The Top Ten Senate Seats Most Likely to Flip Parties in 2022
New Edition: September 16th
By Logan Phillips, Editor in Chief.
Democrats' Senate Majority rests on the narrowest of edges entering the 2022 cycle. They control just 50 of the nation's 100 Senate seats, and their majority has been secured by the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
That's led to an understandable but flawed conventional wisdom for most of the last two years that Republicans were the clear favorites to win the majority - although such a consensus has broken in recent months. We have long disagreed with this interpretation of the Senate map. While it is true that the President's party dominates midterm elections, it is crucially important to weigh the unique map of each cycle and the candidates running each year.
Our model has been designed to project the race for every single viable candidate, and that made it clear that the GOP risked underperforming this cycle. That's far from an uncommon phenomenon. Just a few years ago in 2018, Democrats triumphed in the House, winning the Congressional elections by the largest popular vote margin in any midterm year since the Watergate Scandal of the 1970s. Even with such a historic victory, they still fell short of winning the Senate, losing one seat overall. This was hardly an outlier. In 5 of the last 13 midterms, the party that lost the popular vote in the House managed to gain at least one seat in the Senate.
In 2022, the GOP has faced retirements in key Senate seats, has recruited candidates with no experience of winning elections, low favorable ratings, and has struggled to keep up with Democratic fundraising. That has nerfed Republicans' early clear edge in the national environment and made the Senate a straight down-the-middle tossup.
However, now Republicans' edge in the national environment has evaporated in the generic ballot, thanks to the conservative Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. That has been a shot in the arm for Democrats. It has helped energize young voters who strongly prefer Democrats, but who have low opinions of Biden and were at risk of not turning out in 2022. It's also helped them maintain support with many of the white college-educated voters that broke with Republicans to support Biden over Trump.
The Senate race is no longer a pure tossup, and Democrats are the narrow favorites with a 65% chance of keeping their majority. We caution readers to keep in mind that 35% is still a very competitive number for the GOP, and no one should be surprised if they win. If they can regain support in Pennsylvania and hold the state then they would only need to flip one of the Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and New Hampshire races. Even if they lose PA, winning 2 of the 4 is certainly a possibility.
To fully understand the 2022 political battleground, you must look beyond the national races, and follow the specific states that are up in 2022 and the unique dynamics of each Senate race. Here's our current list of the ten seats that are most likely to flip.
In the graphics below, the Projected Margin refers to our Forecast prediction for the final margin of victory on election day. Chance of Winning refers to the number of times each party wins the state in 50,000 simulations of the election. To learn more, read our 2022 Senate Forecast, which is updated daily.
1. Pennsylvania – Open Seat, Held by Republicans
Chance of Flipping Parties: 80%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 1st
State Forecast - Live
In the last two midterm cycles, Democrats have excelled in the Keystone state, winning blowout victories far beyond what would be expected given the national environment. They might need to do it again to win Pennsylvania in 2022 because the state leans slightly towards the Republican party relative to the national vote based on its electoral history over the last six years.
There are growing indications that Democrats are primed to do it again. Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has taken a decisive lead in the polls. He's been a fundraising machine, building an army of small-dollar donors that have helped him raise a staggering $26 million. On paper, his opponent, Celebrity Doctor Mehmet Oz, has raised an impressive total of $19 million. However, $14 million of that came from his bank account, and he burned through all but $1 million by the last FEC Deadline.
Fetterman's campaign has been laser-focused on winning back the white blue-collar workers that have shifted towards the GOP in the Trump era while framing Dr. Oz as an outsider detached from the realities of most Pennsylvanians. The polls suggest it's been a winning strategy, as Fetterman is now leading by 10% in the polls.
Our Senate Forecast predicts the race will start to even out by election day but still has Fetterman on track to win by 6.4%. The National Republican party is now spending millions to help bolster Dr. Oz and paint Fetterman as too liberal for Pennsylvania. There are also some lingering concerns about Fetterman's health after he suffered a stroke right before the primary election, although he has now returned to the campaign trail.
2. Nevada –Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 46%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 2nd
State Forecast - Live
Nevada persistently is mislabeled as a blue state, but it's easily one of the most competitive elections in the nation. Nevada voters have actually voted more for Republicans than the national popular vote in 2020, 2018, 2016, and 2014. Democrats have won every statewide election in the Silver State from 2016 to 2020, but that's arguably been driven by their recent success in winning the national popular vote.
Recent polling shows that while Democrats have made tremendous gains nationally, they still are only up by 1% - enough to Make Nevada winnable by both parties. Senator Cortez-Masto (D) is running against Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). Laxalt has shown he won't be easy to beat, and he ran a surprisingly close race in 2018 against now-Governor Steve Sisolak.
Cortez-Masto has zeroed in on the issue of abortion, warning that Republicans may try to ban it nationwide if they retake the Senate majority. It's a sensible strategy in the Silver State, where even before the Supreme Court decision pro-choice voters outnumbered pro-life voters nearly 2-1 in an OH Predictive Insights Poll. Laxalt has tried to make the election a referendum on Joe Biden and inflation by tying the Senator to the President, whose approval rating rest around 43% nationally.
3. Georgia: Senator Raphael Warnock (D)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 33%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 4th
State Forecast - Live
The last election cycle was a bitter one for Georgia Republicans, who had long ruled the roost in the Peach State – winning every Presidential election since 1992 and every Senate election since 2000. In 2022, Democrats won a tight victory in the November election and topped it off with a double victory in the January runoff that secured them a Senate Majority – changing the course of American politics in one fell swoop.
It's no exaggeration to say that Republicans have Georgia on their mind and are determined to oust Warnock in 2022. The odds – at first – seemed in their favor. The president’s party typically underperforms in midterms, and while Georgia is shifting towards Democrats at a lightning pace, it still favors Republicans relative to the national popular vote. Two challenges stood in their way. First, Warnock happens to be one of the Democrat’s best and most electric candidates. The second was a problem of their own making – their nominee is football star Herschel Walker, a scandal-plagued nominee that has struggled to show he is ready for the job.
This was an entirely foreseeable mistake. As we wrote last March when Walker had a 0.7% lead over Warnock, “Perversely, the fact that the polling is so close is good news for Warnock because he has plenty of material to use against Walker and ample time to narrow the gap. Walker has a graveyard packed with skeletons that could derail his candidacy, and Republicans are taking a huge risk nominating him in one of the most important Senate races of the cycle.”
That didn’t stop both Donald Trump, the GOP Senate Leadership, and Republican primary voters to coalesce around Walker. New scandals have emerged, including revelations of three secret children. Now, Warnock has broken ahead of Walker and taken a narrow lead in the polls. There are two ways this race likely plays out in the coming months. One – the nightmare for the GOP – is that Walker’s problems compound as voters learns more about him, and he falls further behind. The second is that the race begins to plateau. If enough GOP-leaning voters are unpersuadable due to a combination of partisanship and frustration with the Biden administration, Walker may keep his deficit narrow – or even close the race if Republicans regain their lead nationally.
He's also proven to be a gifted fundraiser and will be able to present a more polished version of his candidacy on the airwaves. If this race is close, the GOP could win if they have a strong enough turnout on election day, so writing off Walker is a mistake. Nonetheless, the GOP made a stunning and easily foreseeable mistake in choosing such a risky candidate. If Georgia is close and the Senate remains 50-50 when it’s all said and done, it may be a mistake worth the history books.
4. North Carolina: Open Race - Cheri Beasley (D) vs. Ted Budd (R)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 31%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 7th
Full Predictions for North Carolina
The Tar Heel State has been a source of heartache for Democrats, who keep narrowly losing Senate and Presidential races since 2008. 2020 was no exception – Democrat Cal Cunningham lost his Senate bid by just 1.8%. Democrats hope they can break through this election cycle and have nominated former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who would be the third Black women Senator in history. Unlike many up-and-coming stars in the Democrat party, Beasley cut a more low-key profile, speaking in a calm common-sense manner as opposed to the passionate, fiery, and soaring rhetoric that has become common in the party of late. She’s proven to be a competent candidate in 2020, losing re-election by just 400 points, better than both Biden and Cunningham.
The challenge is that Democrats are unlikely to be as successful nationally as their 4% lead in the presidential popular vote last cycle – so Beasley will need to up her game to win. She’s facing conservative Republican Congressman Ted Budd. Beasley isn’t as fortunate as Raphael Warnock or Mark Kelly to be facing a first-time candidate with a history of mistakes. Budd is running a much stronger campaign and has thus far proven more able to make this race a referendum on Biden and inflation.
Beasley’s biggest advantage in the race is a huge edge in fundraising, which will help her frame the race in a light more favorable to her campaign. She does have a few openings of attack thanks to Budd’s conservative record that’s further to the right than the average voter. Beasley has focused on Budd's vote against capping the cost of insulin at $35 in attack ads. Budd recently made a very risky bet by supporting Lindsey Graham’s bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks – putting the very issue that has been the GOP’s biggest liability front and center in the Senate Race.
Despite Beasley’s chance at making history, this is a more traditional Senate race than most of the marquee races this cycle. Both candidates are competent, and that means Budd is the favorite in a state that leans modestly to the right – but Beasley has a shot at winning this Tilt R race if she can punch above her weight and if Democrats can keep the race close nationally.
5. Ohio: Open Race - Tim Ryan (D) vs. JD Vance (R)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 31%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 5th
Full Predictions for Ohio
Ohio won't be an easy place for Democrats to win. They've lost it twice by 8% in the last two presidential elections despite winning the popular vote. However, there were a few early underlying signs that Ryan was ripe to overperform, and our Senate Forecast has long given him a fighting shot at winning in the Buckeye state.
First, Ryan has outraised his opponent in individual donations - fundraising excluding PACS and self-funding - by 19-1. That is far more predictive than total fundraising because it's a sign of a campaign's ability to build grassroots support and run an effective campaign.
That type of ratio is nearly unheard of in a competitive state. Now, the polling is showing Ryan and JD Vance tied. Time will tell if the race remains as close now that the national Republican party has begun to bail out Vance with tens of millions of ads boosting his campaign.
6. Wisconsin: Senator Ron Johnson (R)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 25%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 8th
State Forecast - Live
Mandela Barnes appeared to be surging past Senator Ron Johnson, and putting this race firmly in tossup territory after the state’s pollster, Marquette University poll, showed Barnes up by 7%. However, the latest Maqrutee poll shows Johnson up 1% after a barrage of attacks ads.
The state has shifted right since Johnson's 3.4% win in 2016, and on paper, he chould be well positioned to win as a Republican running in a midterm with a Democratic president with low approval ratings.
It's probably prudent to take the Wisconsin Senate polling with a grain of salt, as the polls in two of the last three elections have underestimated the Republican party by frankly stunning margins. Across five major statewide elections in that period, Republicans did 5.1% better in the election day margin than the polling said they would do.
There's no way to know if the polling will be as far off in 2022. After all, it's very much in pollsters' interest to improve on their performance and correctly identify the electorate. That's why a six percent lead for Barnes means that Democrats are clearly in a position where they can win - but it doesn't mean they will do so on election day. If he continues to have that level of polling in November, his chance of victory in the Senate forecast will rise.
7. Arizona: Senator Mark Kelly (D)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 23%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 8th
Full Predictions for Arizona
Former Astronaut Mark Kelly has rocketed ahead of Republican Venture Capitalist Blake Masters in recent polling, and he now boasts a 7% lead. Our forecast is bullish on Kelly’s chances thanks to his lead in the polls, his performance last election, and his enormous lead in fundraising.
Kelly broke onto the political stage in 2020, defeating Senator Martha McSally on the strength of a record-breaking fundraising effort powered by a small-dollar donor machine more reminiscent of a presidential campaign than a bid for the Senate. Kelly’s victory in 2020 showcased a stunning shift in Arizona, a state that was once one of the nation’s most conservative, and bored the origins of the Reagan Revolution decades before it took root nationwide. Democrats now control both Senate seats in the Grand Canyon State, which had previously elevated only one Democrat to the Senate from 1962 to 2017.
Make no mistake, the Republican party remains strong in Arizona, and past elections suggest the state still tilts slightly to the right. Our forecast likely underrates Master's chances, and he will likely gain at least some ground on Kelly as Republicans move on from a bruising primary.
8. New Hampshire: Senator Maggie Hassan (D)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 16%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 5th
Full Predictions for New Hampshire
New Hampshire would have topped the list if fate had been kinder to the Republican party. The GOP tried everything to encourage NH Governor Chris Sununu (R) to run for the Senate. He was leading Hassan in polls, by 5-6%, and had just won his 2020 re-election by over 30%. However, Sununu deflated the GOP dreams in his early November press conference: "I'd rather push myself 120 miles an hour delivering wins for New Hampshire,” Sununu said, “than to slow down, end up on Capitol Hill debating partisan politics without results.”
Sununu’s decision surely caused jubilation in the Hassan campaign, whose chances of winning in our forecast would have plummeted to 30%, had Sununu become the GOP nominee. Instead, the nominee is General Don Bolduc, who also happened to be the party’s riskiest option in the primary. Bolduc has embraced a series of radical conspiracies, including accusing Governor Sununu of being a “communist sympathizer.” Thanks to his poor polling and fundraising, Bolduc now has just a 12% chance of winning. In contrast, if NH State Senate President Chuck Morse had won the primary, he would instantly made NH a Tilt D race, and he’d have a 30% chance at an upset.
9. Colorado: Senator Michael Bennet (D)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 15%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 10th
Full Predictions for Colorado
Keep a close eye on Colorado – a state that will become competitive if Republicans successfully mount a big red wave in 2022. For now, it’s fallen out of the top ten as poling shows Michael Bennet far ahead of Republican nominee Joe O’Dea. The forecast probably underrates O’Dea, who is one of the strongest candidates nominated in any state this cycle and would likely overperform a generic republican.
Michael Bennet has proven to be a strong candidate in the past. In 2016, he won by almost 6%, while Republicans won Congressional elections by 1% (despite their loss in the Presidential Election popular vote). Colorado has since shifted almost five points, in favor of the Democratic Party. Therefore, in a neutral cycle against a generic Republican, Bennet’s last election suggests he could win his reelection by about 12%.
There’s little chance that Colorado is the state that wins the majority for the GOP, but it could be the cherry on top if the GOP can win more competitive states like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
10. Florida: Senator Marco Rubio (R)
Chance of Flipping Parties: 15%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: 8th
Full Predictions for Florida
If it were still 2012, the Florida Senate race would be a promising opportunity for Democrats. They have an excellent candidate in Congresswoman Val Demings, a former police chief, and phenomenal fundraiser, who has outraised Senator Marco Rubio in the last two quarters. She faces long odds against Rubio, who won re-election in 2016 by 8% even as Donald Trump beat Clinton by just 1.5%. The Sunshine state has shifted an additional 4% towards Republicans.
The one-piece of good news for Democrats is that Florida voters who know Demings, like her. . She has the campaign funds to define her image with Floridians on her own terms. Republican attacks painting her as “socialist” will be hard to make stick, given her record as police chief; besides Demings has enough reserves to respond effectively. To win, she’ll need a big bounce back in Miami, where Democrats had a disastrous finish in 2020. She’ll also likely need Democrats to make major gains nationally and win the popular vote.
Early in the race, Rubio appeared on track for a blowout, but our polling average shows the race has narrowed. Rubio now has a 3% lead, down from 10%. Thanks to his incumbency status, the state's lean, and his performance last election, Rubio remains the clear favorite, but the chance of an upset has doubled from 8% to 16%.
Bonus: 11. Utah: Senator Mike Lee (R)
Chance of Flipping: 11%
Rank in our Last Top Ten: N/A
Full Predictions for Utah
Earlier this year, Utah would have no business on any list of competitive Senate races. Now, it’s placed at number 10 thanks to a very unique election. Independent Conservative Evan McMullin is challenging Senator Mike Lee, six years after he won 22% of the vote in the 2016 presidential election.
No state in the Union has shifted further to the left during the Trump era than Utah. Of course, that didn’t do Democrats much good – as it shifted from an R+45% state to an R+20% state that was still practically unwinnable in a statewide election. Nonetheless, a wide swath of Utah voters are Mormons that prefer Republicans but are frustrated at the party’s shift towards Donald Trump.
Independent Conservative Evan McMullin is hoping those voters will cast their support for him in the Senate race – and Democrats have decided to forgo nominating a candidate to clear a lane for a less partisan alternative than current Senator Mike Lee. Lee has embraced the role of partisan warrior, an unusual position for Utah Republicans, who tend to be more moderate in tone, and eager to work across the aisle – even in the GOP-dominated state legislatures. Lee also ran into some hot water for his legal guidance to President Trump on strategies to overturn the voter’s decision in 2020 and extend his presidency to an unsanctioned second term.
We consider Lee the clear favorite – but there’s certainly room for doubt here. The polling has been close. We will closely be watching the next fundraising report to see if McMullin has raised enough to get his message out – which will be a necessity for him to mount a strong challenge.
You will notice in the win percentage in this race is going to be a lot higher for McMullin than the margin would suggest. That’s because frankly there aren’t many races in American history like this one, and we increased the uncertainty for this state as a result. We are raising the value of polling and cutting the value of the state’s conservative lean in half because it’s unclear if voters will view this choice as a partisan one, or between two conservatives offering different visions of governing.
1. Gage Skidmore from Peoria: Chuck Grassley, Marco Rubio, Mark Kelly, Rob Portman, Ron Johnson, Roy Blunt
2. United States Senate and Congress: Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, Michael Bennet
3. Senate Democrats: Ron Wyden