McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that the midterm elections will be "very challenging" for Republicans, predicting that both chambers are in play. 

"I think the safest place to be is just to say that this is going to be a very challenging election, and I don’t think we know in May ... whether it’s Category 3, 4 or 5," he told The Washington Post

He added that, historically, the party in power loses seats during off-year elections. 

“It’s pretty hard to deny the history of off-year elections, particularly off-year elections two years into the first term,” McConnell said. 

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Though control of the House is widely considered to be in play heading into November, Republicans face a more favorable map in their quest to keep control of the Senate.

Republicans have a narrow 51-49 majority in the chamber and face a slate of nasty primary fights. 

But Democrats are defending roughly two dozen seats in November, including several in red and purple states won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE in 2016. Trump, during his closed-door meeting with Republicans this week, specifically name-checked Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyPolling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Overnight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions MORE (W.Va.). 

McConnell, however, told the Post that control of the Senate could be determined, in part, by the outcome of battles for seats currently held by Republicans. 

In addition to Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida, where Republicans want to unseat Democratic incumbents, McConnell also pointed to the Senate battles in Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee. 

GOP Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Jacky Rosen hits Dean Heller over health care in first negative ad GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh MORE is running for reelection in Nevada while GOP Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials MORE (Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials MORE (Ariz.) are retiring, sparking fights for who will replace them.

"By any objective standard, those are the seats that are likely to be in play,” McConnell told the Post. 

The Senate GOP leader did not, however, mention Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Democratic Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Dems fume as Trump's consumer bureau pick refuses to discuss role in border policy MORE, Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyOvernight Health Care: Trump officials explore importing prescription drugs | Key ObamaCare, drug pricing regs under review | GOP looks to blunt attacks on rising premiums | Merck to lower some drug prices Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Congress should build upon the ABLE Act, giving more Americans with disabilities access to financial tools MORE Jr. and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas Senate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds MORE, respectively, are running for reelection in states won by Trump.