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.

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What’s worse is the fact that many of the seats they must defend are in states won by Republican Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpAssange meets U.S. congressman, vows to prove Russia did not leak him documents A history lesson on the Confederacy for President Trump GOP senator: Trump hasn't 'changed much' since campaign 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 NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonThe five kinds of Republicans who could primary Trump Overnight Tech: Senate confirms two FCC commissioners | Dems want more time on net neutrality | Tech groups push White House on 'startup visa' Senate confirms two new FCC commissioners MORE  (D-Fla.)

Democrats came into 2016 bullish about the Sunshine State.

But Republican incumbent Marco RubioMarco RubioScarborough: Trump has chosen the 'wrong side' THE MEMO: Trump reignites race firestorm RNC spokeswoman: GOP stands behind Trump's message 'of love and inclusiveness' 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 DonnellyTrump's Democratic tax dilemma FEC 'reform' a smokescreen to weaponize government against free speech It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him 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 CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's 12:30 Report DOJ warns the media could be targeted in crackdown on leaks Conway: Leaks of Trump's calls should have 'chilling effect' 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 YoungNo. 2 Senate Republican backs McConnell in Trump fight Savings through success in foreign assistance Senate Dems propose crackdown on foreign lobbyists 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 BrooksSenators introduce 'cyber hygiene' bill Bipartisan lawmakers give blood in honor of Scalise Female lawmakers flee House for higher office, retirement MORE or Marlin Stutzman, who ran in the primary this past spring, in the mix.

 

Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillSenators push for possible FCC enforcement over Lifeline fraud Democrat senator: Trump has elevated Kim Jong-Un to the world stage It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-Mo.)

Democrats are fresh off of a tight loss challenging Republican Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP debates tax cuts vs. tax reform Five tough decisions for the GOP on healthcare Lacking White House plan, Senate focuses on infrastructure 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 TesterWhy 'cherry-picking' is the solution to our nation’s flood insurance disaster Trump signs Veterans Affairs bill at New Jersey golf club It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him 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 HellerWhy 'cherry-picking' is the solution to our nation’s flood insurance disaster Club for Growth endorses Nicholson in Wisconsin GOP primary Sen. Heller reveals: I voted for Trump 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 ReidOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states THE MEMO: Trump's base cheers attacks on McConnell It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE’s son Rory leading the first round of speculation. 

 

Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampTrump's Democratic tax dilemma It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him The real litmus test is whether pro-life democrats vote for pro-life legislation 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 senator criticizes EPA head's closed-door meeting in North Dakota Senate GOP eyes end to August session McCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty 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 Campbell BrownOvernight Finance: House passes spending bill with border wall funds | Ryan drops border tax idea | Russia sanctions bill goes to Trump's desk | Dems grill bank regulator picks Dems grill Trump bank regulator nominees Senate Dems launch talkathon ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote 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 PortmanCongress should think twice on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Senators push for possible FCC enforcement over Lifeline fraud The fight to protect the Affordable Care Act isn’t over 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 CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states The real litmus test is whether pro-life democrats vote for pro-life legislation There’s a way to protect consumers and keep good call center jobs in the U.S. 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 BarlettaPennsylania Dems file ethics complaint against Rep. Barletta GOP rep to run for Senate in Pennsylvania: report GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait 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 ManchinOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states Trump's Democratic tax dilemma Manchin eyed as potential pick for Energy secretary: report 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 McKinleyThere’s a way to protect consumers and keep good call center jobs in the U.S. The myth of OTC hearing aids The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, Alex Mooney or Evan Jenkins. 

 

Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinClub for Growth endorses Nicholson in Wisconsin GOP primary Senate Dems unveil trade agenda Group pushes FDA to act on soy milk labeling petition 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 DuffyJuan Williams: Trump and the new celebrity politics Lewandowski urges Trump, Kelly to fire head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau These 5 House Republicans are ripping their Senate colleagues over healthcare MORE is another name mentioned as a potential Senate contender.