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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Senate passes bill making hacking voting systems a federal crime 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 TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis 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 FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (Tenn.) are retiring after this year, and Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.) is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent as he runs in a state won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton slams Trump rally: 'The time has come again' to fight for democracy Trump blasts minority Democrats, rally crowd chants 'send her back' The Memo: Democrats debate Trump response – 'Being righteous and losing sucks' 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 McCaskillTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Feds allow campaigns to accept discounted cybersecurity services GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (Mo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh MORE (N.D.), as well as Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenSenators introduce legislation to boost cyber defense training in high school Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Female senators hatch plan to 'shame' Senate into voting faster 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 CruzCruz calls for 'every penny' of El Chapo's criminal enterprise to be used for Trump's wall after sentencing Conservatives defend Chris Pratt for wearing 'Don't Tread On Me' T-shirt Google official denies allegations of ties to China MORE (R) is narrowly leading Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'Rourke2020 Democrats react to 'send her back' chants at Trump rally Bullock makes CNN debate stage The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet 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."