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10 Senate seats that could flip in 2018

10 Senate seats that could flip in 2018
© Greg Nash

Democrats reeling from a devastating election face a daunting task: the 2018 Senate map.

It favors Republicans in a big way. The GOP will be defending just eight seats, while Democrats must fight for 23 — plus another two held by independents who caucus with Democrats.

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What’s worse is the fact that many of the seats they must defend are in states won by Republican Donald TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE.

Midterm elections for sitting presidents are historically challenging. Democrats in the Senate are hoping to find some political momentum for 2018 given the difficult playing ground.  

Here are 10 Senate seats that could flip, in alphabetical order:

 

Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Georgia Senate races shatter spending records Georgia voters flood polls ahead of crucial Senate contests MORE  (D-Fla.)

Democrats came into 2016 bullish about the Sunshine State.

But Republican incumbent Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioLimbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration NRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official MORE’s decision to run for reelection cleared the muddled field and, ultimately, a surge in rural Republican voters outpaced Democrats’ gains in cities and with Hispanics. When the dust settled, Trump won by 1 percentage point, while Rubio held on to his seat by 8 points. 

Nelson, a three-term senator, is a well-known commodity in Florida, having held public office there since 1972. And he starts with a net 14-point approval rating, according to an October poll from Public Policy Polling. 

Possible challengers could include term-limited Gov. Rick Scott (R), a Trump ally, or any of the politicians who eyed the seat in 2016, including outgoing GOP Reps. David Jolly or Ron DeSantis.

Millionaire Carlos Beruff and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, both 2016 candidates, could also jump in. But the two are Scott allies, so it’s unlikely either would challenge the governor should he decide to run.

 

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.)

No state’s Senate race changed more in 2016 than Indiana’s. Republicans started the cycle looking likely to keep control of outgoing Sen. Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsFormer Trump intel chief Coats introduces Biden nominee Haines at hearing Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security New federal cybersecurity lead says 'rumor control' site will remain up through January MORE’s seat with Democratic Rep. Barron Hill in the race. Then it seemed destined to go Democratic once Hill dropped out and former Sen. Evan Bayh jumped in. 

But a flurry of damaging stories and revelations stunted Bayh’s comeback, giving Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department Lobbying world MORE a 10-point win behind Trump’s 19-point victory. 

Donnelly seemed to have an uphill battle against Sen. Richard Lugar (R) in 2012, until the incumbent was toppled by former Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Look for a much tighter race now, with potential GOP candidates such as Reps. Luke Messer, Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksBottom line House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit Voters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican MORE or Marlin Stutzman, who ran in the primary this past spring, in the mix.

 

Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Lobbying world Former McCaskill aides launch PAC seeking to thwart Hawley MORE (D-Mo.)

Democrats are fresh off of a tight loss challenging Republican Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief A Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration GOP senator calls Biden's COVID-19 relief plan a 'non-starter' MORE’s reelection and now have to pivot to defending one of their own. Democrat Jason Kander fell to Blunt by 3 points, while Trump won the state by 19 points. 

McCaskill has won tough races before — she defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Jim Talent for her seat in 2008 and dispatched Rep. Todd Akin in 2012, a race that had been considered close until Akin’s infamous comment about “legitimate rape.”

Republicans will likely eye the red-state seat as a major pickup opportunity, potentially by one of the state’s six GOP lawmakers.

 

Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency MORE (D-Mont.)

Tester steered the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2016, so he’s led the party through its share of tough races. And winning as a Democrat in Montana is no easy feat.

Trump won the presidential vote by 21 points in Montana, but Gov. Steve Bullock (D) tapped into the state’s bipartisan leanings with his own 4-point win. 

GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, the state’s only congressman, is seen as best positioned for a potential Tester challenge.

 

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.)

Nevada was one of the shining lights for Democrats up and down the ticket in 2016 — Clinton held the state by 2 points, the same margin that former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto defeated Republican Rep. Joe Heck by to win the open Senate seat. 

That’ll give Democrats confidence coming into one of their few strong pickup opportunities of 2018. 

Look for the scramble to start right back up, with names like Rep. Dina Titus and retiring Sen. Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader Biden faces tall order in uniting polarized nation Senators vet Mayorkas to take lead at DHS MORE’s son Rory leading the first round of speculation. 

 

Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampHarrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment Biden to tap Vilsack for Agriculture secretary: reports OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA guidance may exempt some water polluters from Supreme Court permit mandate | Vilsack's stock rises with Team Biden | Arctic wildfires linked to warming temperatures: NOAA MORE (D-N.D.)

North Dakota is another ruby-red state coming off a Republican blowout in 2016. Trump won by 36 points, Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Senate GOP opposition grows to objecting to Electoral College results Man charged with criminal mischief for allegedly vandalizing senator's office with ax MORE won reelection by 62 points, and Republican Gov.-elect Doug Burgum won by 58 points. 

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), the state’s only congressman, could entertain a bid against one of the Senate’s 21 women. 

 

Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack Facebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Biden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs MORE (D-Ohio)

Brown’s populist streak has won him favor in Ohio for more than two decades, including two terms in the Senate, helping him win reelection in 2012 by 6 points. 

But Ohio took a sharp turn in the GOP’s direction in 2016, with Trump winning by 8 points, a larger margin than each of the past five presidential elections there. And Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official MORE won by 21 points over his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Ted Strickland.

A term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R) could look to jump back to Congress, or state Treasurer Josh Mandel could look for a rematch against Brown, depending on who decides to run to replace Kasich. 

 

Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Capitol Police officer hailed as hero for drawing rioters away from Senate chamber Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect MORE (D-Pa.) 

The Casey name has been in Pennsylvania politics for about a half-century, beginning with Casey’s father, who started in the state Senate in 1963 before stints as the auditor general and governor.

Casey has won big even in the tight state — he defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Rick Santorum by 18 points in 2006 and won reelection by 9 points in 2012. 

This year, GOP Sen. Pat Toomey won reelection by 2 points, bucking all the polls, and the electorate only stands to become more favorable for Republicans in an off year. 

Potential candidates could include two early Trump backers in Congress, Reps. 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 and Tom Marino, or others such as Rep. Pat Meehan. State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman is another who could consider a bid, but many are in a holding pattern until Gov. Tom Wolf (D) decides whether he’ll seek reelection. 

 

Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Democrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit Democrats torn on impeachment trial timing MORE (D-W.Va.)

Manchin’s decision to run for reelection boosted the hopes of Democrats looking to hold the deep-red state.

Trump won the state by 42 points, but the Mountain State bucked the idea of voting straight ticket, electing Democratic coal executive Jim Justice to the governor’s mansion with a 7-point margin.

Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey could consider a bid, as could GOP Reps. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyEnergy secretary says pipeline setbacks pose national security issue MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill MORE, Alex Mooney or Evan Jenkins. 

 

Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinK Street navigates virtual inauguration week Senate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 MORE (D-Wis.)

The Wisconsin Republican infrastructure in the state helped Gov. Scott Walker win three elections in six years, including during the 2012 election that saw wins by both Baldwin and President Obama. 

Trump’s 1-point victory there, as well as Johnson’s comeback 3-point victory, gives Republicans hope to build on those margins with a midterm electorate. 

Walker is likely to run for reelection, but his lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, could decide to go national. Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyLobbying world CNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Bottom line MORE is another name mentioned as a potential Senate contender.