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.

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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.

Cases: 728811

Reported Deaths: 13405
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion996911740
Lake53548966
Allen40529675
St. Joseph35596550
Hamilton35536408
Elkhart28470441
Tippecanoe22375218
Vanderburgh22293396
Porter18701307
Johnson17923378
Hendricks17199315
Clark12943191
Madison12612339
Vigo12437246
Monroe11873170
LaPorte11856210
Delaware10667186
Howard9895216
Kosciusko9390117
Hancock8260140
Bartholomew8058155
Warrick7777155
Floyd7653178
Wayne7035199
Grant7032174
Boone6687101
Morgan6557139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6016111
Dearborn580077
Cass5794105
Henry5699103
Noble559883
Jackson501172
Shelby490696
Lawrence4522120
Harrison435072
Gibson434792
DeKalb427185
Clinton427053
Montgomery423688
Whitley395239
Huntington390080
Steuben385557
Miami381166
Knox371890
Jasper364747
Putnam359660
Wabash353479
Adams341054
Ripley339170
Jefferson329281
White313554
Daviess296299
Wells291381
Decatur284792
Fayette279562
Greene277885
Posey271333
Scott265653
LaGrange265570
Clay259447
Washington240332
Randolph239781
Spencer232131
Jennings229849
Starke215953
Fountain212046
Sullivan211442
Owen198756
Fulton194840
Jay193630
Carroll188520
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush173025
Vermillion168843
Franklin167835
Tipton162845
Parke146116
Blackford134632
Pike133734
Pulaski116645
Newton107734
Brown101941
Crawford99514
Benton98514
Martin88615
Warren81815
Switzerland7858
Union71010
Ohio56511
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1082815

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1258081400
Cuyahoga1119722115
Hamilton799721205
Montgomery514061014
Summit47145945
Lucas42119788
Butler38338584
Stark32273906
Lorain24997481
Warren24274298
Mahoning21546588
Lake20653369
Clermont19761238
Delaware18512133
Licking16418212
Fairfield16176199
Trumbull16032468
Medina15268264
Greene15063244
Clark13983299
Wood13080189
Portage12839203
Allen11639232
Richland11349199
Miami10670217
Muskingum8803133
Wayne8793211
Columbiana8778229
Pickaway8564121
Marion8523135
Tuscarawas8473244
Erie7888154
Hancock6914127
Ross6846155
Ashtabula6805170
Geauga6686148
Scioto6406101
Belmont5881167
Union570848
Lawrence5549102
Jefferson5525151
Huron5430119
Darke5355123
Sandusky5347120
Seneca5282121
Athens519158
Washington5155109
Auglaize490784
Mercer480385
Shelby469293
Knox4486110
Madison435661
Putnam4278100
Fulton422469
Ashland421789
Defiance419697
Crawford3975107
Brown394157
Logan381676
Preble379598
Clinton372163
Ottawa366679
Highland355062
Williams339275
Champaign331658
Guernsey315653
Jackson312551
Perry294950
Morrow284939
Fayette281950
Hardin270864
Henry268666
Coshocton265257
Holmes2603101
Van Wert243463
Adams237852
Pike237634
Gallia235349
Wyandot231055
Hocking215362
Carroll191547
Paulding172640
Meigs144840
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108423
Harrison108137
Vinton83115
Unassigned02
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The rain, and snow, that impacted us on Sunday will be long gone on Monday, allowing us to dry out! Unfortunately, the chilly air will hang around.
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