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The 5 states that will likely determine the fate of the U.S. Senate

It’s widely believed that the House of Representatives will go Republican in the fall. But which way the Senate will go is less certain

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Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., speaks at a news conference following a luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 8, 2022.

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., right, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, left, speaks at a news conference following a Democratic policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 8, 2022. Political analysts believe the U.S. House of Representatives will likely be controlled by Republicans after the 2022 midterm elections. But the fate of the Senate is less certain.

Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Political analysts believe the U.S. House of Representatives will likely be controlled by Republicans after the 2022 midterm elections. But the fate of the Senate is less certain.

Five states in particular are toss-ups — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — according to The New York Times, which cites the Cook Political Report.

Here’s the rundown:

Arizona (primaries will take place Aug. 2)

Democratic incumbent and former astronaut Sen. Mark Kelly — who flipped a red seat blue by a narrow margin in 2020 — will square off against an as-yet-unknown Republican contender in November. While the current field of Republican candidates is crowded — and the fight between them is heated — a June survey conducted by Public Policy Polling put Trump-endorsed venture capitalist Blake Masters as the front-runner. Prior to Trump’s endorsement, Masters was ranked third; that he has vaulted to the top of the list points to Trump’s continued sway with Republicans. 


Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., questions Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen as she testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing, May 10, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Herschel Walker will represent the Republican Party in its efforts to unseat Warnock in November.

Tom Williams, Associated Press


In November, incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock — who is also a pastor and leads the same Atlanta church that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. co-pastored — will face a former football star, the Trump-backed Republican candidate Herschel Walker.

So far, controversy related to Walker’s family life hasn’t dampened Republican enthusiasm for Walker, who has the backing of 93% of Georgia’s Republican voters according to Quinnipiac University’s latest poll. Walker was also well-received at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, last month, executive director Tim Head told the Deseret News

Though Walker is popular with his own party, Warnock has pulled ahead in Quinnipiac University’s poll. He has a commanding 10-point lead.


Republican Nevada Senate candidate Adam Laxalt meets with supporters during a campaign event on June 11, 2022, in Las Vegas. The U.S. Senate race in Nevada between Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto and Laxalt is shaping up as one of the most competitive in the country.

John Locher, Associated Press


Trump-endorsed former Attorney General Adam Laxalt won the Republican primary last month. In November, he’ll be up against Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the state’s first Latina senator. Though a recent poll put Laxalt in the lead, that hypothetical victory is so small it falls within the margin of error, NBC News reported.  

The mudslinging has begun already in the lead up to November’s vote, with Cortez Masto’s spokesman calling Laxalt “corrupt” and Laxalt’s camp blaming Joe Biden and fellow Democrat Cortez Masto for inflation and runaway gas prices. 


Mehmet Oz, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks at a primary night election gathering in Newtown, Pa., May 17, 2022.

Ted Shaffrey, Associated Press


The Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is trying to flip a red seat blue and has called his “the most important race in the country,” arguing that control of the Senate will come down to Pennsylvania. Fetterman suffered a setback when he had a stroke in May. He has since recovered and is doing well in the polls, too, with a nine-point lead over celebrity physician and Republican Senate candidate, Mehmet Oz. 

Oz, who is Turkish American and who won the primary after getting Trump’s endorsement, has faced criticism for diving into Pennsylvania’s politics when he only recently moved to the state from New Jersey, where he lived for decades.  


Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 8, 2022.

Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Wisconsin (primaries will be held Aug. 9)

There are a number of Democratic contenders who want to grab the seat of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. A poll showed Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski leading the Democratic primary pack — and when voters learn about her platform, she comes out ahead of Johnson, too, Public Policy Polling found. 

Johnson is under fire for his attempt to deliver fake electors to then-Vice President Mike Pence on Jan. 6, 2021 — a scheme that might cost him votes.

Other states to watch:

If we move beyond the toss-ups to states that Cook Political Report rank as leaning Democrat or Republican, there are a few more states that could surprise the country.

While New Hampshire leans Democrat, it isn’t locked up. Not only did Democratic incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan win by only a razor-thin margin in 2016, The University of New Hampshire’s Survey Center puts Hassan in a tie with four Republican Senate hopefuls.

In both New Hampshire and the toss-up state of Arizona, incumbent Democratic senators have made attempts to break away from Biden, noted Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter, with Hassan boasting “of her bipartisan bonafides” in an ad.

Other states that could end up with close Senate races are the presidential battleground states of Florida, North Carolina and Ohio — all of which currently lean red but have a long blue legacy. (Remember John Edwards? Before his failed presidential run, he was a Democratic senator from North Carolina. Trump won North Carolina by a narrow margin in 2020, and other North Carolina political races have been just as tight.)