Three states where Dems can pick up Senate seats

Three states where Dems can pick up Senate seats
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Much has been made of the fact that Democrats’ hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate are very much in doubt because they are defending 24 seats. There are also 10 Democratic incumbents in states that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Vulnerable Democrats tout legislative wins, not impeachment Trump appears to set personal record for tweets in a day MORE won in 2016.

There are three states where Dems feel they can actually pick up seats. These three states they see as a golden opportunity to switch from red to blue.


Nevada is the No. 1 best chance. The endangered Republican incumbent is Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrats spend big to put Senate in play This week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE. Heller barely won six years ago, by a margin of 11,000 votes. He beat Democrat Shelley Berkley, whose campaign was widely considered to be poorly managed. 

This time, there are quite a few built-in advantages going for his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenSenate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating Hillicon Valley: Facebook to remove mentions of potential whistleblower's name | House Dems demand FCC action over leak of location data | Dem presses regulators to secure health care data Senators introduce bill to create 'parity' among broadband programs MORE. 


Rosen has demonstrated that she can win competitive contests. Her congressional district is viewed as a swing district. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Wisconsin: poll Clinton tweets impeachment website, encourages voters to 'see the evidence for themselves' MORE won Nevada by 4 points (27,202 votes) in 2016. The state has a strong union presence, and 27 percent of its population is Latino.

But the most important element is that the GOP is in the midst of a very contentious primary. Heller is being roundly and repeatedly attacked by fellow Republican Danny Tarkanian, the son of the legendary University of Nevada-Las Vegas basketball coach. The primary is June 12. 

Rosen’s chance of winning is based on a hope that the Republican primary is so nasty and brutal that whoever comes out on top will be severely damaged goods. Coupled with the fact that this state is moving blue in so many ways, Rosen will be the ultimate beneficiary. Besides, she beat Tarkanian in her 2016 congressional race.


Another western state which Democrats feel good about is Arizona. Clinton came close in Arizona in 2016, losing there by only 4 points.

The incumbent Republican senator, Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE, is departing — but he is not doing so quietly. Vehemently anti-Trump, he made a memorable speech on the Senate floor attacking the president.

The Democratic nominee is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who has quite a life story. She grew up very poor and has climbed the political ladder with an ever-changing political philosophy. Some Arizona progressives feel she is too Trump-friendly, but she has the Democratic field to herself.

She, too, benefits from a divisive GOP primary in which, right now, the leading candidate is Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE. Some feel she might be too moderate for the rank-and-file Republicans who will vote in the August 28 primary.

The two other candidates are not the least bit shy about voicing their conservative credentials to the party faithful. 

State Senator Kelli Ward is a familiar face to GOP voters. She ran against John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE in 2016 and lost, but got plenty of coverage and attention.

And everybody in Arizona knows the name Joe Arpaio: He’s the former long-time sheriff of Maricopa County who also holds the distinction of being Donald Trump’s first presidential pardon. The very vocal 85-year-old’s 100 percent name recognition can help him and hurt him; controversial and inflammatory are his defining features.

Sinema can just sit back and enjoy the GOP skirmish. She has, at this early stage, $5.1 million sitting in the bank.


A state that has no business going Democratic is Tennessee. It is firmly Republican — but there is one, and only one, Democrat who has a chance. Phil Bredesen is that longshot hope, and he has shown that he can defy the oddsmakers.

In 2002, Bredesen beat the incumbent Republican governor, Don Sundquist, and then went on to win a second term as governor in this GOP bastion. He is a staunch moderate who talks a lot about bipartisan solutions. He is wealthy and is prepared to spend his resources. He’s already airing TV ads.

Bob Corker, the incumbent Republican senator, has been playing Hamlet. First, he’s not going to run for re-election. Then he decides to reconsider and run and, soon after, he goes back to his original position and opts to leave the scene. So U.S. Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Lawsuits pose new challenge for TikTok TikTok's leader to meet with lawmakers next week MORE will be the Republican nominee. She is thought to be “too extreme” for this middle-south state, however.

Bredesen is 74 years old but many feel that only he can pull Tennessee’s independents and even a good chunk of Republicans. They know him and feel comfortable with him.

Nov. 6 will definitely bring some surprises. Dems believe that Nevada, Arizona and surprisingly, Tennessee are in play. 


A “sleeper” might be Texas, where U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is a man to watch. His contest with Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Senate passes Armenian genocide resolution Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE could be, by far, the most fascinating in 2018.

That deserves a column of its own.

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.