Even if Democrats are favored to take back the House of Representatives later this year -- though their clear-cut advantage has eroded in recent days amid terrific economic news and a failed Democratic government shutdown -- the Senate is a different story. The 2018 map heavily favors Republicans, so much so that it would take a gigantic blue wave to wipe away their upper chamber majority. That's still true even after the GOP nominated a walking disaster in Alabama, who somehow managed to lose a Senate seat in a crimson red state, for which Jeff Sessions ran unopposed in his last election. Republicans hold a slim 51-49 edge in the Senate, meaning that a two-seat flip would put Chuck Schumer in charge. But only two GOP-held seats look like they're in play this cycle: Nevada and Arizona (with Democratic "reaches" in Tennessee and mayyybe Texas).
Dems would need to sweep both of those two and then hold serve in every state where they're playing defense -- and they're playing a lot of defense. Ten Democratic Senators are up for re-election in states carried by Trump in 2016, half of which Trump won by at least 19 points. Republicans are therefore eyeing at least somewhat plausible pick-ups in Florida (Bill Nelson), Indiana (Doe Donnelly), Michigan (Debbie Stabenow), Missouri (Claire McCaskill), Montana (Jon Tester), North Dakota (Heidi Heitkamp), Ohio (Sherrod Brown), Pennsylvania (Bob Casey), West Virginia (Joe Manchin), and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin). It's worth noting that every single one of the incumbent Democrats in those seats voted against middle class tax cuts, and have helped Schumer attempt to block votes on qualified judicial nominees.
It's tough to say which of the aforementioned members are most vulnerable for defeat, but perhaps the Senator with the most treacherous uphill climb at this point is Mrs. McCaskill. She would have been defeated six years ago if Republican voters hadn't allowed her to manipulate them into nominating a terrible candidate who, right on cue, imploded in the general election. Her opponent this time is much more solid, and her voting record is still that of a liberal Democrat, increasingly outside of the mainstream of Missouri's right-drifting electorate. In the last presidential election, Hillary Clinton got trounced by Donald Trump, attracting less than 40 percent of the statewide vote. The very first member of Congress to throw her lot in with Hillary for President? Claire McCaskill. Republicans are not going to let voters forget about the McCaskill/Clinton alliance. Here's a new digital ad from a conservative group that's running in the state:
A recent batch of polling also shows that McCaskill's approval rating back home sank by eight points last year alone -- and now she's being targeted by some angry far-left activists who are hilariously and ludicrously accusing her (a hardcore partisan Democrat) of voting like a Republican, or something:
I have said this for a long time - Claire McCaskill has to go or run as a Republican so we can beat her. 2018 is our year and she ain’t with us. https://t.co/C5PJiHwDOn— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) January 20, 2018
Delusional. Toss in her continued troubles about her family's private jet, and McCaskill appears ripest for defeat this fall -- although Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp are nipping at her heels for that dubious distinction. Oh, and this little identity crisis from Joe Manchin certainly was interesting, too:
Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia told colleagues on Tuesday that he intended to run for re-election this year after all, ending an anxiety-making flirtation with retirement and easing Democratic fears that the most conservative Democrat in the Senate was about to effectively hand his seat to a Republican. In an interview, Mr. Manchin said he repeatedly expressed his frustration to Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and other colleagues, telling them that “this place sucks,” before finally signaling Tuesday morning to Mr. Schumer’s aides that he would file his re-election paperwork before West Virginia’s deadline on Saturday... “I’ve said this point blank: If people like me can’t win from red states, you’ll be in the minority the rest of your life,” Mr. Manchin said about his conversations with other Democrats about the need to tolerate more moderate lawmakers.
Even as he runs again, is his heart in it? Does he still believe in his party? He's denied any notion that he'd considering switching parties, but the tide in his state is flowing in the opposite direction of the Democratic mainstream. As long as he's a vote for a hypothetical Chuck Schumer-led majority, Republicans must work to defeat him in a very conservative state. And as his party sprints toward Bernie/Warren extremism, Manchin should consider whether he still belongs on their team. I'll leave you with a Senate data point from a safe Hillary state. How will this man's standing with voters look as he's put back on trial for federal corruption?
Bob Menendez's 29% job approval is the lowest of any U.S. senator.— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) January 23, 2018
Abbe Lowell's "gifts to cultivate a friendship are not bribes" defense hung a jury but voters are not impressed. #NJSenhttps://t.co/LhE4sJf8KW pic.twitter.com/SVMCRZsrSD
If history is any guide, New Jersey Democrats will not allow a deeply unpopular, scandal-plagued member to jeopardize a US Senate seat, regardless of what the rules are.