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) TesterHow the border deal came together GOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Border talks stall as another shutdown looms 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 TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery 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) MenendezWilliam Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight BuzzFeed story has more to say about media than the president MORE’s (D-N.J.) race from "likely Democratic" to "lean Democratic" and Sen. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerWhy Democrats are pushing for a new nuclear policy Trade official warns senators of obstacles to quick China deal Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger 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 BrownPollster says current 2020 surveys like picking best picture Oscar before movies come out Shep Smith: Signing funding bill is a 'loss' for Trump no matter how it's packaged Exclusive: Biden almost certain to enter 2020 race MORE (D-Ohio) has consistently lead Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciGOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run 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.