Senate challengers had their first big opportunity to impress last week, with first quarter fundraising reports due to the Federal Election Commission. Those who are proud of their hauls often announce them ahead of time, sometimes eager to keep would-be primary challengers at bay. And for incumbents, early fundraising numbers are an indication of how seriously they’re taking their races (or whether they’re even planning on running).
Retirement remains a big question in Wisconsin, where GOP Sen. Ron Johnson has not said what his plans are. Open seats often make defending the seat more perilous (see Missouri) but Democrats are feeling increasingly confident that running against the conspiracy-peddling Johnson is an attractive option, and Wisconsin retains its spot as No. 3 on this list.
The start of the second fundraising quarter likely means there’ll be a wave of new candidate announcements soon. But one factor to watch in several of these states is whether the top talent instead decides to go for the gubernatorial contests, which are often less nationalized (read: partisan) affairs, making it easier to be elected as a Democrat in a red state or a Republican in a blue state.
Here is CNN’s second ranking of the 10 seats most likely to flip in 2022:
Incumbent: Republican Pat Toomey (retiring)
Incumbent: Democrat Raphael Warnock
Incumbent: Republican Ron Johnson
4. North Carolina
Incumbent: Republican Richard Burr (retiring)
Incumbent: Democrat Mark Kelly
Incumbent: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto
7. New Hampshire
Incumbent: Democrat Maggie Hassan
Republicans feel increasingly bullish about the Granite State because of the chance that Gov. Chris Sununu will enter the race. But he hasn’t yet, which means this race is staying where it is on the list for now. New Hampshire voted for Biden last fall — by a significantly larger margin than it did for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of the most competitive seats Democrats are defending, it’s the one that Biden carried the most comfortably. That said, Sununu has the name recognition and profile to make this a real race for first-term Sen. Maggie Hassan, who raised nearly $3 million in the first quarter. The GOP governor has likely frozen the field until he makes anything official, which he has said he wouldn’t do until after the end of the legislative session in June. There’s plenty of time for the field to take shape here too — New Hampshire is another state with a late primary — but if and when Sununu gets in, expect this race to get much more competitive.
Incumbent: Republican Rob Portman (retiring)
While the Democratic field may be shrinking here, the Republican field is growing bigger — and messier — as candidates trip over each other to claim the Trump mantle in a state he won comfortably twice. The most public sparring has been between former state Treasurer Josh Mandel and former state party chair Jane Timken, but there are others who are tying themselves to the former President, too. Businessman Bernie Moreno recently announced his campaign, touting the involvement of Kellyanne Conway and some other former Trump officials. Businessman Mike Gibbons, who lost the 2018 primary to Mandel, launched another bid. And members of the delegation are still eyeing the race, like Rep. Mike Turner, who recently tweeted a polished bio video. Another big name who could shake up the race is “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance. If he runs, he’ll benefit from a super PAC that Peter Thiel has already kicked $10 million into. On the Democratic side, former State Health Director Amy Acton, a Democrat who served in a GOP administration, has passed on the race, likely leaving Rep. Tim Ryan — who hasn’t yet officially launched — the biggest name. Republicans are relieved Acton is out and feel better about running against someone with a voting record. Ryan raised $1.2 million in the first quarter — an impressive sum for a House incumbent but less than the impressive sums some Senate Democratic challengers have recently posted.
Incumbent: Republican Marco Rubio
Incumbent: Republican Roy Blunt (retiring)