The Democrat caucus will need to defend 25 of the 33 seats on the ballot in three years

senateseal20If Democrats hope to take back control of the U.S. Senate this decade, the 2016 cycle is most likely their only chance to do so.

As discussed earlier in the week at Smart Politics, the party has several opportunities for pick-ups – which might be realized even if their presidential candidate does not prevail at the top of the ticket.

However, in 2018, Democrats will be back on defense – with only eight Republican-held seats on the ballot that cycle, compared to 25 for the Democrats including the chamber’s two independents who caucus with the party. [As things currently stand heading into the 2016 elections, that is 54 percent of the 46 seats held by the Democratic caucus].

Of the eight Republican-held seats, there are few pick-up opportunities for the Democrats with six of these elections to be conducted in deep red states: Mississippi (Roger Wicker), Nebraska (Deb Fischer), Tennessee (Bob Corker), Texas (Ted Cruz), Utah (Orrin Hatch), and Wyoming (John Barrasso).

That leaves just Arizona (Jeff Flake) and Nevada (Dean Heller) for Democrats to have a reasonable chance at being competitive in three years.

Meanwhile, Democrats will be particularly concerned about protecting several of their seats like those held in Florida (Bill Nelson), Indiana (Joe Donnelly), Missouri (Claire McCaskill), Montana (Jon Tester), Ohio (Sherrod Brown), Pennsylvania (Bob Casey), Virginia (Tim Kaine), West Virginia (Joe Manchin), and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin).

The party will also have to contend with the ethically embattled Bob Menendez in New Jersey, should he decide to run for reelection.

To be sure, there will be at least a handful of retirements among those 33 U.S. Senators up for reelection in three years. [Orrin Hatch of Utah was the first to indicate the 116th Congress would be his last].

Over the last 22 election cycles since 1974 there has been an average of 6.4 retirements from the chamber and no less than three calling it a day in any given cycle.

But although each of these 33 U.S. Senators is still raking in money – all but three have netted more than $100,000 in campaign contributions through the first three quarters of this year – there is of course a wide range between colleagues as to how much funds are coming in and how much cash on hand each has for their next campaign.

Senator Corker of Tennessee has the most cash on hand through September of this year at $5.71 million – nearly $2 million more than his next closest Class I seat colleague (Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders at $3.94 million).

Three additional U.S. Senators up for reelection in 2018 have north of $2 million in the bank: Wyoming Republican John Barrasso ($2.71 million), Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren ($2.68), and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein ($2.45).

Ten others have more than $1 million cash on hand: Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown ($1.96 million), Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker ($1.93), New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand ($1.93), Utah Republican Orrin Hatch ($1.72), Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine ($1.67), Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar ($1.65), West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin ($1.49), Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow ($1.49), New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez ($1.18), and Florida Democrat Bill Nelson ($1.09).

Nine U.S. Senators with terms ending in January 2019 have yet to bank even a half-million dollars: Maine independent Angus King ($90K), Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin ($245K), Arizona Republican Jeff Flake ($280K), Delaware Democrat Tom Carper ($322K), Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer ($325K), North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp ($337K), Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono ($396K), Texas Republican Ted Cruz ($415K), and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy ($483K).


Of course, the amount of money a given U.S. Senator needs for a reelection bid varies greatly depending on a number of variables such as a) the presence of a bona fide primary challenger, b) the level of competitiveness of the seat in the general election and c) the media market costs in the state.

While the 2018 cycle is still a few years away, five U.S. Senators have been particularly effective in raising money in 2015: Elizabeth Warren ($2.11 million), Sherrod Brown ($1.26), Bernie Sanders ($1.17), Tim Kaine ($1.04), and Orrin Hatch ($961K) have already or will eclipse the $1 million mark by the end of the year.

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  1. Nikoli Orr on December 18, 2015 at 4:47 am

    1. I could not help notice that Flake and Menendez were mentioned among the reasonable takeaway opportunities (for the opposition party), but not Heitkamp (ND – Democratic Nonpartisan League) – at least not in Paragraph 6. Is she deemed a shoo-in for her second 6-year term, in the wake of her declaration of non-candidacy for governor in ’16?
    2. Were Trump or Cruz – or even Rubio or Jeb! – to be in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by 2018, the Ds would play BOTH defence and offence then. This overview overlooked that crucial factor.

    • Eric Ostermeier on December 18, 2015 at 7:21 am

      Very true – Heitkamp probably cannot assumed to be a shoo-in given her state’s partisan lean (and her razor-thin, prognosticator-upsetting win in ’12), although her approval rating is extremely high in the state and she has cast few votes to upset her constituents. Also, quasi-battleground state Senators (WA’s Cantwell, MN’s Klobuchar, MI’s Stabenow, NM’s Heinrich) could theoretically face a strong challenger, though their popularity is probably strong enough to ensure those races won’t be too close.

  2. Pavel Goberman on December 12, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    I do NOT see who is better than me could help this country, even Donald Trump, who is good for this nation, and on 05/17/16 I announced my Candidacy for US Senator against US Senator Ted Cruz, TX:
    Statement of Candidacy for US Senator:
    US Senator T. Cruz and his staff lied to me. He does not perform his job and obligation, does not support the Constitution of the USA and the Code of Ethics for Government Employees. What Senator Cruz accomplished good for this country? He is a Member of US Senate Committee on Judiciary, but many US Judges are violating the Constitution of the USA and the Code of Ethics for Government Employees, do judicial tyranny, misconduct, abuse the power of office and no any punishment. On base of the Constitution of the USA Senator Cruz does NOT qualify to hold any public office and must be fired.
    I’m running for the public office for purpose of to support, defend the Constitution of the USA and the Code of Ethics for Government Employees and help this country. National $20 Trillion debt is a terror against this country created by US government, including Senator Cruz. What a shame! Stop political prostitution, stop selling this country / We the People.
    I have a plan in a few months to create a few millions jobs in the USA without raising taxes, improve heavy traffic on all HWYs and in cities without building new bridges, HWYs and without raising taxes on transportation. In one year balance budget without raising taxes, improve education, fight crimes by harder punishment. Prisons must be profitable. Prisoners must work and pay back to society for damage. US Judges and Attorneys must be elected: it will be a real separation of power.
    I have a plan to reduce homeless and make money too, improve health care that will save country big money.
    Stop using chemicals in food and feed animals, that creates so many medical problems, make people sick and many die premature.
    Reduce income and property taxes. State’s Vehicles Inspection is a rip off people.
    Prevent WW III – improve relationship with Russia
    I do NOT accept any “donation” from no one and will not be a puppet in hands of donors, will not lose my dependency on We the People.

    Pavel Goberman – “Unique political phenomenon” – From article about me.
    Candidate (D / American, but honest, incorruptible, with faith, integrity and high moral principles) for US Senator against T. Cruz, TX.
    Advocate for the Constitution of the USA,
    P.O. Box 570636, Dallas, TX 75357 or later

  3. Armella on July 18, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    They all senators and Republicans need to get fired and let American people need to vote if you recognize the name vote them out. Republicans got the house and the senate apparently there head are where the sun don’t shine they lied to you the American people. At lease democrates tell how bad they are going to screw you.
    My goodness SHAME ON ALL OF YOU

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