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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default 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.

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"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 TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default 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 FlakeBiden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Voting rights will be on '22, '24 ballots MORE (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (Tenn.) are retiring after this year, and Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerEx-Sen. Dean Heller announces run for Nevada governor Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Democrat Jacky Rosen becomes 22nd senator to back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (Nev.) is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent as he runs in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty 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 McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (Mo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWashington's oldest contact sport: Lobbyists scrum to dilute or kill Democrats' tax bill Progressives prepare to launch counterattack in tax fight Business groups aim to divide Democrats on .5T spending bill MORE (N.D.), as well as Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Photos of the Week: Infrastructure vote, India floods and a bear The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions 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 CruzPoll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Republican politicians: Let OSHA do its job O'Rourke prepping run for governor in Texas: report MORE (R) is narrowly leading Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeAnti-Greg Abbott TV ad pulled minutes before college football game: Lincoln Project O'Rourke prepping run for governor in Texas: report Support for Abbott plunging in Texas: poll 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."