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But the situation in the Senate looks different, my colleague Blake Hounshell points out.
There are 10 potentially competitive Senate races this year, according to the Cook Political Report, and Democrats need to win at least five of them to keep Senate control. Democrats are favored in two of those 10 races (New Hampshire and Colorado) and Cook rates another five (Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) as tossups.
If Democrats keep the Senate without the House, they still would not be able to pass legislation without Republican support. But Senate control nonetheless matters. It would allow President Biden to appoint judges, Cabinet secretaries and other top officials without any Republican support, because only the Senate needs to confirm nominees.
I’m turning over the rest of today’s lead item to Blake, who will preview the campaign for Senate control.
Senate Democrats are starting to see the opportunity to retain the Senate after the midterms.Tom Brenner for The New York Times
Author Headshot By Blake Hounshell

Editor, On Politics

When asked to share their candid thoughts about the Democrats’ chances of hanging onto their House majority in the coming election, party strategists often use words that cannot be printed in a family newsletter.
But a brighter picture is coming together for Democrats on the Senate side. There, Republicans are assembling what one top strategist laughingly described as an “island of misfit toys” — a motley collection of candidates the Democratic Party hopes to portray as out of the mainstream on policy, personally compromised and too cozy with Donald Trump.
These vulnerabilities have led to a rough few weeks for Republican Senate candidates in several of the most competitive races:
  • Arizona: Blake Masters, a venture capitalist who secured Trump’s endorsement and is leading the polls in the Republican primary, has been criticized for saying that “Black people, frankly” are responsible for most of the gun violence in the U.S. Other Republicans have attacked him for past comments supporting “unrestricted immigration.”
  • Georgia: Herschel Walker, the G.O.P. nominee facing Senator Raphael Warnock, acknowledged being the parent of three previously undisclosed children. Walker regularly inveighs against absentee fathers.
  • Pennsylvania: Dr. Mehmet Oz, who lived in New Jersey before announcing his Senate run, risks looking inauthentic. Oz recently misspelled the name of his new hometown on an official document.
  • Nevada: Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general, said at a pancake breakfast last month that “Roe v. Wade was always a joke.” That’s an unpopular stance in socially liberal Nevada, where 63 percent of adults say abortion should be mostly legal.
  • Wisconsin: Senator Ron Johnson made a cameo in the Jan. 6 hearings when it emerged that, on the day of the attack, he wanted to hand-deliver a fraudulent list of electors to former Vice President Mike Pence.
Republicans counter with some politically potent arguments of their own, blaming Democrats for rising prices and saying that they have veered too far left for mainstream voters.
In Pennsylvania, for instance, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate nominee, supports universal health care, federal marijuana legalization and criminal justice reform. Republicans have been combing through his record and his past comments to depict him as similar to Bernie Sanders, the self-described Democratic socialist.

Candidate vs. candidate

One factor working in the Democrats’ favor is the fact that only a third of the Senate is up for re-election, and many races are in states that favor Democrats.
Another is the fact that Senate races can be more distinct than House races, influenced less by national trends and more by candidates’ personalities. The ad budgets in Senate races can reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, giving candidates a chance to define themselves and their opponents.
Democrats are leaning heavily on personality-driven campaigns, promoting Senator Mark Kelly in Arizona as a moderate, friendly former astronaut and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada as a fighter for abortion rights, retail workers and families.
“Senate campaigns are candidate-versus-candidate battles,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm. “And while Democratic incumbents and candidates have developed their own brands, Republicans have put forward deeply, deeply flawed candidates.” Bergstein isn’t objective, but that analysis has some truth to it.
There are about four months until Election Day, an eternity in modern American politics. As we’ve seen from the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling and from the explosive allegations that emerged in the latest testimony against Trump, the political environment can shift quickly.
If the election were held today, polls suggests that Democrats would be narrowly favored to retain Senate control. Republican elites are also terrified that voters might nominate Eric Greitens, the scandal-ridden former governor, for Missouri’s open Senate seat, jeopardizing a seat that would otherwise be safe.
But the election, of course, is not being held today, and polls are fallible, as we saw in 2020. So there’s still a great deal of uncertainty about the outcome. Biden’s approval rating remains low, and inflation is the top issue on voters’ minds — not the foibles of individual candidates.
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