9 Senate seats most likely to flip

The race for the Senate is heading into the homestretch as Republicans seek to maintain their grip on their slim majority.

Democrats must net five seats — or four and retain the White House — to regain control of the upper chamber. They are defending 10 seats, while Republicans face a more challenging path, needing to defend 24 seats.

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Here are the Senate seats most likely to flip:

1.  Illinois — Mark KirkMark Steven KirkAdvocates push for EpiPens on flights after college student's mid-flight allergic reaction Funding the fight against polio Ex-GOP Sen. Kirk registers to lobby MORE (R)

Kirk’s seat is most likely to turn blue this cycle. President Obama won the state by double digits in 2008 and 2012. He faces a formidable challenge from Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth.

Kirk has tried to capitalize on the workplace retaliation lawsuit against Duckworth when she served as head of the state’s Department of Veteran Affairs, but it has failed to gain steam, and the GOP senator, known for making gaffes, is catching flak for calling Obama a “drug dealer in chief” in regards to last month's $400 million payment to Iran.

2.  Wisconsin — Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonMystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Trump may intervene in Pentagon cloud-computing contract: report Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp MORE (R)

Johnson is also viewed as one of the most vulnerable senators in his rematch with former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold. Republican groups have scaled back funding as Johnson trails in the polls.

Conflicting polls released Wednesday, however, are a bright spot for Johnson. While one poll has him down 13 points, another has him trailing by only a few points. Both surveys show GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE closing the gap in Wisconsin, a sign the state is not entirely off the map.

3.  New Hampshire — Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteKey endorsements: A who's who in early states Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race New Hampshire senator to ask 2020 Dems to back repeal of state residency law MORE (R)

Ayotte is expected to easily overcome her primary challenge in mid-September, but she faces an uphill battle against likely Democratic opponent Maggie Hassan. The New Hampshire governor holds a narrow lead over Ayotte in a state that Obama also carried in 2008 and 2012.

Ayotte has sought to distance herself from Trump, even as Hassan has tried to tie her to him.

Hassan, for her part, has campaigned with Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: Majority of Democratic voters happy with their choices among 2020 contenders No presidential candidate can unite the country GOP lawmakers speak out against 'send her back' chants MORE but got tripped up when asked in an interview if she thinks Clinton is honest. The governor repeatedly dodged the question before clarifying in an interview the next day that she thinks she’s trustworthy.

4.  Pennsylvania — Pat Toomey (R)

The presidential race appears to be trickling into Toomey’s reelection. Political observers in the state say he’s running a strong campaign, but his dip in the polls is largely thanks to the top of the ticket.

Toomey continues to withhold his support from Trump. But his opponent, Katie McGinty, a little-known former gubernatorial chief of staff, has been helped by Clinton’s consistent lead over Trump in the Keystone State. McGinty has maintained a lead since mid-July, though one survey has Toomey up 7 points.

Toomey has clinched endorsements from gun control groups praising his 2013 bipartisan bill on background checks and has a strong cash advantage, but strategists see the race largely hinging on the top of the ticket.

5.  Indiana — Open seat (R)

Indiana makes its debut on the list after Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s last-minute bid for his old seat. It has prompted election handicappers to move the once safe GOP seat to a toss-up or Democratic-leaning.

Bayh has already made a splash with his $9 million war chest and has the benefit of name recognition, an issue that plagues his GOP opponent, Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungHouse votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout GOP chairman introduces bill to force 'comprehensive review' of US-Saudi relationship MORE. Polls show Bayh comfortably ahead in the race to replace retiring Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Chuck Todd on administration vacancies: 'Is this any way to run a government?' MORE.

But Bayh struggles with scrutiny over his residency. Republicans paint Bayh as a Washington lobbyist who has abandoned Indiana. In one interview, Bayh said he “sacrificed” moving to the wealthy D.C. neighborhood of Georgetown, and a CNN report found he’s classified as an “inactive” voter in Indiana.

Indiana would rank higher without a presidential race. Trump comfortably leads in Indiana, which has gone Democratic once in 52 years.

6.  Nevada — Open seat (D)

Nevada is one of Republicans' only real pick-up opportunities. The race for Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Webb: Questions for Robert Mueller Steyer's impeachment solution is dead wrong MORE’s seat has been relatively quiet with limited polling.

Reid has vowed to help keep the seat blue and elect former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. But Rep. Joe Heck is a strong GOP recruit who has kept the race a true tossup with a razor-thin margin. He has yet to be dragged down by Trump even in a state with a large Latino population.

7. North Carolina — Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Sanders mounts staunch defense of 'Medicare for All' | Biden, Sanders fight over health care heats up | House votes to repeal ObamaCare 'Cadillac Tax' | Dems want details on fetal tissue research ban Top North Carolina newspapers editorial board to GOP: 'Are you OK with a racist president?' Hillicon Valley: Senate bill would force companies to disclose value of user data | Waters to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency | GOP divided on election security bills | US tracking Russian, Iranian social media campaigns MORE (R)

Once low on the list, Burr’s race has been moved up as Republicans grow concerned about his reelection and both presidential nominees shift their attention and resources to the Tar Heel State.

Former state Rep. Deborah Ross wasn’t Democrats’ top recruit for the seat, but she’s proven to be a strong fundraiser and has started to cut into Burr’s polling lead as Clinton also performs well in the state. Both candidates will have to overcome a name recognition hurdle in the final two months.

8. Ohio — Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Rising number of GOP lawmakers criticize Trump remarks about minority Dems MORE (R)

Portman is defying Trump’s down-ballot drag. While Clinton leads Trump by several points, the GOP senator tops former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D) by as much as 15 points in the latest poll. His strong performance prompted groups from both parties to withdraw spending in the state and shift elsewhere.

It’s not just Portman’s polling advantage that has him well-positioned for November. He’s snagged four labor union endorsements that have backed Strickland in his previous races. And he’s kept up a cushy cash advantage as the former governor fails to make significant strides in his fundraising.

Portman and outside groups have inundated the airwaves with ads criticizing Strickland’s gubernatorial tenure, but the former governor recently hit back in his own ad that he led during the recession.

9. Florida — Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublican lawmakers ask Trump not to delay Pentagon cloud-computing contract Overnight Defense: US shoots down Iranian drone | Pentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia | Trump mulls Turkey sanctions | Trump seeks review of Pentagon cloud-computing contract EU official in Canada says he feels 'at home' there because no one was shouting 'send him back' MORE (R)

Both Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) easily beat back primary challenges Tuesday and wasted no time attacking each other the following day.

Strategists expect the race to tighten by November, but as it stands, Rubio looks favored to hold onto his seat. He’s ahead in nearly every poll — and also outperforming Trump — and benefits from high name ID after his unsuccessful presidential run.

While Rubio breezed through his primary, Murphy has a few scars that will likely follow him into the general. Republicans continue to hammer him over reports he exaggerated parts of his resume and knock him for his father’s vast financial backing.

Honorable mentions:

Arizona — John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain shares video of father shutting down supporter who called Obama an 'Arab' after Trump rally Graham: Every Republican president or nominee 'will be accused of being a racist' No presidential candidate can unite the country MORE (R): McCain cruised to victory in Tuesday’s primary. But the long-time senator faces his real test against Democratic Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment The House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump MORE. Democrats are tying McCain to Trump every chance they get in a state with a large Latino population. McCain has signaled he’s not taking anything for granted and came out of the primary swinging with a new ad that vows to be a check on Clinton.

Missouri — Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP wants commitment that Trump will sign budget deal Poll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime MORE (R): Blunt is getting a tough challenge from Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander (D). Kander has proven to be a strong campaigner and fundraiser as one of Democrats’ top recruits. Blunt still leads in the polls, but at the top of the ticket, Clinton is polling close to Trump in the deep red state.

Colorado — Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants Biden, Harris set for second Democratic debate showdown Health care moves to center stage in Democratic primary fight MORE (D): Once viewed as one of the only ripe opportunities for Republicans, Bennet appears poised to sail to reelection. Republicans aren’t coming to the aid of Darryl Glenn, a county commissioner who trumpeted his conservative bona fides during the primary. But he’ll need to look beyond his base in a state that Obama carried twice and also has a large Latino population.