The party has lost half its representation in the region over the last decade and currently holds its fewest seats in more than 60 years

Less than a year out from the 2022 midterms, polling has yet to give Democrats confidence they are in a position to stave off notable losses up and down the ballot.

However, one thing going for the Democrats to maintain their fragile advantage in the U.S. Senate is that they have to defend only 14 of the 34 seats up for election next year.

Just one of those 14 is in the Midwest region (held by Illinois’ Tammy Duckworth), where the party has shed half of its seats over the last decade.

In a cycle without a GOP-tilt, Democrats might have pick-up opportunities in 2022 in Midwestern states like Wisconsin (where incumbent Ron Johnson has still not declared his 2022 intentions) as well as Missouri and Ohio which host open seat contests.

Democrats currently hold just eight of the 24 U.S. Senate seats in the Midwest region – bottoming out after the 2018 cycle when the GOP picked off incumbents in Indiana (Joe Donnelly), Missouri (Claire McCaskill), and North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp).

Democrats began the previous decade with twice as many seats – holding 16 compared to eight for the Republicans heading into the 2010 midterms.

The party then lost four seats in 2010 (Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, Wisconsin), drew even in 2012 (winning Indiana and losing Nebraska), lost two seats in 2014 (Iowa, South Dakota), gained one back in 2016 (Illinois), and then lost the aforementioned three seats in 2018.

The eight U.S. Senate seats currently controlled by Democrats is the lowest number the party has held in the Midwest in more than half a century.

The last time the party faced such a deficit in the region was during the 85th Congress (1957-1958).

Democrats entered the 85th Congress with just six seats (Illinois’ Paul Douglas, Michigan’s Patrick McNamara, Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey, Missouri’s Thomas Hennings and Stuart Symington, and Ohio’s Frank Lausche). Wisconsin’s William Proxmire would claim a seventh seat during a special election in the summer of 1957.

Democrats then picked up four seats during the 1958 cycle (with Vance Hartke of Indiana, Philip Hart of Michigan, Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, and Stephen Young of Ohio) and maintained at least 10 seats in the region for the next 60 years through the 115th Congress.

The Midwest has always been represented by at least one Democrat in the nation’s upper legislative chamber throughout the direct election era – but for the 80th Congress (1947-1948) it was only one: Scott Lucas of Illinois.

The 16 Midwestern seats held by the Democrats during the 111th Congress (2009-2010) tied the high-water mark for the party. Democrats also controlled 16 seats during the 75th Congress (1937-1938) and the second half of the 93rd Congress through the 95th Congress (1974-1978).

Since 1915, Democrats have averaged 10.1 seats from the Midwest compared to 13.6 seats for the GOP and 0.3 seats for third parties.

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  1. Flickertail-Pembina on November 16, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    “…without a GOP-tilt…Missouri…” If there is a sufficiently strong tailwind in favour of the party – even just within the State, a la 2018 – the incumbent R party more likely than not will hold the seat even with disgraced ex-governor Eric Robert Greitens as the nominee. For contrast, the Show Me State had 2 D senators even when the Democrats had a meager six seats in the region until August or September of 1957, and in 2000 they even won it with a deceased candidate, helping them reach 50 seats in the chamber – 2 more than the 48 formal Democrats of today.

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