CNN Key Races: A blue state complicates Democrats' Senate math

If Democrats want to take control of the Senate after the midterm elections -- and they very much want to --...

Posted: Oct 3, 2018 12:43 AM
Updated: Oct 3, 2018 12:43 AM

If Democrats want to take control of the Senate after the midterm elections -- and they very much want to -- they're going to need to defend nearly all of their current seats, knock off at least two vulnerable Republicans and maybe strike deep into red territory.

What they can't afford is to play defense in blue states.

Bob Menendez

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Government and public administration

Government organizations - US

New Jersey

North America

Northeastern United States

Political Figures - US

Political organizations

Politics

Southwestern United States

Texas

The Americas

United States

US Congress

US Democratic Party

US Federal elections

US political parties

US Republican Party

US Senate

US Senate elections

But that's exactly the position of trial-tainted Sen. Robert Menendez, who survived federal corruption charges in New Jersey with a mistrial and now wants to hold onto his job in the Senate.

A number of factors conspired to make CNN slide the New Jersey Senate race from Likely Democrat to Lean Democrat on Monday.

Read the full report from Dan Merica and Terence Burlij. Polling in New Jersey has suggested the race is incredibly tight -- between two and six percentage points between Menendez and his deep-pocketed challenger Bob Hugin in recent weeks.

Democrats need to pick up two seats to win the Senate majority. That might not sound like a lot of seats in a midterm election year when the anti-Trump winds are undeniably helping them, particularly in House races.

But the map this year, with numerous red state Senate Democrats up for re-election, favors Republicans.

New Jersey should be a gimme for Democrats. Trump lost New Jersey by 14 percentage points in 2016. It's deep blue territory. But now Menendez finds himself in the Lean Democratic column, alongside contested Senate races in Ohio, Montana, West Virginia and Wisconsin, all states President Donald Trump won.

A tight race for Menendez bucks the perception of a Trump backlash that has propelled Democrats this midterm. They're on offense in key suburban House districts around the country and seem very close to knocking Republicans out of the majority in the House. While the Senate is a much different story, there's reason for Democrats to be excited about their Senate chances too. Democrat Beto O'Rourke has vaulted into unlikely contention for the Senate seat in Texas held by Sen. Ted Cruz. But while O'Rourke and his supporters are feeding off the moment, Menendez is finding difficulty despite the moment.

Just like Texas hasn't had a Democrat elected as a senator since Lloyd Bentsen won re-election in 1988, New Jersey hasn't had a Republican elected senator since Clifford Case won re-election in 1972. (Texas did have a Democrat appointee, temporarily, to fill a vacancy, and New Jersey had two Republican senators appointed, temporarily, to fill vacancies).

But while demographers and politics watchers have long wondered if Texas, with its status as one of a handful of majority-minority states, would start to turn toward Democrats, no such turn long-term turn toward Republicans has been predicted for New Jersey.

Arizona, another state that has seemed to move toward Democrats but has not voted Democratic yet, could elect its first Democratic senator since 1988, as Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema squares off against Republican Rep. Martha McSally for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. That seems more likely than either New Jersey or Texas flipping.

The Arizona race, along with Tennessee, is one of two Toss Up open races being vacated by Republicans that Democrats will have to win to realize their slim chances of winning the Senate. The only incumbent Republican incumbent in the Toss Up column is Nevada's Dean Heller. If Democrats swept those three key Toss Up Republican seats, they could gain a slim majority. But their quest will be complicated by the fact that there are three Democratic incumbents who are also in Toss Up races in states Trump won. There's also a Democratic incumbent, North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp, whose race is rated by CNN as Lean Republican. If Democrats lose the race in North Dakota and lose just one of the Toss Up races, their chances of taking the Senate majority go from slim to nearly shut.

Each of these races is unique, as Menendez and his troubles prove, but if Democrats are going to make a play for the majority, a tight New Jersey race, even if it still leans toward Menendez, is the last thing party leaders want to worry about if it provides an unexpected opportunity for Republicans.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 46915

Reported Deaths: 2681
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11499683
Lake5053242
Elkhart316443
Allen2717128
St. Joseph186366
Cass16369
Hamilton1518100
Hendricks1386100
Johnson1254118
Porter71237
Tippecanoe6778
Madison64864
Clark63844
Bartholomew58244
Howard56057
LaPorte55326
Kosciusko5124
Vanderburgh4806
Jackson4653
LaGrange4657
Noble45728
Hancock43735
Boone43443
Delaware42949
Marshall4273
Shelby42025
Floyd37144
Morgan32531
Montgomery29320
Grant29026
Clinton2852
Monroe26628
Dubois2646
White26010
Decatur24832
Henry24315
Lawrence23624
Vigo2288
Dearborn22723
Harrison21022
Warrick21029
Greene18432
Miami1812
Jennings17111
Putnam1688
Scott1607
DeKalb1594
Daviess14116
Orange13523
Wayne1346
Perry1279
Steuben1262
Franklin1248
Jasper1142
Ripley1147
Carroll1102
Wabash1102
Fayette987
Newton9710
Whitley884
Starke853
Randolph784
Huntington712
Wells711
Jefferson701
Fulton681
Jay680
Washington661
Knox630
Pulaski621
Clay604
Gibson592
Rush563
Adams481
Benton480
Owen471
Sullivan441
Brown381
Blackford372
Posey360
Spencer351
Fountain302
Tipton301
Crawford290
Switzerland260
Martin220
Parke220
Ohio140
Warren141
Union130
Vermillion130
Pike90
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 55257

Reported Deaths: 2903
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin9825417
Cuyahoga7392372
Hamilton5605197
Marion273038
Lucas2669302
Pickaway218441
Summit2079206
Montgomery191826
Mahoning1805231
Butler151144
Columbiana128860
Stark1079112
Lorain98367
Trumbull91665
Warren81421
Clark7619
Belmont54322
Delaware54115
Fairfield52916
Tuscarawas52910
Medina50632
Lake48018
Miami45531
Licking44212
Portage42858
Ashtabula42544
Wood40451
Geauga39942
Clermont3906
Wayne35951
Richland3255
Allen30540
Mercer2788
Darke24525
Greene2449
Erie23422
Holmes2203
Huron1992
Madison1928
Ottawa13923
Crawford1345
Washington13020
Putnam12615
Sandusky12614
Hardin12012
Morrow1161
Ross1133
Auglaize1044
Coshocton902
Monroe8817
Jefferson832
Union801
Hancock781
Hocking788
Muskingum761
Preble701
Williams682
Guernsey673
Lawrence670
Clinton660
Shelby644
Fulton610
Ashland581
Carroll583
Logan581
Wyandot585
Brown541
Defiance493
Fayette460
Knox451
Highland441
Athens431
Champaign391
Scioto380
Seneca332
Perry321
Van Wert320
Henry290
Paulding230
Adams221
Pike220
Vinton222
Jackson180
Gallia141
Harrison121
Meigs110
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Angola
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Van Wert
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
More Heat & Humidity Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events