GOP wins in Montana, West Virginia, or Wisconsin would give the party rare wins in two consecutive elections to the nation’s upper legislative chamber

Republicans are salivating at the number of potential U.S. Senate pick-up opportunities on the ballot in 2024, with seats held by Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana being two of the biggest targets.

Republican victories in either of these two states would be novel in at least one respect.

For starters, Montana is one of just two states – along with Hawaii – where the GOP has never won back-to-back U.S. Senate elections during the direct election era.

The Montana GOP has only had five previous opportunities, following their victories during the Elections of 1946 (Zales Ecton), 1988 (Conrad Burns), 1994 (Burns), 2000 (Burns), and 2014 (Steve Daines).

The party came close twice.

In 1996, three-term Senator Max Baucus defeated Lieutenant Governor Denny Rehberg by 4.9 points and in 2018, Tester won a third term against Auditor Matt Rosendale by 3.6 points.

Montana Democrats cruised to double-digit victories during the other three cycles in 1948, 1990, and 2002.

Meanwhile, Republicans have gone the longest between back-to-back U.S. Senate victories in West Virginia, last doing so nearly 100 years ago.

In 1924, Clarksburg attorney Guy Goff won an open seat race against former Democratic U.S. Senator William Chilton by 3.2 points. Four years later, former Governor Henry Hatfield unseated Democratic incumbent Matthew Neely by 1.5 points, riding a national GOP wave that November.

The party has had just three subsequent opportunities following victories by Charleston attorney W. Chapman Revercomb (general) and former U.S. Representative Hugh Shott (special) in 1942, Revercomb again in 1956 (special), and U.S. Representative Shelley Moore Capito in 2014.

But former State Senator Tom Sweeney fell 0.7 points shy of unseating Democratic incumbent Harley Kilgore in 1946, appointed U.S. Senator John Hoblitzell and Senator Revercomb each lost their 1958 bids by double digits, and State Attorney General Patrick Morrissey lost to Senator Manchin by 3.3 points in 2018.

One other prized seat Republicans would like to flip in 2024 but have had difficulty recruiting a top-tier candidate is in Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin), where the party has not won back-to-back elections in nearly 70 years.

In 1952, Joseph McCarthy won his second term in the chamber with an 8.7-point win against former State Attorney General Thomas Fairchild.

Four years later, Alexander Wiley cruised to the last of his four terms with a 17.4-point victory against State Senator (and future long-serving Milwaukee Mayor) Henry Maier.

Republicans have also waited several decades between back-to-back U.S. Senate wins in Rhode Island (1928 and 1930), Massachusetts (1946 and 1948), Michigan (1948 and 1952), New Jersey (1952 and 1954), and Connecticut (1952 and 1956).

Democrats have never won back-to-back direct elections in Idaho, Kansas, and Vermont.

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  1. Connor Cobb on October 15, 2023 at 7:55 pm

    Republicans HI and Democrats in KS and ID are honestly unlikely ever to do so given how deep red or blue those states are. Dem’s would certainly do so in VT when Sanders retires whether that’s next year (which I don’t is likely.) or in the future and rep.’s I think have a good shot at MT even with Matt Rosendale.
    Side note: In the coming weeks, anyone who lives in VA, KY or MS, please get everybody you know out to VOTE like your lives depend on it.

  2. Flickertail-Pembina on October 17, 2023 at 6:23 am

    (Do some of these back-to-back wins involve _same_ seat?)

    The Gem State Democrats DID attain a single set of back-to-back STANDING election victories, in 1944 with Glen Hearst Taylor and 1948 with Bert Henry Miller (Taylor also sought elective office then – for vice president on the Progressive ticket with former Vice President Henry Wallace). Thus, the state had two elected Democrats serving in tandem, albeit only from 01 until 10 of 1949!

    Applying a looser (but far more meaningful) criterion – membership in a Senate Caucus – the Green Mountain State Democrats had their most recent back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2022 (streak began in 2004 and 2006).

    • Connor Cobb on October 17, 2023 at 8:23 am

      Well, Eric counts independents separate even if they caucus with 1 side or the other.
      In terms of ID, yes democrats won both in 1944 and in 1948 but republicans won a 1946 special election in between that.

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