McConnell: Election will be 'very challenging' for Senate Republicans

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? Dems charge ahead on immigration Biden and Bernie set for clash MORE (R-Ky.) warned on Tuesday that the November midterm elections will be "very challenging" for Republicans, saying that the GOP is facing a "storm" as it tries to hold on to the Senate.

McConnell, speaking with reporters in Louisville, Ky., said Republicans know the "wind is going to be in our face" with several make-or-break races with tight polling.


"You can't repeal history, and almost every election two years into any new administration the party of the presidency loses seats. They don't always lose the body, but almost always loses seats. And so we know that this is going to be a very challenging election on the Senate side," McConnell told reporters when asked about his party's chances of keeping the upper chamber.

Republicans started the cycle facing a favorable map that could potentially allow them to increase their narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate. Democrats are playing defense to keep 10 seats in states President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE won in the 2016 election.

But with eight weeks to go until the November elections, Democrats have a narrow path to retaking the Senate if the party can sweep every race considered a toss-up.

McConnell on Tuesday ticked off a number of states where he believes the races are currently "dead even": Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida.

"All of them too close to call and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley. Just a brawl. In every one of those places. I hope when the smoke clears we'll still have a majority in the Senate," McConnell told reporters.

Three of those seats — Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee — are currently held by Republican senators. But GOP Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerEx-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' Pollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump MORE (Tenn.) are retiring after this year, and Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE (Nev.) is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent as he runs in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE in 2016.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP outside group with close ties to McConnell, announced earlier Tuesday that it was putting up new ads targeting Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill Endorsements? Biden can't count on a flood from the Senate MORE (Mo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampPro-trade groups enlist another ex-Dem lawmaker to push for Trump's NAFTA replacement Pro-trade group targets 4 lawmakers in push for new NAFTA Biden office highlights support from women after second accuser comes forward MORE (N.D.), as well as Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Prosecutors used FISA warrant to get info on Huawei | Study finds discrimination in Facebook ads | Bezos retains voting control over ex-wife's Amazon stocks More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Dem senators introduce bill to combat sexual harassment in STEM MORE and Phil Bredesen, the Democratic Senate candidates in Nevada and Tennessee, respectively.

McConnell didn't mention Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Ohio — four other states where a Democratic senator is running in a state Trump won in 2016.

Republicans are also facing a tougher than expected fight in Texas, where Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCornyn campaign, Patton Oswalt trade jabs over comedian's support for Senate candidate MJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Liberal survey: Sanders cruising, Buttigieg rising MORE (R) is narrowly leading Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeOvernight Defense: 2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran deal | Trump appeals ruling on male-only draft | Kudlow claims Iran sanctions won't hike oil prices Castro wants to follow Obama's lead on balancing presidency with fatherhood Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds MORE (D) in polling as outside money pours into the reliably red state.

McConnell, asked about the race, acknowledged on Tuesday that Cruz is in a "competitive" battle to keep his seat.

"I think Ted's got a competitive race by all indications," McConnell said. "We certainly expect to win in Texas, but I think he does have a competitive race."