The Rushmore Report: The Ten Most Vulnerable Senate Seats in 2018

The bad news for Democrats in the 2016 election may be just the beginning. Traditionally, the party that wins the White House loses Senate seats two years later. But this may not be a typical set-up. The 2018 election map sets up well for Republicans, as they will defend just eight seats to the Democrats’ 23. Following are the ten most vulnerable senators in the 2018 elections.

1. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)

Democrats were bullish on the Sunshine State in 2016, but Trump won the state by one percent, while Marco Rubio kept his senate seat by eight points. Bill Nelson is widely respected, but voters may tire of the three-term incumbent. Waiting in the wings is Republican Governor Rick Scott.

2. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

No state’s Senate race changed more in 2016 than Indiana’s. Republican Todd Young won by 10 points in a state that went for Trump by 19. No incumbent looks more vulnerable than Donnelly, facing a myriad of qualified opponents.

3. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

In a state that Trump won by 19 points, McCaskill is in trouble. She has won her past two races by narrow margins. Now the state has become more solidly Republican than in at least 20 years. McCaskill could be the highest-profile Democrat to go down.

4. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

In a very red state, Tester is in trouble. Trump won the state by 21 points. The good news is that Montanans are very independent, having elected a Democrat to the Governorship. The state’s only U.S. Rep., Ryan Zinke, is best-positioned to challenge for the position.

5. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

This may be the Democrats’ best chance for a pick-up. Hillary Clinton held Nevada by two points, and Harry Reid’s son Rory is an early favorite to challenge the first-term senator.

6. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

North Dakota is another ruby-red state coming off a Republican blow-out in 2016. Trump won by 36 points and Republican Governor Doug Burgum won by 58. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R) may challenge for this seat.

7. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)

Brown’s populist streak has won him favor in Ohio for two decades. But Ohio took a solidly Republican turn in 2016 with Trump’s big eight-point win. An early presidential contender, Brown could face an interesting challenge from term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R).

8. Bob Casey (D-Penn.)

The Casey name has been in Pennsylvania politics for 50 years, beginning with Casey’s popular father. But in a state that just voted for Trump, Republicans have a puncher’s chance here. Several qualified candidates are eyeing the contest.

9. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

Though Trump won this state by 42 points, Manchin remains a popular independently-minded loyalist to state interests. No other Democrat would stand a chance in West Virginia, but Manchin is like no other Democrat.

10. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.)

Wisconsin Republicans have a great organization. The state went narrowly for Trump in 2016. But no widely respected Republican has emerged as a frontrunner as of yet.

My early prediction

Of the above races, Heller will lose Nevada. This will be a pick-up for Democrats. Meanwhile, Donnelly, McCaskill, Tester, and Heitkamp will lose Indiana, Missouri, Montana, and North Dakota.


If all other races hold to form, Republicans will emerge from the 2018 mid-term elections with an advantage in the Senate of 55-45, a pick-up of three seats.

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