10 Senate seats that could flip in 2018

10 Senate seats that could flip in 2018
© Greg Nash

Democrats reeling from a devastating election face a daunting task: the 2018 Senate map.

It favors Republicans in a big way. The GOP will be defending just eight seats, while Democrats must fight for 23 — plus another two held by independents who caucus with Democrats.

ADVERTISEMENT
What’s worse is the fact that many of the seats they must defend are in states won by Republican Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOPINION: Dear media, Americans don't care about Obama's legacy Make America’s classroom and workplaces safe again Preet Bharara emailed DOJ about phone call from Trump: report MORE.

Midterm elections for sitting presidents are historically challenging. Democrats in the Senate are hoping to find some political momentum for 2018 given the difficult playing ground.  

Here are 10 Senate seats that could flip, in alphabetical order:

 

Bill NelsonBill NelsonSenate panel unveils aviation bill with consumer protections, drone fix Driverless cars speed onto political agenda Biden leaves options on table for another White House bid MORE  (D-Fla.)

Democrats came into 2016 bullish about the Sunshine State.

But Republican incumbent Marco RubioMarco RubioWill Republicans stand up to the NRA's insurrection rhetoric? The Hill's Whip List: Senate ObamaCare repeal bill Ivanka Trump turns to House GOP on paid family leave MORE’s decision to run for reelection cleared the muddled field and, ultimately, a surge in rural Republican voters outpaced Democrats’ gains in cities and with Hispanics. When the dust settled, Trump won by 1 percentage point, while Rubio held on to his seat by 8 points. 

Nelson, a three-term senator, is a well-known commodity in Florida, having held public office there since 1972. And he starts with a net 14-point approval rating, according to an October poll from Public Policy Polling. 

Possible challengers could include term-limited Gov. Rick Scott (R), a Trump ally, or any of the politicians who eyed the seat in 2016, including outgoing GOP Reps. David Jolly or Ron DeSantis.

Millionaire Carlos Beruff and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, both 2016 candidates, could also jump in. But the two are Scott allies, so it’s unlikely either would challenge the governor should he decide to run.

 

Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyLawmakers sport LSU gear at baseball game in honor of Scalise Senate votes to continue arming Saudis As Yemenis suffer the consequences Overnight Defense: Mattis defends Trump budget | Senate rejects effort to block Saudi deal | Boeing to cut 50 executive jobs MORE (D-Ind.)

No state’s Senate race changed more in 2016 than Indiana’s. Republicans started the cycle looking likely to keep control of outgoing Sen. Dan CoatsDan CoatsCoats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe Trump suggested top intel officials refute collusion with Russians: report Press: Worse than Nixon MORE’s seat with Democratic Rep. Barron Hill in the race. Then it seemed destined to go Democratic once Hill dropped out and former Sen. Evan Bayh jumped in. 

But a flurry of damaging stories and revelations stunted Bayh’s comeback, giving Rep. Todd YoungTodd YoungSenate votes to continue arming Saudis As Yemenis suffer the consequences Overnight Defense: Mattis defends Trump budget | Senate rejects effort to block Saudi deal | Boeing to cut 50 executive jobs Overnight Finance: GOP chair floats phasing in border tax | Treasury offers first proposal to roll back Dodd-Frank | Mnuchin's idea of a 'good shutdown' MORE a 10-point win behind Trump’s 19-point victory. 

Donnelly seemed to have an uphill battle against Sen. Richard Lugar (R) in 2012, until the incumbent was toppled by former Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Look for a much tighter race now, with potential GOP candidates such as Reps. Luke Messer, Susan BrooksSusan BrooksBipartisan lawmakers give blood in honor of Scalise Female lawmakers flee House for higher office, retirement Overnight Cybersecurity: Nunes recuses himself amid ethics probe | Surveillance uproar puts GOP in a bind | Dem bill would reinstate internet privacy rules MORE or Marlin Stutzman, who ran in the primary this past spring, in the mix.

 

Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillSenators question need for HHS cyber office Overnight Cybersecurity: Obama DHS chief defends Russian hack response | Trump huddles on grid security | Lawmakers warned about cyber threat to election systems We must protect our most vulnerable from financial fraudsters MORE (D-Mo.)

Democrats are fresh off of a tight loss challenging Republican Sen. Roy BluntRoy BluntOvernight Regulation: Senate Banking panel huddles with regulators on bank relief | FCC proposes 2M fine on robocaller | Yellowstone grizzly loses endangered protection Overnight Finance: Big US banks pass Fed stress tests | Senate bill repeals most ObamaCare taxes | Senate expected to pass Russian sanctions bill for second time GOP senator: 'No reason' to try to work with Dems on healthcare MORE’s reelection and now have to pivot to defending one of their own. Democrat Jason Kander fell to Blunt by 3 points, while Trump won the state by 19 points. 

McCaskill has won tough races before — she defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent for her seat in 2008 and dispatched Rep. Todd Akin in 2012, a race that had been considered close until Akin’s infamous comment about “legitimate rape.”

Republicans will likely eye the red-state seat as a major pickup opportunity, potentially by one of the state’s six GOP lawmakers.

 

Jon TesterJon TesterOvernight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Trump's 'regulatory czar' advances in Senate Gianforte causes stir after becoming newest House member MORE (D-Mont.)

Tester steered the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2016, so he’s led the party through its share of tough races. And winning as a Democrat in Montana is no easy feat.

Trump won the presidential vote by 21 points in Montana, but Gov. Steve Bullock (D) tapped into the state’s bipartisan leanings with his own 4-point win. 

GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, the state’s only congressman, is seen as best positioned for a potential Tester challenge.

 

Dean HellerDean HellerBiden rips Senate GOP healthcare bill, says it 'isn't about healthcare' Pro-Trump group launches seven-figure ad buy against GOP senator opposing repeal bill Fifth GOP senator announces opposition to healthcare bill MORE (R-Nev.)

Nevada was one of the shining lights for Democrats up and down the ticket in 2016 — Clinton held the state by 2 points, the same margin that former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Republican Rep. Joe Heck by to win the open Senate seat. 

That’ll give Democrats confidence coming into one of their few strong pickup opportunities of 2018. 

Look for the scramble to start right back up, with names like Rep. Dina Titus and retiring Sen. Harry ReidHarry ReidDems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight GOP fires opening attack on Dem reportedly running for Heller's Senate seat MORE’s son Rory leading the first round of speculation. 

 

Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampSenate Dem undecided on 2018 reelection run Trump ‘regulatory czar’: Two-for-one rule can work Congress should just say no to more green energy handouts MORE (D-N.D.)

North Dakota is another ruby-red state coming off a Republican blowout in 2016. Trump won by 36 points, Sen. John HoevenJohn HoevenGOP considers keeping ObamaCare taxes Senators want governors involved in health talks Republicans go to battle over pre-existing conditions MORE won reelection by 62 points, and Republican Gov.-elect Doug Burgum won by 58 points. 

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), the state’s only congressman, could entertain a bid against one of the Senate’s 21 women. 

 

Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Senate Banking panel huddles with regulators on bank relief Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief MORE (D-Ohio)

Brown’s populist streak has won him favor in Ohio for more than two decades, including two terms in the Senate, helping him win reelection in 2012 by 6 points. 

But Ohio took a sharp turn in the GOP’s direction in 2016, with Trump winning by 8 points, a larger margin than each of the past five presidential elections there. And Sen. Rob PortmanRob PortmanA tale of two drug bills — one proposed bill will worsen the drug prices crisis Sanders to headline 'Don't Take Our Health Care' bus tour Rocky rollout for Senate healthcare bill MORE won by 21 points over his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Ted Strickland.

A term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R) could look to jump back to Congress, or state Treasurer Josh Mandel could look for a rematch against Brown, depending on who decides to run to replace Kasich. 

 

Bob CaseyBob CaseyLive coverage: Senate Dems hold talkathon to protest GOP health plan Ryan Phillippe to visit Capitol Hill to advocate for military caregivers Dem senators seize on Senate press crackdown MORE (D-Pa.) 

The Casey name has been in Pennsylvania politics for about a half-century, beginning with Casey’s father, who started in the state Senate in 1963 before stints as the auditor general and governor.

Casey has won big even in the tight state — he defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Rick Santorum by 18 points in 2006 and won reelection by 9 points in 2012. 

This year, GOP Sen. Pat Toomey won reelection by 2 points, bucking all the polls, and the electorate only stands to become more favorable for Republicans in an off year. 

Potential candidates could include two early Trump backers in Congress, Reps. Lou BarlettaLou BarlettaCongress poised to prohibit airlines from forcibly removing customers GOP congressman: Cut back on town halls in wake of shooting Overnight Finance: Fed raises rates for second time in 2017 | GOP weighs keeping ObamaCare taxes | Tax reform becomes Wall Street obsession MORE and Tom Marino, or others such as Rep. Pat Meehan. State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman is another who could consider a bid, but many are in a holding pattern until Gov. Tom Wolf (D) decides whether he’ll seek reelection. 

 

Joe ManchinJoe ManchinZinke hits Dems for delaying Interior nominees Manchin faces primary challenge from the left Sessions sequel falls flat following Comey drama MORE (D-W.Va.)

Manchin’s decision to run for reelection boosted the hopes of Democrats looking to hold the deep-red state.

Trump won the state by 42 points, but the Mountain State bucked the idea of voting straight ticket, electing Democratic coal executive Jim Justice to the governor’s mansion with a 7-point margin.

Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey could consider a bid, as could GOP Reps. David McKinleyDavid McKinleyDems plot recess offensive on ObamaCare Overnight Energy: Democrats take on key Trump Interior nominee Manchin gets a GOP challenger MORE, Alex Mooney or Evan Jenkins. 

 

Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (D-Wis.)

The Wisconsin Republican infrastructure in the state helped Gov. Scott Walker win three elections in six years, including during the 2012 election that saw wins by both Baldwin and President Obama. 

Trump’s 1-point victory there, as well as Johnson’s comeback 3-point victory, gives Republicans hope to build on those margins with a midterm electorate. 

Walker is likely to run for reelection, but his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, could decide to go national. Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyFlood insurance overhaul is progressing in House Puerto Rico statehood bid a total failure GOP rep dismisses Mueller probe: 'What the hell are we investigating?' MORE is another name mentioned as a potential Senate contender.