By Jim Ellis
March 22, 2017 — In our fourth and final installment in this update report series, we examine the latest happenings for the remaining seven 2018 US Senate campaigns.
• Utah: Now that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is sending signals that he will run for an eighth term (he is already the longest-serving Republican senator in history) much less political attention will be paid to this state. Should Hatch decide to retire, then former Massachusetts governor and presidential nominee Mitt Romney will become the center of attention. Romney made statements earlier in the year that he would consider running for the Senate from Utah. The context, however, was in the realm of an impending Hatch retirement. Same for former Utah governor and presidential candidate, Jon Huntsman, but his likely appointment as ambassador to Russia means the former governor will be removed from the Senate picture irrespective of Sen. Hatch’s status.
In any event, this seat will remain in Republican hands. Currently, it appears that the senator will seek re-election and is projected to win again in 2018.
• Vermont: Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who will continue to seek office in Vermont as an Independent, is poised to claim a third term next year. It is unlikely he will draw a major challenge, thus making this a safe seat for the Democratic caucus.
• Virginia: 2016 Vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine (D) will seek re-election to a second senatorial term next year. Republicans are looking to mount a challenge, possibly in the person of former presidential and California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina and/or national radio talk show host Laura Ingraham. Both would begin such a race in a distinct underdog position to Sen. Kaine. With Virginia voting trends moving more consistently Democratic, Sen. Kaine is viewed as a strong favorite for re-election against any potential Republican opponent.
• Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) will be on the statewide ballot for a fourth time in 2018, and should romp to another re-election victory. It is unlikely that Republicans will field a major challenger to oppose the veteran senator.
• West Virginia: The West Virginia political situation is unique. Incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D), clearly the most conservative member of the Democratic caucus, appears politically secure at home. His state, however, is moving solidly Republican as President Trump scored 69 percent here in November, the Republican’s second best performance of any state in the country. The GOP has potential first-tier contenders, the two most notable being Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Of the two, Morrisey is more likely to run. This race has the potential of becoming close, but Sen. Manchin’s long record in the state plus his ability to protect his vote on major issues gives him a distinct advantage. The senator is the clear early favorite for re-election, but this race merits tracking.
• Wisconsin: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) will run for a second term, but has already seen two big name potential candidates decide not to challenge her. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wausau) announced several weeks ago that he would not run statewide, as did Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke. The latter is a registered Democrat, but most believed, if he were to run for the Senate, he would do so as a Republican. After saying that he would not run, Sheriff Clarke then reversed his position somewhat, leaving the door partially open to such a move.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Senate President Scott Fitzgerald, and venture capitalist and former Senate candidate Eric Hovde are potential Republican contenders in the coming election. Based upon the Wisconsin electorate moving right in the past several election years (Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson both winning twice, President Trump carrying the state, and each house of the legislature consistently remaining under Republican control), we can expect the 2018 Wisconsin contest to become one of the top Senate races in the country.
• Wyoming: Sen. John Barrasso (R) runs for a second six-year term, and should have little trouble winning re-election. At this point, he has no primary or general election opposition.