Why Georgia and Nevada Are Key to a GOP Senate Majority

News & Politics

As the race for Senate control stands now, some GOP candidates are underperforming while others are being swamped by the Democrats’ fundraising machine. And with Republicans forced to defend 21 of the 35 Senate seats up for grabs, the odds of a Senate victory for Republicans have always been long.

But after a late summer swoon, most GOP candidates have regained their footing and are fighting back. Republican Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania trailed Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman by double digits in July. Today, Fetterman is just four points ahead with 11% of voters in the state still undecided.

In Wisconsin — a critical hold for the GOP — incumbent GOP Senator Ron Johnson has inched ahead of Democrat Mandela Barnes after trailing most of the summer.

In Ohio, J.D. Vance has roared back after running behind during the summer. He and Rep. Tim Ryan are virtually tied going into the home stretch. And in North Carolina, GOP Rep. Ted Budd and Democratic state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley are also neck-and-neck.

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The significance of those four races is that each of them is currently held by a Republican. They are critical holds for Republicans if they want to take the Senate back from Democrats.

It seems probable that Republicans are going to lose at least one of those seats. That means that the GOP is going to need to take at least two seats from the Democrats to win a clear majority. For a while, it appeared that Arizona was ripe for the plucking. But Republican Blake Masters has proven to be a disappointing candidate and has been outraised by incumbent Democrat Mark Kelly. Arizona Democrats have purchased $39 million worth of ads between now and Election Day, compared to $14 million from Republicans.

Masters is not down for the count yet, but Kelly is up by an average of 8 points in the polls. That’s a lot of ground to make up and there’s not much time to do it.

So Republicans are going to have to steal a couple of seats from Democrats. And that means the GOP’s must-win races are in Nevada and Georgia.


Currently a good Republican night would involve holding Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, while snagging Nevada and Georgia — a net shift of two seats. A good Democratic night would mean no lost incumbents, plus pick-ups in Pennsylvania and perhaps one other state, giving the party enough votes to comfortably confirm President Joe Biden’s nominees.

It should be noted — and this is critical — that the Trump-backed MAGA candidates are not losing because they’re MAGA. They’re losing because they aren’t very good candidates. Hershel Walker in Georgia can’t keep his life story straight. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania has been a lackluster campaigner from the start and never won over Republicans in the state. Blake Masters had a beastly primary campaign where he drained his campaign funds just to get to the general election.

It’s not the Democrats’ ideology or who is behind them that’s been the difference; it’s that the Democrats are running better campaigns.

The GOP nominee in Nevada, former state attorney general Adam Laxalt, lost a gubernatorial race in 2018 but counts a powerful political legacy from his grandfather, the late Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.). Kaine observed that the name “Laxalt in Nevada is like a Sununu in New Hampshire. Nevada is the one place where [Republicans] got the candidate they wanted.”

Though Democrats significantly outraised their foes in every Senate battleground, Laxalt and Walker are holding their own. Recent polling shows both Republicans locked in tight races and even occasionally leading, whereas Hassan and Kelly have led all public polls in their states since the GOP nominated Don Bolduc and Blake Masters, respectively.

Related: Don’t Count Out the ‘Bad’ GOP Senate Candidates

Catherine Cortez Masto is neck and neck with Laxalt and given the turmoil in the Democratic Party, the Republican has a good shot — perhaps the best shot Republicans have — of flipping the seat.

On the optimistic side, history suggests that the last 10 days of the election will see a huge swing toward the party out of power. But on the pessimism side, Democrats can put on a full-court press with mind-boggling sums of cash to spend.

At this point, control of the Senate will come down to who has the better campaigns going into election day.

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