The next election is still two years away, but if you asked me today who will win the Senate in 2024, I would say Republicans. Why? It doesn’t have anything to do with the polls, or the candidates, or the economy. It’s because the 2024 Senate map is just really bad for Democrats. Bad map! Bad map!
But what does it even mean for a map to be good or bad, anyway? What’s the deal with the 2024 Senate map?
As you might’ve learned in middle school civics, the Senate has 100 members — two from each state. So unlike the House, whose districts can get redrawn and gerrymandered to within an inch of their lives, the Senate map should always be the same, right?
Wrong! Because everything has to be complicated in American politics, senators serve six-year terms, and they’re staggered — which means only about one-third of Senate seats are on the ballot every two years. And the seats that just happen to be up in a given year can give a big advantage to one party.
In 2024, that party is Republicans. And that’s simply because Democrats are defending a lot more seats. Of the 34 Senate seats up for election in 2024, Democrats (including independents who caucus with Democrats) currently hold 23, while Republicans hold only 11. That’s much worse for Democrats than some recent election cycles. Take 2022, when Republicans were defending 21 Senate seats and Democrats were defending just 14. Or look at 2020, when Republicans were defending 23 seats and Democrats were defending just 12.
But it’s not enough to just look at how many seats each party is defending; it wouldn’t be such a big deal if those Democratic seats were all in safely blue states. That’s why I invented a metric called FRITZ seats, named after former Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings of South Carolina. “FRITZ” stands for “fighting races in terrible zones,” and a FRITZ seat is when a party is defending a seat in enemy territory — like a Democratic senator in a red state.
By this metric, the 2024 Senate map is even worse for Democrats. They have a whopping eight FRITZ seats up for election next year. That includes some of the usual swing states like Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. But it also includes some redder states like Arizona and Ohio. Democrats even have two senators up for reelection in very red states: Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Jon Tester in Montana.
On the flip side, the GOP has zero FRITZ seats on the ballot in 2024. The bluest states Republicans are defending are Florida and Texas, and they’re pretty red.
So it’s simple math here, really. There are eight Democratic seats that Republicans could plausibly flip in 2024, whereas Democrats would be lucky to flip even two. And remember, Democrats currently have only a 51-49 majority in the Senate, meaning Republicans need to flip just two more seats than Democrats to gain control (or, if they win the White House, just one seat, since the vice president is the tie-breaking vote).
Of course, cartography isn’t destiny. Pretty much everything else about the 2024 election is still up in the air, like who runs, or which way the political winds will be blowing. Anything can happen. But on paper, Republicans start out with a big advantage.