Last year at this time, many Republicans were optimistic about the opportunity to pick up enough Senate seats in 2018 to approach, or maybe even reach, a filibuster-proof majority — i.e. 60 seats. After all, ten seats held by Democrats in states carried by President Trump would be in play.
By the end of the year, however, many Republicans were questioning whether the GOP could pick up enough seats to offset the anticipated loss of several held by Republican Senators. Control of the Senate seemed to be up-for-grabs.
These days, the truth, or the best guess at it, probably lies somewhere in between. Republicans have a shot at, but aren’t likely to gain, seats in traditionally Blue states carried by Trump — Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Republicans have a very good shot at seats in Red States carried by Trump — Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Montana, and North Dakota. And of the two swing states carried by Trump, Republicans have a fair shot at unseating the Democratic incumbent in Wisconsin, but not in Florida.
This, at least, is the outlook presented by Axios, based on Axios/Survey Monkey polling of the ten states. Axios finds that if the election were held today, Democrats would lose in Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Montana, and North Dakota. Only North Dakota would likely be very close. In the other four states, the Democrat trails by no fewer than 7 points.
A common thread in these five states is that President Trump remains popular. In all five, his approval rating is above 50 percent. His 53 percent rating in Indiana is the lowest of the five.
Of the remaining five states, Ohio and Wisconsin seem the most promising for the GOP. In Wisconsin, where Trump’s approval rating is 48 percent, the incumbent, Tammy Baldwin, is only 3 points ahead of a generic opponent, according to the Axios poll. In Ohio, Sherrod Brown leads by 5 points over Jim Ranacci, but Trump’s approval rating is 54 percent, which is higher than Brown’s.
The outlook having already changed twice in 12 months, will likely change again in the next seven.
One change we can anticipate with certainly is that Republican challengers will emerge in all of the states. In its polling, Axios identified challengers in only four of the races (Missouri, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania). As Axios says, “with the election many months away and final Republican opponents not set, these numbers are likely to change as real GOP challengers get involved in the race.”
Trump’s approval number in each state will probably change too. But who knows in what direction?