10 Senate Democrats are up for reelection in Trump country

10 Senate Democrats are up for reelection in Trump country
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Ten Democratic U.S. senators up for reelection in 2018 are in a special category, being from states that Donald Trump won in 2016.

Previously, I catalogued five states where Democratic incumbents are considered most vulnerable: Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. In the other five, Democratic incumbents are far less vulnerable and, in most instances, should feel confident of reelection.

Let’s start with Ohio, which Dems definitely thought they had a decent chance to win in 2016. That proved to be totally wrong.

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Ohio is increasingly a Republican state; Trump carried it by 8 points, a healthy margin of 446,841 votes. Democratic incumbent Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSherrod Brown says he's 'not actively considering' running for president Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens MORE, it would be surmised, would therefore be in trouble.

 

But, as in all these states, Trump is not on the ballot.

Brown is seeking his third term; he was first elected in 2006. Previously he was elected statewide as Ohio’s secretary of state and served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Six years ago he faced an attractive Republican opponent, Josh Mandel; Brown beat him by 6 points. Many thought Mandel would try again and be the GOP’s best hope, but he decided not to run.

Two Republicans are vying for the nomination, Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciHow the Trump tax law passed: Breaking the gridlock  Sherrod Brown says he's 'not actively considering' running for president Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls MORE and investment banker Mike Gibbons, and will face each other in a May primary. Brown benefits because neither candidate seems to pose the challenge that Mandel would have been.

Brown is a well-known statewide politician; he has a strong pro-labor record and a good reputation for constituent service. This unabashed populist doesn’t seem to project elitist vibes; the “rumpled” villain of big banks has fashioned himself as an easy-to-approach officeholder. His persona is definitely a plus in a state which, in the long run, seems to favor Republicans.

The next state where a Democratic incumbent might feel some heat is Florida. Trump won it by 1 point, a margin of 112,911 votes. Yet, as in Ohio, Democrats are fortunate to have a well-known name seeking reelection.

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNelson campaign to donate K from Al Franken group to charity Political shenanigans mask true problems in Puerto Rico The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump MORE was first elected in 2000 and is seeking his fourth term; he previously served in the Florida House and the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years, and was elected statewide as insurance commissioner.

The only serious GOP opponent would be the sitting governor, Rick Scott, who has not committed to running yet. The GOP primary is late — August 28; the filing date is May 4.

Scott has won the governorship twice, but narrowly; the margin in each election was a scant: 1 percent.

Nelson has demonstrated he is a winner in the Sunshine State — so Scott would need all the Koch money the GOP funders are willing to offer as an independent expenditure.

Next, Wisconsin. Trump won it by less than 1 percent — .76 percent, to be exact — and only 22,748 votes separated him from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGraham: There's a 'bureaucratic coup' taking place against Trump Fox News poll shows Dems with edge ahead of midterms Poll: Democrats in position to retake the House MORE. Its incumbent Democratic senator, Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinDems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump Poll: Democrats inch forward in Wisconsin MORE, is seeking her second term; she previously was in the U.S. House for seven terms.

In her first Senate race she beat former Gov. Tommy Thompson by 5 points. She also raised $15 million for that race, $6 million more than Thompson raised. But she is up for reelection at the same time as GOP Gov. Scott Walker, whose popularity could energize GOP voters. 

Having said that, Baldwin looks, at this time, to be in a fairly good position; Republicans Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson are engaged in a hotly contested primary. As in Florida, Koch money will be lavishly spent here to defeat a Democrat in November.

The biggest disappointment for Dems in 2016 was Pennsylvania: They held their convention in Philadelphia, and Clinton held her very last campaign rally there. Yet, Trump won the state by less than 1 point — .72 percent, a margin of 44,292 votes.

The Democratic incumbent is Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyPoll: Democrats hold big leads in Pennsylvania Senate, governor races The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again MORE. Probably no other name is as well known in the Keystone State; his father, Bob Casey Sr., was elected statewide as governor and auditor general, twice each.

The younger Casey was elected statewide twice as auditor general and once as treasurer before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006; he beat Republican incumbent Rick Santorum in that contest. Six years ago he won reelection by 9 points; his Republican opponent, Tim Smith, outspent him by $7 million.

The Scranton native distinguishes himself by proclaiming he is “a pro-life Democrat,” but that doesn’t seem to have hurt him in liberal suburban Philadelphia counties. His likely opponent, Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaPoll: Democrats hold big leads in Pennsylvania Senate, governor races Obama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Poll: Pennsylvania Democrats surging with double-digit leads MORE, is considered weak and unknown statewide and seems to have trouble raising the resources needed to compete in this very big state.

Finally, Michigan — the closest of the five normally Democratic states that Trump won. He won the state by 10,704 votes and a percentage difference of just .22 percent.

The Democratic incumbent is Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress prepares to punt biggest political battles until after midterms Trump attacks Dems on farm bill Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security MORE, elected for the first time in 2000; this is an attempt at a fourth term. Six years ago she beat Republican Pete Hoekstra by a whopping 19 points.

Stabenow is in no way charismatic but residents of her state surely know her. She’s been in politics for 40 years; she was first elected to office at age 24 and has served in the Michigan statehouse, state Senate, and two terms in the U.S. House. 

Her toughest opposition might have been moderate GOP Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonGOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests GOP: The economy will shield us from blue wave MORE, but that likable pol decided not to run. So her opponent will be West Point graduate and combat veteran John James — and Stabenow seems to be safe.

David Bergstein, Democratic Senate Campaign Committee spokesman, says “Senate Democrats face a challenging map. But Republicans are plagued by recruitment failures and expensive primaries. These Democrats have strong brands.”

Bob Salera, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman, obviously takes a different view: “Voters in these states sent a clear message when they elected President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE, but these red-state Democrats have offered nothing but obstruction in return. Democrats will be forced to explain why they sided with liberals in Washington instead of folks at home, and to defend their votes against middle-class tax cuts and other popular pieces of the Trump agenda.”

Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics. He previously was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington’s NPR affiliate, and for WTOP-FM, Washington’s all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.