Partisan struggle for Senate control in’24 could benefit Mississippi

Published 6:35 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

By Sid Salter

Headed into the 2024 election cycle, 48 Democrats and three independent U.S. senators who caucus with them give the Democratic Party a narrow 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate over the 49 Republicans. Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris is also present and can cast her vote in case of a tie. 

With the recent announcement by veteran Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin that he won’t seek re-election from his conservative state, Republicans feel emboldened that they will pick up Manchin’s seat. From there, the political math gets increasingly favorable for the GOP in that the Dems will be defending 23 of the total 34 Senate seats contested on the 2024 ballot. 

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Moreover, three of those Democratic Senate seats are in states carried by Donald Trump in 2016 and 2024. Four more of those seats are in swing states won narrowly by Joe Biden in 2020. 

Those developments create a hotly contested battle for control of the U.S. Senate against the backdrop of a presidential campaign that could feature a 2020 election rematch between incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden, 81, against Trump, 77.  

The presidential race means the 2024 U.S. Senate races will intensify in presidential battleground states like Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. With Manchin’s retirement, Democrats are already looking to target Republicans in states like Texas and Florida, where incumbents like U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Rick Scott are perceived to be vulnerable. 

So how does the partisan struggle for U.S. Senate control impact Mississippi? Why does it matter? 

Representing Mississippi in the Senate since 2007, senior Mississippi U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, currently is the ranking GOP member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and also a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee (he served previously as chairman and ranking member for the 116th and 117th Congresses, respectively. Wicker also serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Rules and Administration Committee. 

If the Senate flips to Republican control, Wicker becomes chairman of the Armed Services Committee. How big a deal is that for Mississippi’s economy? Simply put, only Walmart employs more Mississippians than Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. Wicker is a longtime champion of expanding the nation’s U.S. Navy and commercial maritime fleets with American-built ships. 

Every military base in the state, Mississippi’s robust Army and Air National Guard and Reserve units, federally funded defense research enterprises, and the state’s commercial defense contracting manufacturers and the jobs they represent would benefit.  

Wicker is also among the few in the Senate who actually served in the military. He’s a veteran of active-duty service in the U.S. Air Force and retired from the Air Force Reserve in 2004 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. 

Likewise, a flip to Republican control of the Senate would enable Mississippi’s junior U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Brookhaven, to do more for her home state. Hyde-Smith holds seats on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, Agriculture Committee, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Rules and Administration Committee, representing strong assignments for a senator whose seniority began in 2018. 

Hyde-Smith’s committee and subcommittee assignments give her exceptional clout on agricultural issues. A Senate flip to the GOP would elevate and strengthen that influence. 

Wicker faces re-election in 2024 and has already drawn two GOP primary opponents in DeSoto County State Rep. Dan Eubanks and retired U.S. Marine Col. Ghannon Burton of Tishomingo County. Vicksburg attorney Ty Pinkins has declared for the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Wicker. Hyde-Smith will not face re-election until 2026. 

Headed into the campaign, Wicker on Sept. 30 reported having raised $5.85 million for the run with over $4.9 million cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission records.z 

Many political dominoes still have to fall over the next year, but Mississippi’s two Republican senators are poised to rise if the GOP gains Senate control.  

 Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at