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Republicans’ best chance of keeping control of one chamber in Congress most likely lies in the Senate.
Despite only holding a two-seat majority, their opposition is arguably in a tougher spot. Republicans are defending eight seats in 2018, while Democrats are defending 24 plus the two independents who caucus with them.
And in those states where Democrats are playing defense, President Donald Trump carried 10 of them in the 2016 election.
There are some red seats where the Democrats have both hope and strong candidates: Arizona and Tennessee. Additionally, in Arizona and Mississippi, the Democrats could find luck on their side if the internecine battles between the ultra-conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party result in a more extreme GOP candidate on the ballot in November, improving Democratic chances for a win.
But don’t forget the likely Democratic difficulties in holding states including West Virginia and Indiana, where Vice President Mike Pence is promising to be extensively involved.
Pence has already attacked West Virginia Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin and will be expected to campaign heavily in his home state of Indiana.
Policy issues tend to play bigger in Senate races than House races so expect immigration reform, border security, tax reform, and the government shutdown to pop up over the next 10 months.
Here are the Senate races to watch.
Tennessee's Sen. Bob Corker is retiring and the race to replace him is on
BY CHRISTOPHER DONATO
Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Currently representing Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District
Age: 65 (June 6, 1952)
Former Representative for Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District (2011-2017)
Age: 44 (February 7, 1973)
Physician and eye doctor, son of immigrant parents (father from Cuba, mother from Dominican Republic), invented a thus-far unpatented treatment for dry eye, and is the team eye doctor for the Memphis Grizzlies. His wife is also an eye doctor. They have three teenage daughters. Age: N/A
Truck driver for Big G express. Right now his campaign is a one-man-show; if you call him, he’ll likely be driving his truck.
Age: 42 (June 23, 1975)
This is his first time running as a Republican; In 2010 he ran for the Tennessee House of Representatives, rand for US Senate in 2012 and 2014, and in 2016 ran to represent Tennessee’s 9th district in the US House as a Democrat.
Age: 62 (September 28, 1955)
Former Mayor of Nashville (1991-1999), former Governor of Tennessee (2003-2011). Swept every county in the state in his 2006 re-election bid
Age: 74 (November 21, 1943)
When Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., announced he would not seek re-election seven candidates -- six Republicans and one Democrat -- jumped in the race and to replace him.
Corker’s retirement announcement has left the GOP defending a deep-red seat, which hasn’t been held by a Democrat since 1995. There’s a crowded field of Republicans vying for the Senate seat: Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Larry Crim, Fmr. Rep. Stephen Fincher, Steven Hughes, Aaron Pettigrew, and Dr. Rolando Toyos,
Democrats got their top recruit in coaxing former Gov. Phil Bredesen off the sidelines.
The race to replace Corker is important for Republicans; they need to keep it red as protection against losing a majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, Democrats are looking to become the majority party in the Senate and are looking to ride a wave of momentum after deep-red state Alabama elected a Democrat to the Senate in a strongly contested special election in December 2017.
Candidate filing deadline: Feb. 15
Primary: Aug. 2
Election: Nov. 6
A senator stepping down in a critical border state leads to a fiesty Republican primary
By MEGHAN KENEALLY
An osteopathic physician and ran an unsuccessful bid against Sen. John McCain in 2016
Age: 49 (Jan. 25, 1969)
A controversial figure who touted himself as America’s Toughest Sheriff
Age: 85 (June 14, 1932)
A current congresswoman from a district along the border, who was the first female Air Force fighter pilot.
Age: 51, (March 22, 1966)
He previously volunteered for his now-opponent Ward and also used to run a revenge porn website.
Age: 33 (Nov. 9. 1984)
Christian ‘C.J.’ Diegel
A certified financial planner and former Air Force special operations intelligence officer.
Age: 39 (Sept. 27, 1978)
A doctor who calls for changes in healthcare, English as the national language, and improvements in veteran’s care.
A current congresswoman who has a relatively moderate voting record and already made history by becoming the first bisexual member of Congress.
Age: 41 (July 12, 1976)
A Muslim-American attorney who is originally from Arkansas but who has lived in Arizona for 20 years.
Age: 46 (Nov. 11, 1971)
A lawyer who is driven by outrage over the lack of bipartisan work to solve problems.
Age: 49 (May 19, 1968)
An indigenous woman and mother of four, she’s venturing into politics for the first time.
Age: 42 (Sept. 8, 1975)
He ran an unsuccessful congressional race in Illinois before successful running for city council and is now trying again in his new home state.
A lively cast of characters and the center seat to the debate over immigration policy will keep the Arizona Senate race bustling through November.
Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision not to seek re-election opened up the seat — and Republican field, allowing the warring factions of the party to vie for the spot. The Democrats, led by Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, are hoping that their opponents' infighting could lead them to help make the state a deeper shade of purple than it already is.
The Republican primary will not only be a competition of differing ideas on the border wall and immigration, but also show the competition between the candidates as they tout their respective ties to President Donald Trump. Kelli Ward, who unsuccessfully went up against Sen. John McCain in his 2016 re-election, had an early lead in the race that was helped by the backing of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and financial support from conservative fundraiser Rebekah Mercer.
But two key opponents could threaten her hold on her base.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio threw his name in the race in January, months after being pardoned by Trump, and ex-fighter pilot Rep. Martha McSally flew into the competition touting her tendency for tough talk. While these three candidates are vying for the more conservative voters in the state, there are four others who will be nipping at their heels until the Aug. 28 primary.
Candidate filing deadline is May 30
The primary is on Tuesday Aug. 28.
The general election is on Nov. 6.
McCaskill faces uphill battle in re-election bid in state Trump won by 20 points
BY MARIAM KHAN
Democrat – Incumbent
Senior U.S. Senator from Missouri, running for her third term, a former prosecutor and state auditor
Age: 64 (born July 24, 1953)
Josh Hawley currently serves as the state’s Attorney General and is considered a top recruit for the GOP to defeat McCaskill
Age: 38 (December 31, 1979)
Sen. Claire McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable Democrats running for re-election in a state Trump handily won by 20 points in the 2016 presidential election.
McCaskill is a top Republican target in the upcoming Midterm election and has already spent a large part of the past year taking political hits from Trump.
During a visit to the state to tout the benefits of the GOP tax plan late last year, Trump vowed to campaign for the Republican running against her.
“He’s going to be a great senator,” Trump said of Hawley, adding that Hawley “wants to see a major tax cut” while McCaskill “wants your taxes to go up.”
“I said, ‘Josh when you’re ready, you have my word, I’m going to come here and campaign with you,’” Trump said.
Democrats, for their part, are sure to hit Hawley for his lack of experience in the political spotlight.
March 27, 2018: Candidate filing deadline
August 7, 2018: Primary
November 6, 2018: General election
In Trump-Friendly West Virginia, a fierce battle to flip a Democrat Senate seat
By MERIDITH MCGRAW
Joseph “Joe” Manchin, III
Current U.S. Senator from West Virginia
From: Fairmont, WV
Age: 70 (August 24, 1947)
Paula Jean Swearengin
Social and environmental activist
From: Coal City, WV
Former Chairman and CEO of coal company Massey Energy Company
From: Sprigg, WV
Age: 67 (March 14, 1950)
From: Delbarton, WV
Age: 41 (December 10, 1976)
Current U.S. Congressman from West Virginia
From: Huntington, WV
Age: 57 (September 12, 1960)
Current Attorney General of West Virginia
From: Harpers Ferry, WV
Age: 50 (December 21, 1967)
Thomas “Tom” Willis
Co-owner of Glen Ferris Inn hotel and restaurant
From: Martinsburg, WV
West Virginia is the heart of Trump Country. In 2016, the Mountain state overwhelmingly checked the box for Republican Donald Trump in the polling booth, rejecting Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, by 42 points — the largest margin in the state’s history. Trump’s populist message and promise to revitalize the coal industry captured the attention of voters across Appalachia who have watched unemployment rates rise as industries decline.
Now, Trump’s “Make America Great Again” agenda will be put to the test as incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin faces a field of Republicans eager to turn the state red.
Manchin, a social conservative and moderate in an era of hyper-partisan politics on Capitol Hill, has secured a reputation in Washington for reaching across the aisle and for frequently visiting the White House to seek out bipartisan deals.
And while back in West Virginia Manchin remains popular, the large pool of Republicans — and money — eager to take on his seat shows just how competitive the state has become. Manchin faces a Democratic primary opponent in Paula Jean Swearengin, an environmental activist and progressive in the vein of Bernie Sanders.
On the Republican side, a fierce primary battle is brewing over who can spark the same enthusiasm Donald Trump found across the Rust Belt. Among those hoping to represent West Virginia in Washington are a coal baron, a small businessman, a sitting congressman, the current state attorney general, and a coal miner.
Democrats are hoping for a vicious fight between Congressman Evan Jenkins and current Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Since entering the race, Jenkins has hit Morrisey for his ties to the lobbying industry and Steve Bannon, while Morrisey has called Jenkins a “liberal” for once being a Democrat.
And then there’s Don Blankenship, the former coal baron who spent a year in prison for violating mine safety laws who is hoping to redeem his reputation in the state while as he takes on Manchin. Also vying for a spot on the ticket are Tom Willis, a small business owner and National Guardsman, and Bo Copley, a coal miner who gained national attention in 2016 when he tearfully told Hillary Clinton about fearing for his family’s future after losing his job in the coal industry.
May 8, 2018: Primary election November 6, 2018: General election
Mississippi prepares for Senate special election
By NIA PHILLIPS
Chris McDaniel Republican Mississippi state Senator, lawyer, 2014 U.S. Senate GOP Candidate Age 46 (Feb 28, 1971)
Cindy Hyde-Smith Republican Mississippi Agricultural Secretary, former Mississippi state Senator, beef cattle farmer Age 58 (May 10, 1959) **need to confirm this**
Mike Espy Democrat Former U.S. Representative, former U.S. Agricultural Secretary, lawyer Age 64 (Nov 30, 1953)
In Mississippi, Republicans are scrambling to maintain both of their U.S. Senate seats after Senator Thad Cochran announced his retirement beginning April 1. Now, they look towards a November special election, strategizing on which of two non-traditional candidates they will rally behind to send to Washington.
Complicating the plan, the Magnolia State’s “jungle primary” format where candidates battle in an open election regardless of party affiliation. If one person is unable to win 50% of the vote, Mississippians will return to the polls once again three weeks later, deciding between the top two contenders.
Republican Chris McDaniel, a lawyer and former conservative talk-show host with a large social media presence is working to fire up his conservative support base, after gaining wide recognition in a narrowly-lost primary fight against Cochran in 2014.
The Tea Party candidate who originally declared his run against incumbent Sen. Roger Wicker is instead focusing on the special election. McDaniel’s path to Capitol Hill, however, is now seemingly more difficult after an early endorsement by political outsider Steve Bannon. Despite President Trump giving his early support for Wicker, McDaniel continues to align himself with the Commander-in-Chief’s political values.
Possibly standing in McDaniel’s way is Gov. Phil Bryant’s interim Senate pick: Cindy Hyde-Smith.
The beef-cattle farmer who served as Mississippi’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce since 2011, launched her fall campaign the same day as Bryant’s announcement. Hyde-Smith could potentially make history if she were to become the first woman to represent the Magnolia State in U.S. History.
But one potential wrinkle for the longtime lawmaker is her political past.
The former state Senator’s also a former Democrat, switching to the Republican party in 2010. And her past affiliation’s already fuel to the fire for McDaniel, immediately noting Hyde-Smith’s Democratic past just moments after the governor announced his pick.
But, the Republicans will also have to wait and see who the Democrats bring to the table in the special election as they hope to have a similar outcome as their neighbors in Alabama this fall.
Former Washington insider Mike Espy telling ABC News he has a “strong intention” to run for Cochran’s vacant seat. The attorney was elected as Mississippi's first African American Representative in U.S. Congress since the Reconstruction era. Espy additionally worked as the U.S. Agricultural Secretary during the Clinton administration.
SPECIAL ELECTION: November 6, 2018
In Vice President Mike Pence's home state of Indiana, a showdown over a senate seat
BY ALISA WIERSEMA
Sen. Joe Donnelly
Age: 62 (September 29, 1955)
Rep. Luke Messer
Age: 48 (Feb 27, 1969)
Rep. Todd Rokita
Age: 47 (Feb. 9, 1970)
This year’s Indiana Senate race is sure to feature showdowns in the primary and general election cycles, putting Vice President Mike Pence’s home state in the spotlight for battles within his own party, as well as across the aisle.
The matchup is set in a state President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016 — meaning incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly is looking at a tough race against a slew of Republicans eager to take his seat.
Indiana businessman Mike Braun launched into the field with the first ads of the election cycle. Candidates on the right also include House Representatives Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, who are duking it out in an intra-party war marked with personal jabs.
Such heated exchanges set the stage well ahead of this year’s midterm cycle, meaning whichever Republican candidate comes out on top will have already fought hard just to get the party’s nomination.
As for the incumbent, Sen. Joe Donnelly will have to fight a bitter battle to defend his seat at home and on a national level. While Donnelly aligns with Republicans on issues like abortion, he has a target on his back for voting against tax reform that was painted on by the president himself during a tax event last fall in Indianapolis.
“If Senator Donnelly doesn't approve it, because you know, he's on the other side, we will come here. We will campaign against him like you wouldn't believe,” President Trump said at the time.
Filing deadline: Feb 9, 2018
Primary: May 8, 2018
18 For 18’ is ABC News’ powerhouse political coverage of the 2018 midterm elections. Coverage kicks off Sunday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” featuring a report on the 2018 midterms and the special House of Representatives election taking place next month in Pennsylvania. Coverage continues on “Nightline” on Monday. To stay up to date, visit ABCNews.com and the ABC News app, and follow our midterm elections alerts.