On Nov. 6, millions of Americans will head to the polls to decide the fate of the next Congress. Currently, Republicans hold majorities in both the House and Senate and have worked to enact the president’s agenda which includes big-ticket items such as two Supreme Court confirmations and the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act.
However, the president remains unpopular as his second year in office ends, with many Americans looking to midterms as a chance to put a check on his presidency. While every seat in the 435-member House of Representatives is up for re-election, the 2018 midterms offer a rare chance for Republicans to pad their 51-49 Senate majority.
Democrats need to defend 26 seats with 10 in states won by Trump in 2016, while Republicans must only defend a total of nine, with a single seat in a Hillary Clinton-won state. With this in mind, here’s my take on what will happen in some of the Senate’s closest toss-up races on election night.
With Jeff Flake retiring at the end of 2018, he’s left this seat up for grabs in a Republican state that’s becoming increasingly Democratic. This battleground pits two Arizona congresswomen against one another with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema saying she’ll be an ‘independent voice’ and Republican Martha McSally promising to enact the president’s agenda. This race will rely on Trump’s approval in a state he struggled to carry in 2016, with polling showing a race within a few percentage points. Personally, I believe McSally will pull out a tight victory, because of her small lead in current polling and recently released video of Sinema calling Arizona “The meth lab of democracy.”
Another incredibly tight race that pits term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott against incumbent Bill Nelson, this contest has remained close since initial polling began. Scott has spent over $20 million of his personal fortune in attempts to flip this seat in November. Despite this, Nelson has maintained a slight advantage heading into the home stretch, as outside money has made this the most expensive Senate campaign in U.S. political history. I think Nelson comes out on top here, capitalizing on anti-Trump sentiment to win a fourth term.
Republican challenger Mike Braun currently trails incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly by three points in the latest collection of polling, however he’s made significant strides since winning the Republican primary. With that, I think Braun is able to capitalize on Donnelly’s recent vote against confirming Justice Kavanaugh and Republicans will make another pick-up in one of the more conservative states in the country.
In one of the closest fought Senate races in the country, Republicans are fighting hard to end the political career of two-term democratic incumbent, Claire McCaskill. McCaskill has been a thorn in the side of Republicans during her time in the Senate as she voted against both Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as well as the Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Her challenger, 38-year-old Josh Hawley is the state’s attorney general and is seen as a rising star in the Republican party. Polling indicates a close race with Hawley slightly leading. I believe this race will end in a Republican pick-up, as McCaskill will finally be rebuked by her state for being far more liberal than her electorate.
Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic incumbent is seeking a second six-year term in one of the most conservative leaning states in the nation. Facing challenger Kevin Cramer, the state’s at-large congressmen in the general election, Heitkamp’s chances of returning to the Senate are looking slimmer, with new polling showing a double-digit lead for Cramer. This will hold true Nov. 6 as the GOP will pick up this seat and send a senator to Washington to help enact the president’s agenda.
Incumbent Dean Heller is the only Republican defending a seat in a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. He’s facing a tough challenge from Jacky Rosen, a congresswoman from Nevada’s third district with polling showing a race within the margin of error with a slight advantage to Heller. This will be a close race and is seen as the Democrats’ best chance at a pickup, but I believe Dean Heller will prevail by a razor thin margin.