A new report finds that Republicans could pick up as many as eight U.S. Senate seats currently held by Democrats in the 2018 midterms, while the Democrats could nab two from the GOP.
With the swearing in of Alabama Democrat Sen. Doug Jones on Wednesday, speculation is growing what the party breakdown will be after this November’s elections.
Republicans currently hold a narrow 51 to 49 majority, but CNN reported the GOP has a good opportunity to increase that margin, with potentially a net gain of six senators.
The Democrats will be defending 24 seats, while the GOP have just eight in play. Of the 10 most likely seats to switch parties in 2018, only two of them are currently held by Republicans.
The eight the GOP has the possibility to pick up include those held by Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, who was just sworn in on Wednesday replacing Al Franken.
The Cook Political Report identified Donnelly, McCaskill, Manchin and Smith as being particularly vulnerable, rating their races a “toss-up.”
President Donald Trump carried the first three senators’ states handily in 2016: Indiana by 19 percent, Missouri by 18 percent and West Virginia by a whopping 42 points. Clinton won Minnesota by 1.5 percent, but Smith’s status as a newcomer will make her chances more tenuous.
Longtime Indiana political watcher and office holder Nate LaMar told The Western Journal, while the GOP primary is “already quite a blood-bath, its winner should have an edge in November.”
“This is because Donnelly was elected in a fluke, after venerable U.S. Senator Richard Lugar was upset in the 2012 GOP primary,” LaMar added, who currently serves as president of the Henry County Council. “While Donnelly is moderate by the standards of Democrats at the national level, his voting record is a little too left of conservative Indiana.”
The other vulnerable Democrat senators are all in states that Trump won.
Meanwhile according to CNN, the Republicans only have two seats that likely will be difficult to defend: Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s, who announced his retirement last fall, and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller’s, who is seeking re-election.
Trump won the Grand Canyon State by 3.5 points in 2016, however, Democrat Congresswoman Krysten Sinema is considered a formidable contender.
Her most likely GOP opponent is former state senator Kelli Ward. The physician garnered statewide name recognition in 2016 by challenging Sen. John McCain in the Republican primary. Ward lost the race, but held the five-term senator to his lowest re-election bid tally at 52 percent.
A poll released in November found Sinema with a 7-point lead over Ward, at 34 to 27 percent; however, 39 percent responded as being undecided or declining to answer.
Meanwhile in Nevada, Heller is being challenged from the right by Danny Tarkanian in the GOP primary, who has charged the senator with not being supportive enough of Trump. A poll published in October found Tarkanian with a 6-point lead.
If Heller should prevail in the primary, he faces Congresswoman Jacky Rosen. Clinton carried the state by two points in 2016. Cook lists the race as a “toss-up.”
Though midterm elections generally favor the party not holding the White House, Trump and the Republicans appear to be in a strong position to buck that trend this year.
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