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The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2018

Republicans are increasingly focused on the Senate as GOP donors and strategists grow more pessimistic about their ability to hold onto the House.

The prospect of a Democratic House has made Republicans desperate to take advantage of a favorable Senate map to hold or expand their majority in the upper chamber.

Republicans still have a strong chance of gaining seats, with 10 Democrats up in states President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE won in 2016. But while the GOP is mostly on the offensive, the party also faces the prospect of losing some seats.

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Here’s a look at the top 10 seats most likely to flip in 2018:


1. Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.)

Heller is the only Republican incumbent defending a seat in a state Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Trump, Biden tangle over Wall Street ties, fundraising The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage MORE won in 2016 — bad news for him as Democratic enthusiasm surges. His opponent, Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses Senators introduce bipartisan bill to help women, minorities get STEM jobs MORE (D), has posted strong fundraising numbers and is trying to press Heller for his waffling on the GOP health-care repeal and his public role in crafting the GOP tax bill.

But Heller has recently seen a spate of good news that’s improved his chances of surviving in November. Primary challenger Danny Tarkanian dropped out of the race, allowing the senator to avoid making overtures to the GOP’s right flank that could hurt him in the general election. Republicans are also slowly cutting into Democrats’ voter registration advantage in Nevada.

2. Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears Fox's Bongino, MSNBC's McCaskill trade blows over Trump ride: 'You epic piece of garbage' MORE (D-Mo.)

McCaskill has always faced a tough road to reelection. She’s one of just three Democrats elected statewide in Missouri, which Trump won by almost 20 points. And the GOP is already seizing on McCaskill’s ardent support for Clinton in 2016 as a way to rile up the base.

Still, she’s won a reputation as a strong campaigner and a consistently prolific fundraiser this cycle.

State Attorney General Josh Hawley is still considered a top GOP recruit. But Republicans are closely watching his first-quarter fundraising haul following grumblings about his disappointing fundraising pace last year. The investigations into blackmail allegations against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) could add a tinge of scandal to the Republican brand in the state.

3. Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty MORE (D-Ind.)

The GOP primary between Rep. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Yoder, Messer land on K Street House GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office MORE, Rep. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaIndiana attorney general loses reelection bid after groping allegations Bottom Line Lobbying world MORE and businessman Mike Braun remains one of the nastiest in the nation. The bruising primary fight will also draw down GOP cash reserves before the general election.

The ferocity of the primary gives Donnelly space to position himself as a bipartisan legislator, and he posted his best fundraising total of his career last quarter. But Donnelly will still have a rough go in Vice President Pence’s backyard. The Democrat’s fundraising still falls far short of the totals raised by many other Democratic incumbents, and his Republican challenger will have months to build his funds back up.

4. Arizona’s open seat (vacated by GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOne of life's great mysteries: Why would any conservative vote for Biden? Trump excoriates Sasse over leaked audio Biden holds 8-point lead over Trump in Arizona: poll MORE)

Both parties think their leading candidates can win in Arizona. Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySenate is leaning to the Democrats, big time, with a wave Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing MORE (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) are strong fundraisers who know how to win tough fights. McSally is a veteran who can straddle the line between appealing to the right and to moderate voters, while Sinema is a Blue Dog Democrat with a compelling story who Democrats believe can compete statewide.

Sinema is a virtual lock for the Democratic nomination, but McSally has a rockier path in the GOP primary. She faces former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — two controversial candidates who could steer the race to the right. Arizona’s August primary is held late in the cycle, giving the GOP nominee just 10 weeks to recover from a potentially rough primary.

5. Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by JobsOhio - Showdown: Trump-Biden debate likely to be nasty Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE (D-N.D.)

Republicans caught a break when they convinced Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE to mount a late bid against Heitkamp. Cramer has made his campaign about fierce loyalty to Trump, who won the state by 36 points in 2016. Cramer can also run on the statewide name recognition he’s built up as a three-term congressman in an at-large seat.

But Republicans had wavered on Cramer before, looking for other alternatives to the gaffe-prone congressman before ultimately settling on him as the top choice. And while Trump repeatedly pushed Cramer to run, the president has also been on good terms with Heitkamp, who has appeared on stage with him in North Dakota and flew on Air Force One.

The escalating trade war between Trump and China could also dampen the GOP’s prospects. China’s retaliatory tariffs threaten to hurt jobs in the agriculture-heavy state, an issue that could weigh on Cramer.

6. Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSenate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 Democrats sound alarm on possible election chaos Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in MORE (D-Fla.)

Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) Monday entry into the race is a big win for Republicans, who previously faced long odds taking the swing-state seat. Scott will give Nelson the toughest race of his Senate career. The two-term governor has a formidable campaign operation, and his vast personal wealth will be an asset in Florida’s pricey media markets.

But this will also be a much different race for Scott. In the past, he’s only run in Republican wave years, winning by razor-thin margins even when the political atmosphere favored the GOP. And his closeness to Trump, who personally recruited him for the Senate race, could also be a potential drag in a state the president won by a little more than a point.

7. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSusan Collins and the American legacy Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (D-W.Va.)

Manchin faces an uphill climb keeping his seat in a state that went for Trump by nearly 42 points. But Manchin could benefit from a brutal GOP primary fight.

The two-person race between Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has been upended by a surge from former coal CEO Don Blankenship. Blankenship is polling well in the primary, even after serving a prison term over a fatal mine explosion. While Blankenship has the wealth to dominate the airwaves in the primary fight, Republicans fear he can’t win over more moderate voters in November.

Trump is going on the offensive against Manchin, after an initial show of bipartisanship with the senator. Flanked by Jenkins and Morrisey at a recent roundtable in West Virginia, Trump slammed Manchin for his vote against the tax overhaul.

8. Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne Baldwin Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak Democrats demand answers from Labor Department on CDC recommendations for meatpacking plant MORE (D-Wis.)

Wisconsin was once seen as a reach for Republicans. But the barrage of attack ads from outside GOP groups have softened Baldwin up ahead of November, prompting a flurry of Democratic spending meant to shore up the senator.

It’s still unclear who will emerge from the contentious GOP primary. Marine Corps veteran Kevin Nicholson, a former Democrat, is the pick of top conservative groups, but state Sen. Leah Vukmir has some big Wisconsin names in her corner.

9. Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Energy: Barrett punts on climate, oil industry recusals | Ex-EPA official claims retaliation in lawsuit | Dems seek to uphold ruling ousting Pendley Democrats seek to block appeal of court ruling ousting Pendley, BLM land plans House Republicans push VA for details on recent data breach MORE (D-Mont.)

Tester has built his campaign message around his willingness to work with Trump, a key argument in a state the president won by 20 points. And while the GOP hopefuls — state auditor Matt Rosendale, Judge Russ Fagg and businessman Troy Downing — are more focused on attacking Tester than blasting each other, the fluid primary still gives Tester some room.

Fortunately for Tester, Democrats aren’t extinct in Montana — Gov. Steve Bullock (D) cruised to reelection in 2016, even as Trump dominated.

Still, Tester has never won reelection with the majority of the vote, winning instead after a Libertarian candidate siphoned off votes from the GOP. This year, the presence of both a Green Party candidate and a Libertarian candidate on the ballot complicates that calculus.

10. Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Congress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act Democratic senators unveil bill to ban discrimination in financial services industry MORE (D-Ohio)

Judging only by its 2016 numbers, Ohio should be more competitive. The state is drifting right — Trump won by 8 points, and all of the top statewide officeholders are Republicans. Still, the GOP has struggled to dent Brown, and he’s pulled in impressive fundraising totals.

Republican front-runner Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciLobbying world Ohio is suddenly a 2020 battleground Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 MORE has faced a spate of bad headlines in recent weeks about accusations that he failed to disclose political donations while registered as a lobbyist. He is looking to best businessman Mike Gibbons in the primary.

Other races to watch: Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyHealthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE Jr. (D) still appears in the driver’s seat in Pennsylvania, even as GOP Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James Barletta10 bellwether counties that could signal where the election is headed Bottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs MORE steps up his fundraising. Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) raised eyebrows by polling ahead of GOP Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnSenate Judiciary to vote on subpoena for Twitter CEO next week Government efforts to 'fix' social media bias overlooks the destruction of our discourse Trump faces unusual barrier to COVID-19 aid: GOP allies MORE for the seat currently held by retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' Trump excoriates Sasse over leaked audio Has Congress captured Russia policy? MORE (R), but she has time to boost her statewide name recognition. Mississippi’s special election is home to a four-way jungle primary that’s tough to handicap. And while Rep. Beto O’Rourke (R-Texas) is setting fundraising records, it’s unclear whether it’s enough to defeat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzQuinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas China could cut our access to critical minerals at any time — here's why we need to act The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base MORE (R-Texas).