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The answer is of course unknowable. It will probably remain unknowable right up to the election. All we can know right now are the factors that will shape the outcome.

So first question, how many senate seats are up for election? That’s easy:

  • 34

How many of those seats are currently held by each party? Also easy:

  • 14 Democrats
  • 20 Republicans

Does that mean the Democrats have an almost 3-to-2 advantage because they’re defending a third as many seats? Technically, but not really because of the not-so-easy question: how many seats are competitive?

That depends on whom you ask. I gathered answers from five sources.

1.

Despite the headline, “These 10 races could determine control of the Senate in 2022,” NBC News identifies five states as “battlegrounds”:

  • Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin

With “5 other big races to watch”:

  • North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, Missouri

2.

Cook Political Report identifies 25 races in the “Solid” ranges:

  • Solid R: 15
  • Solid D: 10

Of the remaining nine races, six are “Toss-ups”:

  • Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina

With three races in the “Lean” categories:

  • Lean D: New Hampshire
  • Lean R: Ohio, Florida

Cook puts Missouri in the “Solid R” range, with no states in either “Likely R” or “Likely D.”

3.

Instead of ten or nine, or six or five, FiveThirtyEight identifies “The 7 Races That Will Likely Decide Control Of The Senate.” Their partisan lean chart explains the number. Of the 34 races, Sen. Brian Schatz is the safest Democrat, because Hawaii has a Democratic lean of +34.6, and Sen. John Hoeven is the safest Republican because North Dakota has a Republican lean of +37.2. It’s the middle of the chart where things get complicated:

Their seven races include three “Leans”:

  • Lean R: Wisconsin, North Carolina
  • Lean D: New Hampshire

And four “Toss-ups”:

  • Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada

4.

270 to Win identifies six “Toss-ups”:

  • Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina

They place New Hampshire in the “Leans D” category.

5.

Race to the WH identifies just four “Tossups” (I don’t know why they dropped the hyphen):

  • Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada

With four “Tilts”:

  • Tilts D: New Hampshire
  • Tilts R: Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina

Combined Answer:

So while anything can happen between now and however long it takes to count the votes after election day, it seems control of the Senate largely balances on four states. Of those four, Democrats currently hold three, and Republicans one:

  • Democrats: Georgia, Arizona, Nevada
  • Republicans: Pennsylvania

So the nearly 3-to-2 Democratic advantage on the whole map boils down to a 3-to-1 Republican advantage in the toss-up map.

Sort of.

Keeping in mind that the Senate is currently evenly split 50-50, because Vice-President Harris is the tie-breaker, Democrats have to maintain the same number of seats, while Republicans have to win at least one more to gain control.

Look back at the FiveThirtyEight chart, and of the four toss-ups, three incumbent Democrats are in states with a Republican advantage.

So can Democratic Senators Kelly, Warnock, and Cortez Mastro hold their seats in unfavorable territory?

Kelly and Warnock seem to face bigger obstacles, but the advantages of incumbency are real — though hard to calculate except in retrospect (“Incumbent Advantage“, “How Much Was Incumbency Worth In 2018?“). Race to the WH slightly favors Kelly’s and Warnock’s odds of winning over Mastro’s:

If any two lose, the Republicans control the Senate. If only one of those Democratic senators loses, control of the senate then hinges on Pennsylvania.

Because of Pennsylvania’s Republican senator is retiring, the seat is wide open, with over a dozen candidates competing in both party primaries. Personally, I’m betting the current lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, wins both the Democratic primary and the general election.

Hell, I’ll reach even deeper into my pile of sheep intestines and predict that Senator Fetterman will win the 2028 Democratic presidential primary and then the White House (the “15104” tattoo is the zip code for Braddock where he was mayor and continues to live).

Identifying the major races is relatively easy. Predicting who will win each and which party will control the Senate, that’s impossible. Or rather, your odds of guessing correctly are the same as a coin toss.

If you don’t like those odds, then now is a good time to improve them.

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