Cook Political Report shifts three Senate races toward Republicans

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, shifted three Senate races in favor of Republicans as well as one Senate race toward Democrats less than five weeks out from the midterm elections.

Cook moved Senate races in Montana, Nebraska and New Jersey all in favor of Republicans. Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterDemocratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson to resign at end of year Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment MORE (D-Mont.) faces one of the most competitive race this cycle, which was shifted from "lean Democratic" to "toss-up." Tester is running against state auditor Matt Rosendale (R) in a state where President TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE won by double-digits in 2016.

Jennifer Duffy, a Senate race analyst at Cook Political Report, said Tester initially looked likely to sail to reelection with a comfortable lead in polling and Rosendale facing a crowded primary. Duffy noted that the fight over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's nomination is energizing the GOP base, though she still gives Tester a slight advantage in the toss-up race.

Tester has said he won't vote to confirm Kavanaugh, who faces sexual assault allegations that have threatened to derail his nomination. Kavanaugh has vehemently denied all allegations.

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“The ongoing saga over Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination is also galvanizing the base as Republicans remind voters that Tester voted against Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee, and has already stated that he will vote against Kavanaugh,” Duffy said.

“While the race is moving to Toss Up based on both public and private polling showing the contest within the margin of error, we’ll put a thumb on the scale for Tester.”

Cook also moved Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezAs NFIP reauthorization deadline looms, Congress must end lethal subsidies Senate Democrats warn Trump: Don't invite Putin to G-7 Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE’s (D-N.J.) race from "likely Democratic" to "lean Democratic" and Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerStatue of Chief Standing Bear to be unveiled in Capitol The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow MORE’s (R-Neb.) race from "likely Republican" to "solid Republican."

New Jersey has been a surprisingly competitive race in a blue state where Trump remains unpopular. Menendez faces a tough race from former pharmaceutical CEO Bob Hugin, who’s poured in tens of millions of dollars into his Senate campaign.

Polls have been all over the place with Menendez ahead of Hugin by anywhere from 2 to 11 points. Menendez is still favored to win a third term, but must overcome low favorability that stems from his past corruption case. His trial ended in a hung jury and federal prosecutors later dropped the charges.

“This race is more competitive than a Senate contest in a good year for Democrats in a state as blue as New Jersey should be,” Duffy said. “This is entirely on Menendez and the baggage he brings into the race. He maintains the advantage going into the final stretch, but the race is worth watching and moves to the Lean Democratic column.”

The election handicapper also shifted Ohio’s Senate race toward Democrats. Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Hillicon Valley: Google to promote original reporting | Senators demand answers from Amazon on worker treatment | Lawmakers weigh response to ransomware attacks Senate Democrats want answers on 'dangerous' Amazon delivery system MORE (D-Ohio) has consistently lead Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciMedicare for All won't deliver what Democrats promise GOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, 'investigation would have wrapped up very quickly' House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci MORE (R-Ohio) by double-digit margins, despite Trump winning the state by 8 points in 2016. Cook moves the race from "lean Democratic" to "likely Democratic."

Republicans are looking to hold onto their slim 51-49 seat majority in the Senate. The party faces a favorable map, with 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in states Trump carried.

Still, some states like Ohio have already fallen off the map for Republicans. And other competitive races that’ll likely determine which party controls the Senate are still in a dead heat.