Preview of 2024 Senate races shows Manchin seat 'clearest Republican takeover opportunity'

There are 34 Senate races next year with Democrats defending 23 and Republicans defending 11.

A first round of projections for 2024 Senate races were released Tuesday with one showing West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin the most vulnerable Democrat for a Republican defeat.

Pollsters Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the Manchin seat as “lean Republican,” the high level of likely takeover. 

"Of the current Democratic seats, West Virginia starts as the clearest Republican takeover opportunity,” Sabato pollster Kyle Kondik writes. "The rating that likely stands out the most is West Virginia, where Sen. Joe Manchin starts out in a 'leans Republican' race. It is fairly unusual for us to start an incumbent as an underdog, but we think it’s warranted in this instance.” 

Kondick first points out Manchin, as recently as Sunday, has declined to say whether he’ll see a third term, then argues, "West Virginia has just become so, so Republican."

He also notes Republican Donald Trump won the state by roughly 40 points in both of his presidential bids.

Another factor is Manchin "squeaked” out a 2018 reelection win by roughly just a 3-point margin "against a mediocre opponent ...  in the good Democratic midterm environment," Kondick also writes.

On 2024, Kondik writes: "In a presidential year where the GOP nominee appears likely to win West Virginia by another landslide, we are skeptical of Manchin’s ability to generate the immense amount of crossover he will need," citing recent polling that show his disapproval rating is at 53%. 

The pollsters, at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, also concluded the three other seats Democratic must defend – Arizona, Montana, and Ohio – are early "toss-ups" with Republicans.

There are 34 Senate races next year. Democrats are defending 23, while Republicans are defending 11.