10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2016

Democrats’ chances to regain control of the Senate are looking brighter as Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE take shape as the presumptive nominees of their parties.

Tuesday's contests set up the slates in Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina and signal tough general elections in these battleground states.

Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDuckworth announces reelection bid Brave new world: Why we need a Senate Human Rights Commission  Senate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls MORE (R-Ill.) tops the list as the most vulnerable incumbent, as he faces a high-profile Democratic challenger in a state that went to President Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 elections.

ADVERTISEMENT

Many of the vulnerable Republicans have said they’ll back Trump if he’s the GOP nominee, and Democrats have already used their support to link them to the controversial front-runner.

The upheaval over President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee only further complicates Republicans' chances to hold on to their small majority.

Here's a list of the top 10 Senate seats most likely to flip this cycle:

1. Illinois

Kirk easily emerged from Tuesday’s primary as the GOP nominee, but he faces the steepest climb going into the general election.

The GOP senator has positioned himself as a moderate in deep-blue Illinois but will run for reelection during a presidential year that typically favors Democrats.

Kirk has also been known for making a series of gaffes and will have to steer clear of garnering negative media attention and creating fodder for political ads used against him.

ADVERTISEMENT

Looking toward the general election, he now faces Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a formidable Democratic opponent who outpaced him in fundraising heading into Tuesday. There’s been minimal polling, but a survey from last July found the congresswoman leading by a few points.

Kirk has gone the furthest of any Senate Republican regarding Obama’s court nominee and broke with his party to call on his colleagues to “man up” and hold a vote.

Still, Democrats are not wasting any time tying him to Republican leadership that has refused to hold hearings or a vote for the president’s nominee.

Kirk’s critics are also pouncing on the opportunity to knock him over his support for Trump if he’s the party’s nominee.

2. Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Senate race will likely set up a rematch between Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDomestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary MORE (R-Wis.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). In 2010, Johnson edged out Feingold out by 5 points.

The odds aren’t likely in Johnson’s favor this time around, though, and he faces a similar situation to Kirk: The GOP senator is running in a Democratic-leaning state that voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Feingold maintains his double-digit lead over Johnson in a recent poll from last month and has a slight money edge based on end-of-the-year fundraising reports.

But Johnson’s campaign has painted the former senator as out-of-touch and spending more time outside the state as a college professor.

Johnson has said he’ll back whoever becomes the GOP presidential nominee, but he didn’t go as far as Kirk about the Supreme Court. The Wisconsin senator said he’s open to meeting with Obama’s pick but agrees with other Republicans that a hearing shouldn’t be scheduled.

3. New Hampshire

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyottePoll: Potential Sununu-Hassan matchup in N.H. a dead heat  Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate MORE (R-N.H.) faces tough odds in a liberal-leaning state during a presidential year in a race that’s expected to be one of the most expensive this cycle.

She will likely face popular New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan in the general election. Ayotte has a significant cash advantage, but a recent poll shows her only narrowly leading Hassan.

The GOP senator has sought to make national security a wedge issue in the Senate race and hit Hassan over the release of Guantánamo Bay detainees and support for Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Hassan was the only Democratic governor to support halting Syrian refugees from resettling in the United States, creating party backlash.

Campaign finance has also taken center stage in the race. Ayotte proposed a pledge to limit outside spending in the race, but Hassan increased the wager by including a $15 million spending cap.

Ayotte has also found herself caught up in the chaos surrounding Trump on the top of the ticket and the Supreme Court battle that will likely be used against her as the race progresses.

4. Florida

The seat vacated by former GOP presidential hopeful Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioMilley says calls to China were 'perfectly within the duties' of his job Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE is up for grabs as both parties are still figuring out who will emerge as their standard bearers.

Democrats have a slight upper hand, as the party’s establishment continues to rally behind Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). His primary opponent, Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonFlorida Rep. Val Demings officially enters Senate race against Rubio Demings raises Democrats' hopes in uphill fight to defeat Rubio Demings planning to run for Senate instead of Florida governor MORE (D-Fla.), is under fire over his hedge funds, and Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (D-Nev.) has called on the liberal firebrand to drop out.

For Republicans, a crowded field of five has taken shape. The conservative Club for Growth backed Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), while Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera got a huge boost from Miami billionaire Norman Braman, who will helm his campaign’s finance team.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) and businessmen Todd Wilcox and Carlos Beruff are also running.

A poll from earlier this month found both Democratic Senate candidates leading the top three GOP candidates in most head-to-head general election match-ups.

5. Nevada

Nevada is one of the few Democratic-held seats on the list of competitive races this cycle.

Democrats were able to get a star recruit for the seat vacated by Reid. The Senate Minority Leader has endorsed former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto for his seat, and, if elected, she’d be the first Hispanic in the U.S. Senate.

But Republicans were also able to net a strong candidate, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), who gets high performance ratings in his swing district.

Both candidates will need to court Hispanic voters, and immigration is likely to play a pivotal role in this race.

ADVERTISEMENT

Heck has said he’ll support whoever the GOP presidential nominee is, but he has tried to distance himself from Trump and has been critical of the GOP front-runner’s proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.

But if Trump is at the top of the ticket, this could turn out Hispanic voters in droves and will likely be an advantage for Cortez Masto.

6. Ohio

The fierce general election between Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken MORE (R-Ohio) and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the Buckeye State ramped up quickly following Tuesday’s primaries.

Not even 24 hours later, a super-PAC that spearheads the conservative donor network helmed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch launched a $2 million TV and digital ad buy targeting Strickland.

The former governor’s campaign hit back and released digital ads labeling Portman as “the ultimate Washington insider.”

Portman still faces a tough reelection bid, but he’s in good shape financially and easily coasted to the GOP nomination.

Strickland, who has been criticized for lackluster fundraising, spent some time and resources against his primary challenger and had to defend his past gun record.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey from last week, the race was a dead heat.

7. Pennsylvania

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) has a significant cash advantage going into the spring and is in good shape in his competitive swing seat.

Democrats face a messy primary. Former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty has the party’s establishment support but falls short when it comes to fundraising compared to former Rep. Joe Sestak and runs behind Sestak in polls.

Sestak riled party leaders by running and successfully winning against then-Sen. Arlen Specter (D), ultimately losing to Toomey by several points in the 2010 election.

Suburban Pittsburgh Mayor John Fetterman is also running in the Democratic primary.

Toomey still faces a tough battle in a more Democratic-leaning state, but a contested Democratic primary gives him time to prepare and raise money before a general election battle is in full force.

8. Colorado

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetBuild Back Better Act must include funding to restore forests, make communities resilient and create jobs Interior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Conservation group says it will only endorse Democrats who support .5T spending plan MORE (D-Colo.) still has a large target on his back by Republicans, but he is currently in good financial shape and has a head start in this race.

Republicans had difficulty recruiting for this race and now have a crowded field of a dozen candidates.
 
State Rep. John Keyser, who served in both wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, appears to be one of the party's most promising candidates. According to The Denver Post, he met with the National Republican Senatorial Committee before announcing his bid early this year.
 
Even though Republicans are uncertain of who will be their standard bearer in the fall, they’re not wasting time waiting to target Bennet and have already attempted to tie him to the Democratic Party and Obama.

Bennet has already tried to distance himself from the president and expressed concerns over Obama’s plan to close the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, saying he remains opposed to moving detainees into Colorado. But his critics continue to link the Democratic senator to the administration’s foreign policy.

9. North Carolina

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes NC Republican primary key test of Trump's sway The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill MORE (R-N.C.) and former Democratic state Rep. Deborah Ross both glided to their party’s nominations on Tuesday and now face a competitive fall election.

Democrats had a similar situation to Colorado Republicans. They had trouble recruiting high-profile candidates for this race — including former Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganInfighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control Biden's gun control push poses danger for midterms MORE (D-N.C.) — but the establishment quickly rallied around Ross after she entered the race.

Burr still holds a slight advantage in a state that President Obama won by a razor-thin margin in the 2008 election and narrowly lost in 2012.

The GOP senator also has a significant cash advantage over Ross, but only held a single-digit lead over his Democratic opponent in a February poll. And he will also have to overcome a negative job-approval rating.

10. Missouri

Democrats still face tough odds unseating Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP hopes spending traps derail Biden agenda A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns MORE (R-Mo.) in the GOP-leaning state that went to the GOP nominee in both 2008 and 2012.

But Democratic Senate candidate Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has impressed those within his party and has received endorsements from high-profile Missouri lawmakers early in his campaign.

National security has become a premier issue in this race. 

Late last year, Kander's campaign released a lengthy report that knocked Blunt, who sits on national security committees, for voting against a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security and missing hearings on the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

And Democrats have already blasted Blunt for hiring his son, who’s a lobbyist, to helm his reelection bid.

Blunt also has a significant cash advantage over Kander, with about $3 million more cash on hand.

There’s been no recent polling in the state, but a survey from August showed Blunt ahead of Kander by only 5 points.