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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 TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization 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 NelsonChina fires back after NASA criticism of rocket debris reentry The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns NASA criticizes China after rocket debris lands in Indian Ocean MORE  (D-Fla.)

Democrats came into 2016 bullish about the Sunshine State.

But Republican incumbent Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio wants 'UFO sightings' to be registered, taken seriously Strange bedfellows: UFOs are uniting Trump's fiercest critics, loyalists Second suspected 'Havana Syndrome' case near White House under investigation: report 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 DonnellyRepublicans fret over divisive candidates Everybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives 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 CoatsWill the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Experts see 'unprecedented' increase in hackers targeting electric grid Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump 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 YoungBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Senators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate This week: House to vote on Jan. 6 Capitol attack commission 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 BrooksBold leadership is necessary to curb violence against youth Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act Bottom line MORE or Marlin Stutzman, who ran in the primary this past spring, in the mix.

 

Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Demings asked about Senate run after sparring with Jordan on police funding MORE (D-Mo.)

Democrats are fresh off of a tight loss challenging Republican Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMissouri Republicans move to block Greitens in key Senate race On The Money: Biden, Senate GOP take step toward infrastructure deal as other plans hit speed bumps Senate GOP to give Biden infrastructure counteroffer next week 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) TesterSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate DC statehood bill picks up Senate holdout Democratic fissures start to show after Biden's first 100 days 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 ReidStrange bedfellows: UFOs are uniting Trump's fiercest critics, loyalists Bottom line Biden's first 100 days is stylistic 'antithesis' of Trump MORE’s son Rory leading the first round of speculation. 

 

Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampEffective and profitable climate solutions are within the nation's farms and forests Bill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives 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 HoevenGOP sees immigration as path to regain power The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults now eligible for COVID vaccines The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax 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 BrownThe 'frills' of Biden's infrastructure plan are real needs Senate Democrats offer bill to scrap tax break for investment managers Wyden: Funding infrastructure with gas tax hike a 'big mistake' 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 PortmanSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Bipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Carper urges Biden to nominate ambassadors amid influx at border 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 CaseySenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Ex-GOP Rep. Lou Barletta launches bid for Pennsylvania governor The 'frills' of Biden's infrastructure plan are real needs 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 BarlettaEx-GOP Rep. Lou Barletta launches bid for Pennsylvania governor Republicans vie for Trump's mantle in Pa. Senate primary Former Trump officials eye bids for political office 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 ManchinJoe ManchinSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Manchin, Murkowski call for bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Israel-Hamas carnage worsens; Dems face SALT dilemma 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 McKinleyHouse fails to pass drug bill amid Jan. 6 tensions The Memo: Hunter Biden and the politics of addiction OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Native groups hope Haaland's historic confirmation comes with tribal wins | EPA asks court to nix Trump rule limiting GHG regs | Green group asks regulators to block use of utility customers' money for lobbying  MORE, Alex Mooney or Evan Jenkins. 

 

Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinTo reverse the teaching shortage in low-income communities, give educators incentive to stay Senate Democrats offer bill to scrap tax break for investment managers Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap 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.