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Nine most vulnerable Senate seats heading into Election Day

Nine most vulnerable Senate seats heading into Election Day
© Greg Nash

Democrats are feeling confident in the final days of the race they can flip enough seats to retake the Senate majority. 

But they have failed to lock down some of the most critical seats, leaving a few key tossups too close to call and giving Republicans hope they can protect their slim majority. 

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If Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCommunion vote puts spotlight on Hispanic Catholics Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them MORE wins the White House, Democrats only need to net four seats. They are defending 10 seats, while Republicans must defend 24 seats. 

Here's the Senate seats most likely to flip: 

1. Illinois — 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) 

Kirk remains at the top of this list as the most vulnerable GOP incumbent this cycle. 

He was always expected to face an uphill battle against Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth in a state carried handily by President Obama in 2008 and 2012. 

But perhaps his latest gaffe at an Illinois Senate debate dismantled any last chances for Kirk. While discussing Middle East policy, Duckworth — an Iraq War veteran and Asian-American — noted her family’s military history dating back to the American Revolution. 

Kirk’s response appeared to question her American heritage: "I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington." He later apologized, but that’ll likely be his last impression going into Tuesday.

 2. Wisconsin — Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Overnight Defense: Senate panel delays Iraq war powers repeal | Study IDs Fort Hood as least-safe base for female soldiers | Pentagon loosens some COVID-19 restrictions MORE (R) 

Republicans are gunning for an 11th hour comeback in the Badger State. 

Over the last year, Wisconsin had been viewed as just as likely a Democratic pickup as Illinois, but that has drastically changed over the past few weeks. 

Republicans are dropping millions of dollars late in the race, arguing Johnson is within striking distance of former Sen. Russ Feingold (D). Republicans told The Hill that their own polling shows the race tied or with Johnson slightly ahead. 

Democrats, however, remain confident about their chances. Feingold has led in every public poll except one and is ahead by nearly 3 points in RealClearPolitics polling average. More than 685,600 Wisconsinites have already voted, and Democrats are leading with early voters. 

3. Pennsylvania — Pat Toomey (R) 

The Keystone State race appears to be shifting toward Democrats in the final days. Former gubernatorial chief of staff Katie McGinty led in nine of the latest polls and leads Toomey by an average of roughly 4 points as of Friday. 

The GOP senator is trying to weather the headwinds of his party’s presidential nominee. Toomey has for months danced around the question of whether he supports Donald TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE, and in a local interview that garnered national attention last Thursday, Toomey dodged multiple attempts to pin him down on it.

Republicans credit Toomey for running a disciplined campaign as he pitches himself as a "check" on a potential Clinton White House while arguing McGinty would be a “rubber stamp.” 

But his political fate likely depends on the margin of the presidential race. McGinty could also get a boost from Clinton, who has campaigned with the Senate hopeful as she homes in on Pennsylvania in an effort to protect her firewall. 

4. Indiana — Open Seat (R) 

Former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) is still the odds-on favorite to replace Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer Trump officials including Fiona Hill helped prepare Biden for Putin summit: report Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Experts see 'unprecedented' increase in hackers targeting electric grid MORE for the seat Bayh vacated in 2010 even as the latest polls in the Hoosier State spell grim news for Democrats. Monday’s Monmouth University’s poll has Bayh tied with GOP Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Senate panel delays war authorization repeal after GOP push MORE, and a survey released on Friday by a respected GOP polling firm has Young leading for the first time by 5 points. 

A barrage of attacks against Bayh’s residency and lobbying ties gave a much-needed boost to Young, who had a small window to introduce himself statewide after Bayh’s late entry into the race. Bayh has also been painted as a Washington insider during the year of the outsider. 

But Bayh’s political brand and formidable funding have helped him stay afloat in a traditionally red state. That may be the only thing that separates Indiana from other tossup races that are still too close to call. 

5. Nevada — Open Seat (D) 

The Silver State is the best chance Republicans have to pick up a seat, and GOP Rep. Joe Heck is clinging to a narrow lead over former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. 

Winning Nevada would also give Republicans a final victory over Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBiden fails to break GOP 'fever' Nevada governor signs law making state first presidential primary Infighting grips Nevada Democrats ahead of midterms MORE, a top GOP antagonist who has worked to keep his seat in Democratic hands. Republicans have tried to link Cortez Masto to Reid, who remains deeply unpopular in the state. 

But Trump looms over Heck in the final stretch. Heck dropped Trump last month over the 2005 tape of him discussing groping and kissing women without consent, but that resulted in conservative backlash. He has since publicly and privately waffled over if he'll ultimately back Trump.

Democrats also feel good about early voting numbers, which show them with a 6-point lead a week out. But they also led in early voting in 2012, only to send then-appointee Dean HellerDean Arthur Heller9 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2022 On The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World MORE back to the Senate. 

6. North Carolina — Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrBill ending federal unemployment supplement passes North Carolina legislature Burr on 'unusual' Trump endorsement in NC Senate race: 'I can't tell you what motivates him' Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting MORE (R)

Sen. Richard Burr is playing defense as he fights for his political life. The GOP senator still narrowly leads, though recent polls have gone back and forth between Burr and former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D).

Burr has been plagued on multiple fronts in the home stretch: He feuded with a local newspaper that drew comparisons to Trump, apologized for his quip about gun owners shooting Clinton and walked back a pledge to block all of her Supreme Court nominees. 

Democrats argue their attacks that Burr is an out-of-touch Washington insider have taken root. They’re also leading in early voting numbers, according to an NBC News estimates. 

But Republicans remain focused on Ross’s time leading the state’s American Civil Liberties Union, believing her record makes her too liberal for red-state voters. 

7. New Hampshire — Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteDemocrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal Sununu seen as top recruit in GOP bid to reclaim Senate Lobbying world MORE (R) 

Along with Toomey and Heck, the New Hampshire Republican has repeatedly stumbled over explaining her support for Trump. But Ayotte has maintained her support even after cutting ties with him after the 2005 tape. 

Recent polls show leads flipping between Ayotte and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, and the Ayotte is up by an average of 2.5 points. 

Both candidates have proven to be fierce campaigners, and outside groups have dumped exorbitant amounts of money, likely making it the most expensive race in state history. 

But the race is inextricably linked to the top of the ticket. Clinton had a firm grip on the state until news of the FBI’s discovery of emails that may be related to the investigation of her private email server. Now, Trump clings to a narrow lead. 

8. Missouri — Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate to vote on elections bill Congress barrels toward debt cliff Excellence Act will expand mental health and substance use treatment access to millions MORE (R) 

Missouri has become the unexpected breakout star of the Senate majority battle, and 35-year-old Democrat Jason Kander is on the verge of upsetting GOP Sen. Roy Blunt. 

The Missouri secretary of state and Army veteran is arguably Democrats’ best recruit, ripping Blunt, the fourth-ranking member of GOP leadership, as a creature of Washington and hammered him for his family’s lobbying ties. 

For Blunt’s part, his campaign has needled Kander for supporting Clinton, a strategy that could be effective in a state where Trump leads by double-digits. 

The latest nonpartisan poll has the race tied, but Blunt heads into the homestretch with a slim edge. 

9. Florida — Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Rising violent crime poses new challenge for White House MORE (R) 

Once a true tossup, the Florida Senate race has sunk to the bottom of the list.

Rubio has been the overwhelming favorite and has led nearly every poll since his decision to reverse course and run for reelection. 

After pulling resources from Florida to shift to other battlegrounds, Democrats are pouring last-minute dollars to help Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy as the race has tightened. 

Election handicapper Cook Political Report moved the race from tossup to lean Republican, saying it’s not really a matter of who wins the seat, but how close the race will be.