Midterm elections could be critical to Senate balance

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The midterm congressional primaries are in sight – with possible consequences for the general election.

That’s particularly the case in the Senate, which is currently 50-50, where the outcome of contests — which both parties face — in four or five states will shape the odds for the ouster.

If the elections were held next Tuesday, none of this would matter. With President BidenJoe Biden Dr. Hiro Yoshikawa: Cash Aid Benefits Young Children Living in Poverty US officials say Russia needs 70 percent of troop build-up for full-scale invasion: Ruling Class and Supreme Court reports MOREWith jobs approval around 40 percent and heading south, inflation at 6 to 7 percent and the ongoing threat of COVID, Republicans would sweep the House of Representatives and take control of the Senate.

However, if Biden’s approval rises to even a mediocre level, inflation falls to 3.5 percent, and near-normal returns post-pandemic, these primaries can make a real difference on the fringes of the general election.

Three big ones start this spring.

On May 17th, there’s Pennsylvania, a slightly Democratic-leaning state where the incumbent GOP Senator. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyConservatives are outraged that Sarah Bloom Raskin actually believes in capitalism. Meet Washington’s Least Effective Senator: Joe Manchin Black women want MORE to win in the upcoming election goes into retirement. For the Democrats, the current Lt. gov. John Fetterman the front runner – in polls and money. He is a left-wing populist, a Bernie SandersBernie SandersSchumer faces a war and progressives step up primary threats Why the SALT deduction debate matters Supporter who has a solid base – but party leaders doubt he can win a general election. The strongest alternative may be Rep. Conor Lamb, a moderate representative from western Pennsylvania who won a major victory in the first special congressional election of the Trump presidency. But Lamb needs to raise a lot of money quickly to get a chance in the picky East: Philadelphia and its populous suburbs.

The Republican primary is a costly, messy jack-of-all-trades crowned by two candidates who just returned to the state. Mehmed OzMehmet OzPennsylvania GOP stays out of primary fight Democrat Val Arkoosh drops Pennsylvania Senate bid Pennsylvania’s high-profile Senate race is MORE taking shapethat “dr ozMehmet OzPennsylvania GOP stays out of primary fight Democrat Val Arkoosh drops Pennsylvania Senate bid Pennsylvania’s high-profile Senate race is MORE taking shapeThe TV celebrity – a Trumpish candidate with a medical degree – has sparked much controversy on his show and has promoted false cures, including the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID. The Republican establishment has little use for him. They favor David McCormick, a wealthy hedge fund manager and former Treasury officer who – modeled after Virginia Gov. Glen YoungkinGlenn YoungkinYoungkin’s optional mask order has been blocked by Judge Cruz and is defending Youngkin from ‘Dem Karens’ in Alexandria grocery store visit – is considered a more respectable version of Trump. McCormick has won the support of Trump’s top political adviser. Stefan MuellerStephen Miller These people were subpoenaed by the January 6th panel. Kayleigh McEnany delivered text messages to Jan. 6 panel: report. Are Donald Trump’s legal walls closing? MOREwhom the Left considers a hate monger and who doesn’t exude seriousness.

November will likely decide who emerges from the rough primaries the least damaged.

A similar story emerges in the Ohio primary on May 3, where half a dozen moneyed Republicans find themselves in a scorched-earth battle. Former Treasurer and previously unsuccessful Senate candidate Josh Mandel, a man who has never been shy of principle, is the frontrunner, drawing significant support from right-wing groups. A top contender is best-selling author JD Vance – “Hillbilly Elegy” – with deep-pocketed backing from Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Once an anti-Trump moderate conservative, Vance has taken a sharp right turn and has garnered the support of the right-wing rep who is spreading conspiracies. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP Struggles to Downplay Threat of Capitol Riot The Memo: Now What for Anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she is meeting with Trump in Florida ‘soon’ MORE (R-Ga.).

Ohio has become a very republican state. But if one of those wealthy fellow Republicans doesn’t snap by at the top, Democrats believe their designated nominee, Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanOhio Republican Bernie Moreno suspends Senate campaign Five big takeaways from FEC year-end filings Cooper becomes latest House Democrat not to seek re-election MORE, which appeals to some working-class Buckeyes who voted Republicans, has a shot in the fall after a GOP bloodbath. The race is for the seat of retired GOP Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOhio Republican Bernie Moreno Suspends Senate Campaign Overnight Defense & National Security – Governors Notified About Vaccination Mandate Hillicon Valley – Presented by Cisco – App bill gains MORE momentum.

Likewise in North Carolina, where a primary is scheduled for May 17th. Republicans should be preferred to retain the retired GOP senator’s seat. Richard BurrRichard Mauze Burr’s confirmation of the next FDA commissioner is a matter of national readiness. Healthcare overnight – US tops 900,000 COVID-19 deaths Paul promises Fauci probe if Republicans take Senate MORE — but one factor might be how bitter the Republican primary is between the Trump-backed Rep. Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddTrump under fire over Tennessee primary Nick Mark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MOREformer Governor Pat McCrory and ex-Congressman and Baptist pastor Markus WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerTrump under fire for Tennessee primary nod The Hill’s Morning Report – Democrats sense opportunity with SCOTUS vacancy Mark Walker to stay MORE in North Carolina Senate race will be in the next three months.

Cheri Beasley, former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, has a clear field for the Democratic nomination. She raises more money than any Republican.

Wisconsin is the state with the most vulnerable Republican incumbent: the two-year senator. RonJohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonMilwaukee-Bucks executive-turned-Democratic Senate nominee releases economic plan Jewish groups raise alarm as anti-vaccine mandate movement invokes Holocaust Former Senate nominee launches bid for Wisconsin governor MORE. In polls, his approval ratings are under water as he has embraced some wacky conspiracy theories and has been accused of pushing legislation to enrich himself financially. He’s a joke to many in the Senate, but twice before that – when he won – he was an underdog. An additional fact that might hurt him: He’s breaking a promise not to run for a third term.

Wisconsin Democrats are almost a mirror image of Pennsylvania, with Lt. gov. Mandela Barnes, an advocate of single-payer health insurance and other left-wing causes, who is the clear front-runner in the August 17 primary. That would be a tough sell in the general election despite fighting as a mainstream Liberal. Two other contenders who can put their own money into the competition are State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who is supported by women’s groups, and Alex Lasry, whose family owns the Milwaukee Bucks professional basketball team.

In the House of Representatives, with outrageously rigged seats, there aren’t many competitive districts — so primary results matter less for the general election. Two states where legal challenges could force fairer maps could change that in some seats: North Carolina and Ohio.

And two GOP freshmen – Peter MeierPeter MeijerHillicon Valley — YouTube permanently bans Dan Bongino Amazon backs legislation to end federal marijuana ban Michigan Republicans sue over US House district lines MORE from Michigan and Nancy MaceNancy MaceOn The Money – No SALT and Maybe No Deal Hillicon Valley – YouTube Permanently Bans Dan Bongino Amazon Backs Laws To End Federal Marijuana Ban MORE in South Carolina — were among the few Republicans who opposed Trump in January last year. This has produced challengers who would likely be weaker in a general election.

Without changing the conditions, however, most candidates with a “D” next to their name are threatened with a severe crash.

Al Hunt is the former Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg News. He was previously a reporter, bureau chief and editor in Washington for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter of a century he wrote a column on politics for the Wall Street Journal, then The International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts the Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.

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