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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAn August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done After police rip Trump for Jan. 6, McCarthy again blames Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 TrumpMyPillow CEO to pull ads from Fox News Haaland, Native American leaders press for Indigenous land protections Simone Biles, Vince Lombardi and the courage to walk away MORE in 2016. Trump, during his closed-door meeting with Republicans this week, specifically name-checked Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellySupreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Republicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Democrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure 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 HellerDemocrat Jacky Rosen becomes 22nd senator to back bipartisan infrastructure deal 9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 On The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare MORE is running for reelection in Nevada while GOP Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots 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 BrownTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch MORE, Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act Lawmakers introduce bipartisan Free Britney Act MORE Jr. and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinManaging the US dollar to pay for congressional infrastructure plans Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage Senate Democrats call for Medicaid-like plan to cover non-expansion states MORE, respectively, are running for reelection in states won by Trump.