sound him out about the race and to talk over the list of potential candidates, a group that also includes Reps. Ann Wagner and Billy Long and state Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
During the call, which was first reported by Punchbowl News, Trump and Hawley discussed whom Trump should support and agreed to stay in touch. Hawley, who’s received extensive outreach from potential candidates and has became a favorite of Trump supporters after objecting to the certification of the 2020 election, does not typically endorse in races and has so far remained neutral.
But for all the challenges Greitens faces, Republicans aren’t sleeping so easy.
“We’re talking about a man in Eric Greitens who we have every reason to believe is a woman-beater running for Senate in Missouri,” said Keller. “It’s very concerning.”
The most likely Republicans to jump into the race, aside from AG Eric Schmidt, who already has, are Greitens, Congress members Vicky Hartzler, Jason Smith, Bill Long and Blaine Luetkemeyer, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe and state Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick.
There are 3 Democrats running so far-- Lucas Kunce, a progressive national security expert, Tim Shepard, a businessman and gay activist, and Scott Sifton, a former state Senator. But also in the realm of possibilities-- especially if Greitens runs-- are former Gov. Jay Nixon, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, state Sen. Brian Williams, former AG Chris Koster and former state Treasurer Clint Zweifel.