Republicans vs. Democrats: The path to the Senate majority
With the majority of the U.S. House of Representatives seemingly up for grabs, both Republicans and Democrats are also focusing on either keeping or capturing the majority of the U.S. Senate.
With eight weeks left in the midterm election cycle, both sides see a way to that senatorial majority.
However, unlike the House, it is Democrats who find themselves in an uphill battle to capture the majority of seats as they are defending nearly 24 seats in the Senate — 10 of which are in states which President Trump won during the 2016 presidential election.
According to the numbers, if Democrats can sweep every race currently ruled a “toss up” by various polls, it would give them a 52-48 majority.
For Republicans, on the other hand, the path to maintaining and even potentially extending its current majority is much easier.
The GOP needs to win just two of the “toss up” elections — as ruled by The Cook Political Report — to maintain a 50-50 split with Vice President Mike Pence serving as the tie-breaking vote.
Of those “toss up” races, five are currently held by Democrats, one by an incumbent Republican and two of the seats are held by GOP members who are retiring. Of those eight seats, five are in states Trump won by double-digits in the 2016 presidential election: Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.
All things being equal, the most likely scenario is that Republicans expand on its 51-49 majority, but during midterm elections anything is possible. It means Democrats are holding out hope that, like what they are seeing in House race polling, a majority of voters are deeply interested in having a Congress that keeps a stronger check and balance on Trump.
“Republicans remain the favorite, but the fact that we’re even talking about Democrats having a chance of taking over the majority is astounding and speaks to the problems of the Republican Party and Trump,” said Doug Thornell, who previously worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), to The Hill. “I’m optimistic we can keep our losses to a minimum or even win the majority.”
Initially, Republicans had hoped to expand their majority to the extent that is prevents a filibuster, however due to low approval numbers for Trump coupled with Doug Jones’ win in Alabama, those thoughts have fallen away.
Arizona, Nevada and Tennessee are seen as strong potential states where Democrats can slice into the Republican numbers.
Rep. Krysten Sinema (D-Arizona) has been heralded as a very strong candidate to take the seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican. Sinema, a professed independent, has had the benefit of owning the statewide campaign trail since Republicans have slugged it out in a long primary battle. However, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Arizona), winner of the GOP primary, has closed the gap on Sinema and the race is now being considered even.
In Tennessee, a state Democrats initially viewed as a long shot to take the seat being vacated by Sen. Bob Corker, former Gov. Phil Bredesen holds a slim lead over Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee). However, it could still prove to be an uphill battle in a state Trump won by nearly 26 points in 2016.
One state of concern for Democrats is Florida where incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson is facing former Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has raised millions of dollars — most coming from his personal coffers — in an attempt to win the seat for Republicans.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) is also facing a stiff challenge in her bid for re-election from Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. Hawley was a strong critic of former Gov. Eric Greitens who was forced to resign in June amid several scandals. While McCaskill has outraised Hawley, a recent poll by NBC News/Marist shows the race a dead heat.
In North Dakota, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is being challenged by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) in a state Trump captured by 36 points in 2016.
Fellow Democrats Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) were both seen as the most vulnerable Democrats coming into the midterms, but both have seen increases in their respective leads.
Democrats are having issues in New Jersey where Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) has been hampered by corruption charges — in a case that ended with a hung jury — and a strong challenge by Bub Hugin, a former pharmaceutical company CEO and Trump finance chairman, who has utilized $15 million of his own money to help finance his challenge.
One wild card race is in Texas where incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz — a former presidential candidate — is being challenged by Rep. Beto O’Rourke in a race that has Republicans worried. Cruz started with a strong lead against the El Paso Democrat, but that lead has since narrowed.
“Behind the scenes,” Politico reported. “the White House, party leaders and a collection of conservative outside groups have begun plotting out a full-fledged effort to bolster Cruz.”
At the end of the day, both Republicans and Democrats are preparing for what could be a stretch run that could include some surprises that could tip the scale of power in the Senate.
Matthew Clark is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Lead.