Snap analysis: Manchin just made Democrats’ quest to preserve Senate majority harder

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Joe Manchin’s decision not to seek re-election makes Democrats’ quest to preserve their majority in the Senate even more difficult.

Manchin was one of three Democratic senators representing red states who are facing voters next year, and the party is not viewed as having a strong replacement candidate in West Virginia, a deeply Republican state.

In the 2020 election, West Virginia voted more than 68% for Donald Trump, his second-biggest margin of victory after Wyoming. After Manchin’s announcement on Thursday, the Cook Political Report has changed its rating of the 2024 race to “solid Republican” – the same it has given to Senate races in other deep-red states like Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming.

Related: US Democratic senator Joe Manchin will not seek re-election in 2024

The focus now shifts to Montana’s Jon Tester and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, both of whom have said they will stand again, but face difficult paths to victory. Brown, whose victory next year is essential if his party wants any chance of staying in the majority in the Senate, reacted almost immediately to Manchin’s announcement, tweeting: “It’s never been more clear that we need to win in Ohio.”

There is also the question of whether Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, will stand again in purple state Arizona, or if she will be replaced by a Democrat. The GOP may also launch offensives against incumbent Democratic senators in swing states Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and try to win the open Senate seat in Michigan.

Even if Democrats fail in West Virginia but win all the other races, they could still lose their Senate majority. That best-case scenario would give the party only 50 seats, one short of a majority, and control of the chamber would come down to whether Joe Biden wins re-election, or is replaced by a Republican.

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