The 2022 midterms officially kicked off last month when Texas voters went to the polls for the first primary election. A slew of additional primaries will take place nationwide in the coming weeks, setting the stage for election day, Nov. 8, when key Senate seats are up for grabs. Also at stake will be all seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, since members have to be reelected every two years.

This year’s midterms are critical for a few reasons, according to political experts. For one, they serve as a thermometer that can forecast the temperature of the next presidential election. But more importantly, they could potentially deliver both the Senate and House to the Republican Party.

Currently, the Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate, thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to cast a tie-breaking vote. The House is also under Democratic control. 

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Additionally, the fate of Donald Trump-endorsed candidates in the midterms will be an early indicator of how the former president is now seen by voters and by the Republican Party, more broadly.

Here are key Senate races to watch, according to political analysts. You’ll recognize many of the states as battleground states in recent presidential elections:

Then-U.S. Senate candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock waves during a rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 in Columbus, Ga. with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. | Ben Gray, Associated Press
  • Nevada: Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is running for reelection against Republican candidate Adam Laxalt who, despite a failed bid for Nevada governor in 2018, has been endorsed by Trump. Laxalt is a former attorney general who tried to overturn the 2020 election results in his state and who claims that the election was “rigged,” NBC News reported. Already, Laxalt is forming a strategy to stymie election fraud in his own race, according to The New York Times. 

Observers have pointed out that contesting election results puts Laxalt (and, presumably, other Republicans) in something of a bind as they question the system on the one hand while simultaneously urging Republicans to trust in the voting process and cast their ballots for midterms on the other. 

  • New Hampshire: Here, Republicans hope to snag the seat of Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan, who won her Senate seat by the slimmest of margins — 1,000 votes — back in 2016.
  • North Carolina: The retirement of Republican Sen. Richard Burr opened up a crowded and contentious Republican primary race in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since 2008. Trump-endorsed candidate Ted Budd is leading in polls and he also has the support of Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, a high-profile, hardline conservative. But former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has raised more money for his campaign. However, funds don’t always add up to a win. 

On the Democrats’ side is Cheri Beasley, the former chief justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court. She was the first Black woman to hold that position. If she wins the Senate seat, she would make history again as North Carolina’s first Black senator

But, depending on who wins the Republican primary, Democrats could be in for a tough fight. Among the Republicans vying for the nomination are Josh Mandel, a Jewish conservative and former marine who served as Ohio’s treasurer. Although Mandel bills himself as pro-gun, pro-God and pro-Trump, the former president is backing J.D. Vance, author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” to the chagrin of some Republicans. 

J.D. Vance, a Republican running for an open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, speaks to reporters following a debate with other Republicans at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, March 28, 2022. Former President Donald Trump endorsed the “Hillbilly Elegy” author in Ohio’s competitive Republican Senate primary, ending months of jockeying in a race where his backing could be pivotal. | Paul Vernon, Associated Press
  • Pennsylvania: Ahead of the 2020 election, an observer remarked, “If Pennsylvania goes, so will go the country.” This proved correct: Biden won both the state and the presidency just as Trump had in 2016. So all eyes are on the state’s Senate fight this year. 

The Democratic frontrunner is John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania who sports a goatee, supports both state and federal legalization of marijuana and takes to the campaign trail in his gym shorts and black pickup truck. Fetterman is reaching out to rural Democrats who are in overwhelmingly red counties, an approach that Republican critics say is pointless. 

Leading the bevy of Republican primary candidates are Mehmet Oz and David McCormick, both of whom hail from out of state. Turkish American Oz is a celebrity physician and television personality who hosted “The Dr. Oz Show”; McCormick is a hedge fund CEO. Both have poured money into their campaigns but it was Oz who clinched Trump’s endorsement.