Missouri Senate: Remains Solid Republican for Now

March 8, 2021 · 1:05 PM EST

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt announced he will not seek re-election in Missouri, setting off a scramble to replace him on the Republican side and leaving Democrats with only a marginally better takeover opportunity at this early stage of the cycle.

Blunt is the fifth Republican senator to announce he will not seek re-election, joining Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Richard Shelby of Alabama. At 87 years old, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is a retirement possibility, and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson is contemplating not running again as well. No Democrats have announced they will not seek re-election.

For some perspective, five retirements is the most a party has had in a cycle since Democrats had seven senators not seek re-election in 2012 (including Connecticut's Joe Lieberman). Both parties each had six senators retire in 2010, according to Vital Statistics on Congress.

Remember it is unwise to draw dramatic conclusions simply from which party has more open Senate seats. The number of Senate retirements is not predictive of the final gain or loss of Senate seats that cycle. 

In 2020, Republicans outpaced Democrats in Senate retirements and lost control of the chamber. But none of the four seats Republicans lost came from an open seat. In 2018, Republicans had more Senate retirements than Democrats and the GOP gained two seats. Democrats had more Senate retirements in 2016 and gained two seats.

The location of the state, and its partisanship, is more important than the open seat itself.

We did not consider Missouri a battleground before Blunt's decision and do not consider it a battleground after his decision, at least not yet. Open seats can make things more complicated for the Republicans, and a messy primary seems inevitable. But Blunt not seeking re-election does not automatically make the seat vulnerable. 

The situation is somewhat similar to Ohio, where Portman isn’t running again. But unlike in Ohio, the Democratic bench in Missouri is sparse. The party’s biggest names — former Sen. Claire McCaskill, 2016 Senate nominee/former state Secretary of State Jason Kander, and state auditor/2020 gubernatorial nominee Nicole Galloway — have already ruled out runs.

The only Democrat currently in the race is former state Sen. Scott Sifton, who represented a St. Louis state Senate district from 2013 to 2021.

Potential Republican candidates include former Gov. Eric Greitens, Rep. Ann Wagner, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt, state Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (son of the former senator and governor), retired NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. Greitens resigned office in disgrace in May 2018, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t win a statewide race again.

President Donald Trump won the Show Me State by 15 points in 2020 and more than 18 points in 2016. According to Inside Elections Baseline metric, Republicans have a 56-41 percent advantage, which means an average GOP candidate would defeat an average Democratic candidate by 15 points. Kander gave Blunt a serious challenge in 2016, but the senator still prevailed by 3 points. 

Each party has four vulnerable seats on the Senate battleground and Republicans just need to gain a single seat to get back into the majority.