Senate Vulnerability

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2021 — We all know that the 2022 US Senate election cycle will be key, largely because every race has the potential of breaking the body’s 50-50 partisan tie. Today, we prioritize the 34 seats in order of electoral strength over the past five top statewide elections in each of the 2022 in-cycle Senate states. This allows us to objectively see from a statistical point which Senate seats appear, at least on paper, to be most vulnerable.

Next year, 34 Senate races are on the ballot with the Republicans defending 20 and Democrats 14 of each party’s 50 incumbent seats.

While the statistical analysis result below largely tells us what we have seen through previous polling, averaging the last five statewide races from each place, President 2020, the most recent Senate race, the most recent governor’s contest, and both the 2016 presidential race and the Senate race that elected the current incumbent, provides more concrete data.

The winning percentage margin was researched for all five historical political contests, and then the mean averaged calculated in each of the 2022 Senate states.

The conclusions:

STATE INCUMBENT PARTY AVG
CA PADILLA D 57.6
ND HOEVEN R 36.4
HI SCHATZ D 34.8
OK LANKFORD R 31.0
ID CRAPO R 30.4
AR BOOZMAN R 28.9
UT LEE R 28.8
NY SCHUMER D 28.4
SD THUNE R 26.9
AL SHELBY (O) R 24.1
MD VAN HOLLEN D 21.5
KY PAUL R 18.1
VT LEAHY D 17.5
CT BLUMENTHAL D 17.2
WA MURRAY D 16.6
IL DUCKWORTH D 16.1
LA KENNEDY R 15.6
IN YOUNG R 15.0
OR WYDEN D 14.9
KS MORAN R 14.3
AK MURKOWSKI R 11.9
MO BLUNT (O) R 11.8
SC SCOTT R 11.7
IA GRASSLEY R 10.3
CO BENNET D 8.8
OH PORTMAN (O) R 6.8
NV MASTO D 3.2
FL RUBIO R 2.6
NC BURR (O) R 1.6
NH HASSAN D 1.6
WI JOHNSON R 1.7
GA WARNOCK D 3.6
AZ KELLY D 5.6
PA TOOMEY (O) R 5.8

(O) – denotes open seat


The above chart shows that the five strongest incumbents, based only upon the top elections from 2016 through the present, are appointed Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) and regularly elected Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Brian Schatz (D-HI), James Lankford (R-OK), and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

In the situations outlined below, the mean average from the five tested races actually favors the incumbent’s opposite party. Therefore, in Pennsylvania, despite being an open Republican Senate contest in the 2022 cycle, the statistical history actually yields a Democratic advantage of almost six percentage points.

Statistically, the two most vulnerable Democrats are the pair of 2020 special election winners who must stand for a full six-year term in 2022. Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) face electorates, while turning more toward their party in the most recent elections, that still favor Republicans by a small average percentage.

The most vulnerable Democrat, however, may instead be New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan. The New Hampshire average tilts Republican even though the party has only won the governorship in the past three election years. Because Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has won with substantial percentages while the Democratic victories have been close, he alone tilts the average to favor the Republican Party. This creates even more of a problem for Sen. Hassan because the leading potential candidate against her is Gov. Sununu, himself.

Much will change as the election cycle proceeds, but the five Senate seats below that are illustrated as most vulnerable are all sure to be among the most hotly contested 2022 US Senate campaigns.

The five most vulnerable from a statistical context are the following:

STATE INCUMBENT PARTY AVG
PA TOOMEY (O) R 5.8
AZ KELLY D 5.6
GA WARNOCK D 3.6
WI JOHNSON R 1.7
NH HASSAN D 1.6

Red denotes Republican party and %
Blue denotes Democratic party and %

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