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 BrownBrown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pro-Trump group doing opposition research on Sherrod Brown’s wife: report Press: White House not only for white males 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. RenacciGOP rep: If Mueller had found collusion, ‘investigation would have wrapped up very quickly’ House Ethics Committee extends probe into Renacci Sherrod Brown says he has 'no real timetable' for deciding on 2020 presidential run 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 NelsonFlorida lawmaker diagnosed with pancreatic cancer Rick Scott threw party at Florida governor’s mansion after DeSantis and family had moved in: report Restoration of voting rights by felons marks shift in Florida 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 ClintonGillibrand announces exploratory committee to run for president on Colbert Former PepsiCo CEO being considered for World Bank chief post: report Live coverage: Trump AG pick grilled on Mueller probe at confirmation hearing MORE. Its incumbent Democratic senator, Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne Baldwin116th Congress breaks records for women, minority lawmakers Kyrsten Sinema swears in to Congress using copy of Constitution instead of religious book Dems say Trump is defying court order by pushing abstinence programs 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 CaseyWHIP LIST: Who’s in and out in the 2020 race Senators' last-minute demands may delay funding bill Would-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits 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 BarlettaTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Casey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta 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 StabenowSenate Dems raise concerns about shutdown's impact on assistance to taxpayers Durbin signals he will run for reelection Coal supporter Manchin named top Dem on Senate Energy Committee 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 UptonOn The Money: Trump says he won't declare emergency 'so fast' | Shutdown poised to become longest in history | Congress approves back pay for workers | More federal unions sue over shutdown Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal House votes to reopen Interior, EPA as shutdown fight wages on 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 TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ 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.