A respected political prognosticator has taken its first look at the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin in 2022 and likes the Republican Party’s chances – so far.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a product of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, released its first report on the 2022 Senate race on Thursday. According to J. Miles Coleman, the report’s author, Crystal Ball currently ranks the race as “leans Republican.”
Coleman notes that Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are the only two Senate seats the Republicans are defending in states that were won by President Joe Biden in 2020.
Originally elected in 2010 with support from the Tea Party movement, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) defeated then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), a progressive icon in the state. Johnson then, rather impressively, survived a 2016 rematch. In the heat of that rematch, he told voters he was running for his final term. Then, in early 2019, Johnson began backtracking on his pledge and now seems outright non-committal. If he retires, Republicans from the state’s House delegation or legislature will likely look at the race — though Johnson himself first won by running as a businessman with no prior elected experience, a template others could follow.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black and has a base in Milwaukee, is seen as a top Democratic prospect and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson is running. As with Rep. Ryan in Ohio, if longtime Rep. Ron Kind (D, WI-3) is dealt an unfavorable hand in redistricting, he could finally launch a statewide run. Kind had the closest race of his career in 2020, and his western district could easily absorb redder turf. Until the playing field here is more certain, we’re giving the incumbent the benefit of the doubt in Wisconsin, and keeping it at Leans Republican.
Missing from Coleman’s list of Democrats is Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry, who was also the Democratic National Convention host committee finance chair. Lasry is the son of billionaire hedge fund manager Marc Lasry, a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, so the family’s deep pockets could continue the Democrats’ recent campaign funding advantage in Wisconsin.
According to Coleman, a major swing in the U.S. Senate is unlikely after the 2022 elections. “For 2022, the playing field should be much narrower,” Coleman wrote. “Republicans will hold 20 of the 34 states that are up to Democrats’ 14 — both sides have a few offensive opportunities, but a six-seat gain for either side, like we saw in 2010 with this class, seems unlikely.”
However, the Democrats’ best hope for major gains is through the “rust belt.”
“Democrats’ clearest path to gaining seats runs primarily though the Rust Belt, as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seem to be their top offensive races, though they may finally get lucky in North Carolina,” Coleman wrote.
Republicans have to look to mostly warmer states to make gains in the Senate which won’t be easy.
“We rate four states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire — as Leans Democratic, and these seem to be the most obvious GOP targets,” Coleman wrote.