Analyzing Key Races in the 2024 Senate Elections

Shane Dillon ’26 presents his most critical senate races and urges American voters to vote in this most crucial of election cycles.

The 2024 United States Senate elections are well underway and may play a vital role in the future of America and democracy at home and abroad. The Senate was once one of the most renowned legislative bodies in the world. The presidency of Donald Trump has slowly deteriorated that status in the past few years. Instead of a body that seeks bipartisan compromise on the actual issues facing everyday Americans, like homelessness, the border crisis, wealth inequality, abortion and bodily autonomy, and the ever-growing climate crisis, it is a body that plays political games.

While the fate of the presidency is up in the air, the arguably more essential elections this cycle are the Senate and the House of Representatives. If Donald Trump somehow regains his former title, at least one of the legislative chambers must be controlled by the Democrats. While I may offer a more extensive analysis at a later time, I do believe that Democrats will take back the House after what will have been two years of complete and utter Republican dysfunction. If Republicans somehow maintain their majority in the House, I will have lost all faith in our nation’s ability to understand the importance of these elections. While taking back the House is important, Democrats must also ensure they are serious about the Senate. Trump appointed 234 federal judges in his first term, including three Supreme Court justices. If the Senate is lost to the Republican party, the House may hinder Trump’s authoritarian rampage, though he will be able to appoint more far-right judges and again confirm a cabinet of unqualified donors.

This analysis prompted the eleventh-hour announcement from former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan that he is running for Maryland’s open Senate seat. Longtime Senator Ben Cardin announced his retirement last year, and the Democratic Party is arguably between King George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and uber-wealthy Congressman David Trone. While Maryland has been a reliably blue state at the federal level, Hogan’s announcement concerns me. I have said that I liked former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, though I would never vote for him if he ever ran for Senate. Voting for Hogan in Maryland holds the same sentiment, and my reasoning is the same: “That would give the national Republican party more power federally. Republicans here and in other states can be checked and balanced by the state legislature on policy. However, at a federal level, they are pressured to appeal to a party agenda more than the people’s individual needs.” I fear Hogan’s popularity as governor may present a challenge to Trone or Alsobrooks, who are lesser-known names. Hogan is also capitalizing on rhetoric around ‘saving’ the Republican party. However, if he thinks he can do that from within the Senate, he lives in ignorant bliss and is in for a rude awakening. Part of Charlie Baker’s exit from politics is because there is no place for him in the national party, and there won’t be any for Hogan either. I see him caving in within six months.

While the maps for the past two election cycles have been favorable towards the Democratic Party, this year’s map looks a bit different. With the announcement that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin would not be running for reelection, that seat seems likely to go to current Governor Jim Justice, who is running. Vulnerable longtime Democrats are also up for reelection in Montana, Ohio, Nevada, and Wisconsin, as well as Pennsylvania, although I believe Bob Casey will cruise to victory. Montanan Jon Tester and Ohioan Sherrod Brown face the toughest challenges.

Brown, one of my favorite Senators, has been in Ohio politics since his election to the state House of Representatives in 1974 and has climbed the political ladder ever since. While he is popular and has the backing of union workers and Ohio’s working class, so did former Representative Tim Ryan, who ran against current Senator J.D. Vance in 2022. Vance grew up in Ohio and rose to prominence after releasing his book Hillbilly Elegy but had never before held office. He beat Ryan, a 20-year incumbent representative, by 6 points in an upset win. Brown has an advantage, though this will be his toughest race since Ohio has been trending red and has not been won by another Democrat since former President Obama won it in 2012. Brown will need to lean into the recent electoral rebuke of changes to the Ohio constitution that would have made abortion access harder and capitalize on the importance of Democrats retaining control of the Senate, even by a tie-breaking slim majority. Though I want him to win, my analysis is that it is up in the air.

Tester has been in Montana politics since the early 2000s and is a hometown favorite. He is the only full-time dirt farmer in Congress and still shows up for his constituents. While he is no stranger to winning by slim majorities, his last election in a reliably ruby red state at both the federal and state level only saw him win by 4 points, and his challenger then, current congressman Matt Rosendale, is expected to run again. Tester may have an advantage over Rosendale if they rematch. Rosendale is a staunch Trump supporter and has done little for his constituents other than peddle the increasingly far-right rhetoric of the national Republican party under Trump. He was one of the holdouts who saw Congress gridlocked over choosing a speaker last year, and that may help Tester. While Montana is reliably red, voters there have put their faith in Tester repeatedly, and he does not peddle the national rhetoric of the Democratic left. He is a reliable voice; my current analysis is that he will win.

Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Jacky Rosen in Nevada are also facing uphill battles, but Wisconsin has been trending blue in recent years, and Rosen has not been presented with a credible challenger yet. They can retain their seats, but they must work incredibly hard.

If you live in any of these states, I encourage you to do your due diligence about the candidates and learn how to vote by mail if you haven't. This election cycle is so important, and we cannot take even a single vote for granted.