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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump 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 TrumpLondon terror suspect’s children told authorities he complained about Trump: inquiry The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Trump to nominate retiring lawmaker as head of trade agency MORE in 2016. Trump, during his closed-door meeting with Republicans this week, specifically name-checked Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world MORE (Ind.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh McCaskill to oppose Kavanaugh nomination The Memo: Kavanaugh firestorm consumes political world 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 HellerElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Trump to fundraise for Heller, Tarkanian in Nevada The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly MORE is running for reelection in Nevada while GOP Sens. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips Corker GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Grassley willing to send staff to California to speak with Kavanaugh accuser Corker blasts Trump's 'ready, fire, aim' trade policy MORE (Tenn.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Key GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Gillibrand: Kavanaugh accuser shouldn't participate in 'sham' hearing 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 BrownElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE, Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyObama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security Five biggest surprises in midterm fight MORE Jr. and Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump Poll: Democrats inch forward in Wisconsin Primary turnout soars in 2018 with Dems leading charge MORE, respectively, are running for reelection in states won by Trump.