Republicans are increasingly focused on the Senate as GOP donors and strategists grow more pessimistic about their ability to hold onto the House.
The prospect of a Democratic House has made Republicans desperate to take advantage of a favorable Senate map to hold or expand their majority in the upper chamber.
Republicans still have a strong chance of gaining seats, with 10 Democrats up in states President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE won in 2016. But while the GOP is mostly on the offensive, the party also faces the prospect of losing some seats.
Here’s a look at the top 10 seats most likely to flip in 2018:
1. Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.)
Heller is the only Republican incumbent defending a seat in a state Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE won in 2016 — bad news for him as Democratic enthusiasm surges. His opponent, Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees ‘strong likelihood’ of another relief package; Warner says some businesses ‘may not come back’ at The Hill’s Advancing America’s Economy summit The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups MORE (D), has posted strong fundraising numbers and is trying to press Heller for his waffling on the GOP health-care repeal and his public role in crafting the GOP tax bill.
But Heller has recently seen a spate of good news that’s improved his chances of surviving in November. Primary challenger Danny Tarkanian dropped out of the race, allowing the senator to avoid making overtures to the GOP’s right flank that could hurt him in the general election. Republicans are also slowly cutting into Democrats’ voter registration advantage in Nevada.
2. Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE (D-Mo.)
McCaskill has always faced a tough road to reelection. She’s one of just three Democrats elected statewide in Missouri, which Trump won by almost 20 points. And the GOP is already seizing on McCaskill’s ardent support for Clinton in 2016 as a way to rile up the base.
Still, she’s won a reputation as a strong campaigner and a consistently prolific fundraiser this cycle.
State Attorney General Josh Hawley is still considered a top GOP recruit. But Republicans are closely watching his first-quarter fundraising haul following grumblings about his disappointing fundraising pace last year. The investigations into blackmail allegations against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) could add a tinge of scandal to the Republican brand in the state.
3. Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (D-Ind.)
The GOP primary between Rep. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Yoder, Messer land on K Street House GOP to force members to give up leadership positions if running for higher office MORE, Rep. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaBottom Line Lobbying world Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations MORE and businessman Mike Braun remains one of the nastiest in the nation. The bruising primary fight will also draw down GOP cash reserves before the general election.
The ferocity of the primary gives Donnelly space to position himself as a bipartisan legislator, and he posted his best fundraising total of his career last quarter. But Donnelly will still have a rough go in Vice President Pence’s backyard. The Democrat’s fundraising still falls far short of the totals raised by many other Democratic incumbents, and his Republican challenger will have months to build his funds back up.
4. Arizona’s open seat (vacated by GOP Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Kelly holds double-digit lead over McSally in Arizona: poll Trump asserts his power over Republicans MORE)
Both parties think their leading candidates can win in Arizona. Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police No evidence of unauthorized data transfers by top Chinese drone manufacturer: study Senate Democratic campaign arm launches online hub ahead of November MORE (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) are strong fundraisers who know how to win tough fights. McSally is a veteran who can straddle the line between appealing to the right and to moderate voters, while Sinema is a Blue Dog Democrat with a compelling story who Democrats believe can compete statewide.
Sinema is a virtual lock for the Democratic nomination, but McSally has a rockier path in the GOP primary. She faces former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio — two controversial candidates who could steer the race to the right. Arizona’s August primary is held late in the cycle, giving the GOP nominee just 10 weeks to recover from a potentially rough primary.
5. Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-N.D.)
Republicans caught a break when they convinced Rep. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerRepublicans prepare to punt on next COVID-19 relief bill GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police Trump tweets spark fresh headache for Republicans MORE to mount a late bid against Heitkamp. Cramer has made his campaign about fierce loyalty to Trump, who won the state by 36 points in 2016. Cramer can also run on the statewide name recognition he’s built up as a three-term congressman in an at-large seat.
But Republicans had wavered on Cramer before, looking for other alternatives to the gaffe-prone congressman before ultimately settling on him as the top choice. And while Trump repeatedly pushed Cramer to run, the president has also been on good terms with Heitkamp, who has appeared on stage with him in North Dakota and flew on Air Force One.
The escalating trade war between Trump and China could also dampen the GOP’s prospects. China’s retaliatory tariffs threaten to hurt jobs in the agriculture-heavy state, an issue that could weigh on Cramer.
6. Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (D-Fla.)
Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) Monday entry into the race is a big win for Republicans, who previously faced long odds taking the swing-state seat. Scott will give Nelson the toughest race of his Senate career. The two-term governor has a formidable campaign operation, and his vast personal wealth will be an asset in Florida’s pricey media markets.
But this will also be a much different race for Scott. In the past, he’s only run in Republican wave years, winning by razor-thin margins even when the political atmosphere favored the GOP. And his closeness to Trump, who personally recruited him for the Senate race, could also be a potential drag in a state the president won by a little more than a point.
7. Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (D-W.Va.)
Manchin faces an uphill climb keeping his seat in a state that went for Trump by nearly 42 points. But Manchin could benefit from a brutal GOP primary fight.
The two-person race between Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has been upended by a surge from former coal CEO Don Blankenship. Blankenship is polling well in the primary, even after serving a prison term over a fatal mine explosion. While Blankenship has the wealth to dominate the airwaves in the primary fight, Republicans fear he can’t win over more moderate voters in November.
Trump is going on the offensive against Manchin, after an initial show of bipartisanship with the senator. Flanked by Jenkins and Morrisey at a recent roundtable in West Virginia, Trump slammed Manchin for his vote against the tax overhaul.
8. Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden launches program to turn out LGBTQ vote We need a ‘9-1-1’ for mental health — we need ‘9-8-8’ Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump’s power under Insurrection Act MORE (D-Wis.)
Wisconsin was once seen as a reach for Republicans. But the barrage of attack ads from outside GOP groups have softened Baldwin up ahead of November, prompting a flurry of Democratic spending meant to shore up the senator.
It’s still unclear who will emerge from the contentious GOP primary. Marine Corps veteran Kevin Nicholson, a former Democrat, is the pick of top conservative groups, but state Sen. Leah Vukmir has some big Wisconsin names in her corner.
9. Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate confirms Trump’s watchdog for coronavirus funds Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (D-Mont.)
Tester has built his campaign message around his willingness to work with Trump, a key argument in a state the president won by 20 points. And while the GOP hopefuls — state auditor Matt Rosendale, Judge Russ Fagg and businessman Troy Downing — are more focused on attacking Tester than blasting each other, the fluid primary still gives Tester some room.
Fortunately for Tester, Democrats aren’t extinct in Montana — Gov. Steve Bullock (D) cruised to reelection in 2016, even as Trump dominated.
Still, Tester has never won reelection with the majority of the vote, winning instead after a Libertarian candidate siphoned off votes from the GOP. This year, the presence of both a Green Party candidate and a Libertarian candidate on the ballot complicates that calculus.
10. Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests | Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition tech | FBI warns hackers are targeting mobile banking apps Democratic senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests Some realistic solutions for income inequality MORE (D-Ohio)
Judging only by its 2016 numbers, Ohio should be more competitive. The state is drifting right — Trump won by 8 points, and all of the top statewide officeholders are Republicans. Still, the GOP has struggled to dent Brown, and he’s pulled in impressive fundraising totals.
Republican front-runner Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciOhio is suddenly a 2020 battleground Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Medicare for All won’t deliver what Democrats promise MORE has faced a spate of bad headlines in recent weeks about accusations that he failed to disclose political donations while registered as a lobbyist. He is looking to best businessman Mike Gibbons in the primary.
Other races to watch: Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Overnight Health Care: Trump says US ‘terminating’ relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE Jr. (D) still appears in the driver’s seat in Pennsylvania, even as GOP Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaBottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts MORE steps up his fundraising. Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) raised eyebrows by polling ahead of GOP Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police GOP senators dodge on treatment of White House protesters Five things to know about Trump’s legal power under the Insurrection Act MORE for the seat currently held by retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Trump asserts his power over Republicans Romney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force MORE (R), but she has time to boost her statewide name recognition. Mississippi’s special election is home to a four-way jungle primary that’s tough to handicap. And while Rep. Beto O’Rourke (R-Texas) is setting fundraising records, it’s unclear whether it’s enough to defeat Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R-Texas).