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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKids confront Feinstein over Green New Deal Trump selects Kelly Craft for United Nations ambassador Union leader says Green New Deal would make infrastructure bill ‘absolutely impossible’ 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 TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border 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 FlakePoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union MORE (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy 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 ClintonDem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 Left-leaning journalist: Sanders would be 'formidable candidate' against Trump Clinton hits EPA for approval of pesticide dump: ‘We need bees!’ 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 McCaskillPoll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell McCaskill: Lindsey Graham 'has lost his mind' Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor MORE (Mo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Energy: Trump taps ex-oil lobbyist Bernhardt to lead Interior | Bernhardt slams Obama officials for agency's ethics issues | Head of major green group steps down Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary On The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction MORE (N.D.), as well as Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump administration secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada 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 CruzInviting Kim Jong Un to Washington Trump endorses Cornyn for reelection as O'Rourke mulls challenge O’Rourke not ruling out being vice presidential candidate MORE (R) is narrowly leading Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeDems wish civil rights icon John Lewis happy birthday: 'We are stronger because of you' Trump endorses Cornyn for reelection as O'Rourke mulls challenge The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump escalates fight with NY Times 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."