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Brutal electoral map looms over Independence Day festivities for Senate Democrats

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer heads into the Fourth of July holiday knowing full well his days calling the shots in the U.S. Senate could be numbered.

The New York Democrats’ slim 51-49 seat majority in the Senate is in jeopardy. His party is defending not only defending 23 seats compared to 11 for Republicans but also defending seats in the most competitive races.

“The 2024 Senate map is still an uphill climb for Democrats, who are almost exclusively on defense and have very little margin for error given their narrow majority,” said Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst with Inside Elections, a non-partisan election tracker. Republicans have three excellent pickup opportunities in West Virginia, Ohio and Montana, while Democrats have just one pickup opportunity in Texas.”

“Democrats are also playing defense in five more states, and perhaps the best thing they have going for them is that the GOP is struggling to recruit top-tier candidates in places in Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada or Virginia,” Mr. Rubashkin said.

Indeed, Rep. Mike Gallagher recently announced he was not going to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin in the battleground state of Wisconsin, which President Biden and former President Donald Trump carried by less than a percentage point in the 2020 and 2016 elections, respectively.

Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is a possible contender, though people close to him have said that is pure speculation at this point.

Republicans are well aware of what it is like to miss an opportunity after suffering a disappointing 2022 midterm election in which the party nominated polarizing candidates that fumbled winnable races.

Looking to avoid a similar outcome, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, have been looking to field a stronger lineup of candidates this time.

They had reason to celebrate when aerospace millionaire Tim Sheehy, a former Navy Seal, announced this week he is jumping into the Montana Senate race to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester.

Mr. Sheehy, who was awarded both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star after being injured in Afghanistan, might have to fight his way first through a competitive GOP primary but he’s quickly gathering support in the party.

Mr. Tester is among the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election. 

Making matters worse — barring a twist — Mr. Tester will be running on the same ticket as President Biden, who is widely unpopular in the state, and opposite former President Donald Trump, a rock star there.

The Biden blowback and Trump stardom also pose potential challenges for Sen. Sherrod Brown in Ohio. 

First elected to the Senate in 2006, the gravely voiced Mr. Brown is seeking a fourth term in the upper chamber but has watched his state grow red over the years.

Ohio delivered 8-point victories for Mr. Trump in back-to-back presidential elections.

Like Mr. Tester in Montana, Mr. Brown is the sole Democrat sitting in statewide office in Ohio. 

He has drawn Republican challenges from state Sen. Matt Dolan, who owns a partial stake in the Cleveland Guardians, and businessman Bernie Moreno. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose also is mulling a bid.

Mr. Dolan and Mr. Moreno ran for the Senate last year. Mr. Dolan finished third, while Mr. Moreno dropped out of the race after meeting with Mr. Trump.

Republicans scored another top recruit in April when Gov. Jim Justice announced he was running to replace Democratic Sen. Joseph Manchin III in West Virginia.

Mr. Manchin has been coy about his re-election plans in a state Mr. Trump carried by nearly 40 percentage points in 2020.

The GOP primary race also features Rep. Alexander Mooney, who has the support of the Club for Growth, a conservative group backing low-tax and small-government policies. Mr. Mooney also has the backing of Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans are urging David McCormick, the former hedge fund CEO who lost the Senate GOP primary last year by less than 1,000 votes to TV doctor Mehmet Oz, to run to unseat Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr.

Republicans also are waiting to see how things shake up in Arizona where Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has yet to announce whether she plans to seek re-election after switching her party affiliation late last year from Democrat to independent.

Mark Lamb, sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, jumped into the race in the spring. Most of the political world, however, is waiting to see whether Kari Lake will enter the race.

Ms. Lake would be the clear frontrunner in the GOP primary race. The former newscaster cultivated a loyal following of supporters last year during her failed Trump-inspired gubernatorial bid for governor.

Ms. Sinema also is defending her left flank. 

Rep. Ruben Gallego is running for the Democratic nomination.

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