Who's The Most Vulnerable Senate Democrat In 2018?

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 03, 2018 5:15 PM
Who's The Most Vulnerable Senate Democrat In 2018?

While the House races might be getting a lot of attention due to the Democratic advantage on the generic ballot, the Senate could be a different story. Once again, a handful of Democrats could be fighting for their political lives in states where Donald Trump carried. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) should be worried, as their states broke for Trump by double-digits. Though they didn’t act like it during the tax bill fight. Every single Democrat in Congress voted against the GOP’s tax reform package that will benefit the middle class. They’ll have to explain that when the benefits of this bill become clearer. CBS News found three families from different backgrounds to see how they would fare under Trump’s tax reform, the most extensive in 30 years. All three would save, with two families at first feeding into the liberal propaganda that this bill would raise their taxes; it doesn’t. Even the family in high-tax California would save $13,000 due to the decreased rates and the doubling of the child tax credit: 

For Heitkamp in North Dakota, she lied about the fallout from this tax bill and has yet to acknowledge her mistake, or correct the record. When fighting this bill, she said the GOP would raise taxes on North Dakotans by $10,000 by 2027. That’s not true, as Americans for Prosperity noted:

In her statement, Heitkamp cites a report by the Institute on Tax and Economic Policy (ITEP) as the source for her “almost $10,000” figure. The exact number used in the report is $9,900 and can be found on pages 7 and 32. Two things about this number. First, it is not an “average” of anything and is not listed or described as such. It purports to describe how much more North Dakota taxpayers as a whole would pay in 2027. Second, the true number isn’t even $9,900, it’s $9.9 million. Examine the tables on pages 7 and 32; they are both labelled “thousands,” as in thousands of dollars. So Heitkamp is not only wrong about what the number describes, she’s also wrong about what the number actually is.

For Claire McCaskill in Missouri, even CNN has her listed as a seat that’s likely to flip. Republicans state Attorney General Josh Hawley has already announced his candidacy:


This is the state where the Steve Bannon vs. Mitch McConnell civil war is on hold and things are largely going according to plan for Republicans.

McCaskill is one of five Democratic senators up for re-election in a state Trump won by double digits in 2016. Unlike the special election in Alabama and contests in several other states -- including Nevada and Arizona -- Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, and McConnell, the Senate majority leader, are both backing Attorney General Josh Hawley here. McConnell pointed to Hawley at a news conference a month ago as the type of candidate he believes "can actually win."

This race will be expensive and brutal. Expect Democrats to cast Hawley, who just won his job a year ago, as a ladder-climber.

Yet, Florida could be a pick-up opportunity in a state that’s trending blue. Trump won it by a slim margin, but incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson could be in the fight for his life with Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Rumblings of Scott giving Nelson a tough time were reported back in October. Politico reported that Nelson told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that his state party was a total disaster, and that Scott will have plenty of resources, mostly from his personal fortune, to mount a serious challenge.  

Sen. Bill Nelson went to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer this summer with an urgent plea.

Florida’s Democratic Party was in disarray after the 2016 presidential debacle, the senator said, and he needed help from D.C. to prepare for a likely challenge next year by GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who’s spent at least $86 million of his own fortune on his two gubernatorial campaigns.

Anxious about holding onto seats — and aware that a milquetoast moderate who’s been in politics for 30 years might not be ideal in the current political environment — the Senate minority leader convened a meeting of party hands. Present were Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez, his aides and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staff. They discussed reworking budgets and underwriting the Florida Democratic Party effort to help the three-term senior senator.

Nelson told the group that Democrats desperately needed to catch up on field staff in Florida, especially in the wake of the presidential and Senate race results last year that saw Republican-leaning voters flood the polls and took even plugged-in Democrats by surprise.

“The Democrats executed the 2012 playbook to perfection in 2016,” said one person who attended the meeting. Republicans “wrote a new playbook, and it was a better one. [Nelson's] point was and is that they didn’t stop organizing.”

Nelson is one of 10 Democrats up for reelection in states carried by President Donald Trump — and among the most vulnerable. A loss in Florida would all but relegate Democrats to the Senate minority for at least another two years; their hopes of winning the chamber next year are already exceedingly slim.

Scott got a boost from his handling of Hurricane Irma; Democrats thought it wouldn’t last. In October, a poll from the University of North Florida had Scott with a one-point lead over Nelson. By December, a poll from Saint Leo University had Scott leading by double-digits.

Oh, as for Donnelly and Manchin, they’ve been on the watch list since last summer. Donnelly was elected in 2012 due to idiotic remarks about rape and pregnancy made by Republican Richard Mourdock. Indiana is a state that went heavily for Trump. And in the era of neo-populism taking hold in the country with Donald Trump’s win, it’s not good to sponsor legislation called the End Outsourcing Act while you’re benefitting from…outsourcing. Donnelly’s family arts and crafts business, where he formerly served as a corporate officer, has a factory in Mexico.

For Manchin, yes, Trump won his state by a huge margin. Yes, that should spell doom, but Manchin is liked among Democrats and Republicans in his state. He’s adept at retail politics and is generally not concerned about re-election. He will do what he thinks best serves his state. If you beat him, he goes home. That’s how he views it, though he has delivered warnings to Schumer about the perils of ignoring the Democrats who are running for re-election this year in red states. It’s a surefire way to remain in the minority forever. For the GOP, one way to hit a road bump to a sweet win is if there are vicious primaries in some of these contests.