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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 John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing 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 NelsonGillum holds razor-thin lead in Florida race Senate panel wants Hyundai, Kia to answer over reported engine fires Election Countdown: Dems outraise GOP in final stretch | 2018 midterms already most expensive in history | What to watch in second Cruz-O'Rourke debate | Trump raises 0M for reelection | Why Dems fear Avenatti's approach MORE  (D-Fla.)

Democrats came into 2016 bullish about the Sunshine State.

But Republican incumbent Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia On The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference Mnuchin to decide by Thursday whether to attend Saudi conference 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 DonnellyPoll: Dem Donnelly has 4-point lead in Indiana Senate race Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Credit union group to spend .8 million for vulnerable Dem, GOP incumbents 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 CoatsHillicon Valley: Russia-linked hackers hit Eastern European companies | Twitter shares data on influence campaigns | Dems blast Trump over China interference claims | Saudi crisis tests Silicon Valley | Apple to let customers download their data Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Senators seek US intel on journalist's disappearance | Army discharged over 500 immigrant recruits in one year | Watchdog knocks admiral over handling of sexual harassment case Lawmakers seeking intel on alleged Saudi plot against journalist 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 YoungOn The Money: Treasury official charged with leaking info on ex-Trump advisers | Trump to seek 5 percent budget cut from Cabinet members | Mnuchin to decide by Thursday on attending Saudi conference Mnuchin to decide by Thursday whether to attend Saudi conference GOP senator: Not 'appropriate' for Mnuchin to go to Saudi conference 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 BrooksHouse conservatives want ethics probe into Dems' handling of Kavanaugh allegations Women poised to take charge in Dem majority Hillicon Valley: Officials pressed on Russian interference at security forum | FCC accuses Sinclair of deception | Microsoft reveals Russia tried to hack three 2018 candidates | Trump backs Google in fight with EU | Comcast gives up on Fox bid MORE or Marlin Stutzman, who ran in the primary this past spring, in the mix.

 

Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMcCaskill calls on GOP opponent to appoint special prosecutor to look into undercover video Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit on pre-existing conditions Credit union group to spend .8 million for vulnerable Dem, GOP incumbents MORE (D-Mo.)

Democrats are fresh off of a tight loss challenging Republican Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters Congress moves to ensure the greater availability of explosives detecting dogs in the US McConnell sets key Kavanaugh vote for Friday 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) TesterTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Trump travels to hurricane-ravaged Florida, Georgia 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 HellerDems outraising Republicans in final stretch of midterms The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Pollsters: White college-educated women to decide if Dems capture House Obama to speak at campaign rally for Nevada Dems 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 ReidMajor overhauls needed to ensure a violent revolution remains fictional Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees GOP has always been aggressive in trying to weaponize the system of judicial nominations MORE’s son Rory leading the first round of speculation. 

 

Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPoll: Dem Donnelly has 4-point lead in Indiana Senate race Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Heitkamp: Staffer no longer with campaign after ad naming abuse victims 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 HoevenTrump poised to sign bipartisan water infrastructure bill Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate 74 protesters charged at Capitol in protest of Kavanaugh 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 BrownOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem victories in `18 will not calm party turbulence 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 PortmanElection Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms How Kavanaugh got the votes  Collins to support Kavanaugh, securing enough votes for confirmation 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 CaseyDems target small cluster of states in battle for House Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials move to require drug prices in TV ads | 4,000 more people lose Medicaid in Arkansas | New top official for Medicaid Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight 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 BarlettaOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials move to require drug prices in TV ads | 4,000 more people lose Medicaid in Arkansas | New top official for Medicaid Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight Should we retire the ‘wave' election moniker? 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) ManchinTrump Jr. to campaign in West Virginia for Manchin challenger Dems go on offense against GOP lawsuit on pre-existing conditions Credit union group to spend .8 million for vulnerable Dem, GOP incumbents 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 McKinleySuper PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias at hearing Live coverage: Social media execs face grilling on Capitol Hill MORE, Alex Mooney or Evan Jenkins. 

 

Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinHillicon Valley: Facebook deletes accounts for political 'spam' | Leaked research shows Google's struggles with online free speech | Trump's praise for North Korea complicates cyber deterrence | Senators want Google memo on privacy bug Poll: Baldwin leads GOP challenger by double digits in Wisconsin The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Trump, Pence fan out to protect the Rust Belt 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 Patrick DuffyFox contributor: Warren's ancestors 'rounded up Cherokees for the Trail of Tears' On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel MORE is another name mentioned as a potential Senate contender.