President Biden has been in office for two months now. He has amounted to significant accomplishments thus far, yet some pundits claim he is falling short on some promises that he made during his campaign. Biden supported a $15 minimum wage, $2,000 stimulus checks, and some student debt cancelation. These promises have not been accomplished yet. A wage hike failed to make it into the reconciliation bill, only $1,400 checks were approved, and Biden has walked back his student debt stance.

This has left many voters frustrated. However, I find it hard to blame Biden entirely for these shortcomings. His party is technically in the Senate majority but is only half of the legislative body. In this scenario, every vote counts. Democratic Senators like Sens. Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) have made it hard for Biden to accomplish some of his flag-ship policies due to their more moderate stances and emphasis on bipartisanship. These two are not alone but they stick out as Senators making it harder for the Democratic majority to unify. 

This current reality and political rodeo we are witnessing in the Senate highlights the importance of the 2022 midterm elections. Not only expanding the Democratic majority in the Senate but filling those seats with more progressive Senators can ensure policies like a $15 minimum wage, student debt cancelation, and more aid to those affected by the pandemic come to fruition.

In the upcoming 2022 midterm elections, 34 Senators are up for reelection; 20 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Here are some of the most contentious races heading into next year:

Ohio

Former President Trump won Ohio by a whopping eight points, showing off Ohio’s Republican lean. However, Republican Senator Rob Portman has decided not to run for reelection, leaving the seat open. Open seats are generally easier for the other party to win than if they were trying to beat an incumbent. Ohio’s other Senator is progressive Democrat Sherrod Brown. Though Brown is the only Democrat elected statewide in Ohio, he is proof it is possible Democrats can win there if they have the right candidate. Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, a former presidential hopeful, is expected to throw his hat into what is predicted to be a tough race that strongly favors Republicans. Ryan, unlike Brown, is a more conservative Democrat. Senator Brown has won reelection several times and with healthy margins while running on a progressive agenda. Brown, being the only example of a statewide elected Democrat, might be a good example for Ryan to follow.  

Republicans are either “likely” or “strongly favored” to win this seat in 2022. Nevertheless, cross checking previous election results with potential candidates is worth considering.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, a state Biden won by a razor thin margin, has another open seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey. This presents another opportunity for a Democratic pick up. Pennsylvania’s other Senator is also a Democrat, in this case though, he is accompanied by the Governor and several other elected officials as statewide elected Democrats. Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has already declared candidacy. Fetterman, a supporter of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has taken a progressive platform, advocating for marijuana legalization and a $15 minimum wage. With Fetterman in the Senate, Biden’s more progressive promises have a better chance of passing, with or without support from more moderate members of their party. 

Democrats are seen as having a decent opportunity in Pennsylvania with the odds favoring them. Pennsylvania is rated a toss-up or battleground by most political pollsters.  

Wisconsin

Republican Senator Ron Johnson has yet to announced if he will run for a third term in 2022. In his 2016 campaign, he said he would only serve two terms, however, he has since walked that back, claiming he has not made up his mind. Should Johnson not run for reelection, Democrats would have a better chance picking up a seat here.

Biden also won Wisconsin by a razor thin margin, and, like Pennsylvania and more similarly to Ohio, Wisconsin’s other Senator is a progressive Democrat: Senator Tammy Baldwin. Another factor working for Dems in Wisconsin is how divisive Senator Johnson is. He is a vehement Trump supported and frequently shares conspiracy theories surrounding voter fraud and has defended the Jan. 6th Capitol Insurrection. Over 100,000 Republicans left the party nationwide after the events at the Capitol that day. 

Democrats in Wisconsin seem to favor a progressive agenda like Baldwin’s for she keeps winning reelection with healthy margins far greater than Biden’s 2020 victory. Electing another Senator like Tammy Baldwin would create stronger support for Biden’s agenda in the Senate and could alleviate the current gridlock blocking Biden from going bigger with his legislation.  

Takeaways

It is worth keeping in mind, Democrats only need to defend four Senate seats ranked as vulnerable (Georgia, Arizona, New Hampshire, and Nevada). All four of these seats are ranked as either “Lean Dem” or “Safe Dem.” Dems have also had no Senators announce retirement so far, giving them the incumbent advantage in all seats they currently hold. In the 20 races either with Republican incumbents or open seats, Dems get to play offense in several of them. Democrats can also lose all of the open seats and still maintain their majority. For Democrats to expand their majority in the Senate they would then have a much easier time passing larger, more progressive legislation that many voters turned out for in 2020.

Democrats are favored to keep the Senate, so rather than sitting frustrated at Biden’s performance two months into his administration, a hopeful eye should be on 2022 where a stronger and more politically willing majority could be incoming.

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