Five Senators remain undecided on re-election plans

Five Senators remain undecided on re-election plans
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The clock is ticking and there are still five hold-outs in the Senate who are mum on their re-election plans. Four Republicans and one Democrat have yet to announce if they will seek re-election. This comes at a time that Republicans are hopeful of flipping the Senate back to Republican control and Democrats are hopeful of flipping some GOP-held seats.

Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) is the only Democrat who has not announced his plans. He wants to wait until this winter before making his intentions clear. The Republicans in question are Sens. Ron Johnson (WI), Chuck Grassley (IA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Minority Whip John Thune (SD). Republicans are defending five seats – in North Carolina with Senator Burr’s retirement, and Pennsylvania with Senator Toomey’s retirement, as well as in Ohio, Alabama, and Missouri.

Vermont is as blue of a state as it gets in federal seats so it’s no biggie that Leahy is taking his sweet time in deciding if he will or will not seek re-election. If he does and completes another six-year term, he’ll hold the record for all-time senate service. Known for having a very healthy ego, if I was betting, I’d say the temptation to try to break the record would be too irresistible to turn down. The only downside I see is his advanced age and possible health concerns. He’s 81 years old now and in January, while presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial, he was hospitalized. Some Vermont Republicans would like to see Republican Governor Phil Scott run but Leahy says Scott has already endorsed him. Why do Republicans endorse Democrats? Leahy also says that polling shows him comfortably positioned for re-election.

Ron Johnson is advising Republicans who are up for re-election to not vote with Democrats on anything, especially on bills like the infrastructure monstrosity some just helped Democrats pass.

“I’m dead serious. This is not helpful. If you want to retain a U.S. Senate seat in Republican hands in Wisconsin, you don’t participate in passing Part One of the ‘Green New Deal,’” Johnson said in a recent interview. Summing up his mood as he mulls a third term, he added, “I’m not happy.”

Here’s right on this. Senators voted in favor of the infrastructure because they are mired in the pre-2016 mentality. For decades, Republicans went along with Democrats to get along. It was a necessity before the Republican Revolution in the 90s, which broke Democrat majority rule that lasted 40 years, but since then it’s been a hard lesson for some Republicans to learn – Democrats never compromise with Republicans, it’s a one-way street. The Republicans who voted for the $1T infrastructure bill did so thinking that it will help their re-election chances whether now or down the road. Johnson is justified in his frustration. The passage of that bill allowed Bernie Sanders to bring forward his $3.5T socialist wish list – the human infrastructure bill.

Biden won Wisconsin in 2020 and Democrats are eager to flip Johnson’s seat. Johnson has more than $1M in fundraising from the last quarter which happened without him “lifting a finger”. Wisconsin is an important swing state. It’s seen as the most competitive seat.

Chuck Grassley may retire and he’s another who is in his 80s and has served for many years. He’s older than Leahy and in his seventh term. His retirement could make Iowa a tight race. Some strategists worry that Lisa Murkowski could be facing a tough re-election bid. If she doesn’t run, they worry that her seat will go to the Democrats, made possible by Alaska’s new election system. We know she’s being targeted by Trump and his allies. So is John Thune, though Thune voted against the infrastructure bill he helped negotiate in the bipartisan committee. Did Trump’s very vocal opposition to the bill have anything to do with that? Thune is a potential successor to McConnell. Maybe he will find that possibility too good to pass up.

Grassley said he’ll decide by October. Rick Scott, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair, says he’s confident Republicans will hold all of these seats. It’s his job to say that but Senator Braun agrees, too. Both Grassley and Johnson have drawn challengers already.

“The indication from what most do here is: They’ll run again,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “I would guess that three out of the four [Republicans] would end up running, including Johnson.”

Braun added that Grassley is a special case, considering his age of 87 years: “I know what I’d be doing. I’d be back on the farm picking weeds at least. Doing something. I would not be here.”

With the way Biden is performing and the rise of inflation, as well as his habit of leaning into an authoritarian-style of governing, it should be a perfect storm in 2022 for Republicans to take back both the House and the Senate. Biden could use a good shellacking.

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