Senate elections 2018 a slightly sarcastic guide to 10 must-win races – vox

In the 2018 Senate elections, Democrats will have serious advantages — an unpopular President Trump, the historic trend of voters punishing the party in power — and one huge obstacle: 10 Senate Democrats are running for reelection in states that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. You’re gonna hear about that a lot.

That hurdle is the big reason why, though the current Senate has 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats and therefore Democrats would need to flip only two seats to reclaim control of the chamber, Democrats are still the underdogs in the 2018 battle for the Senate.

In some of these states, like West Virginia, where Sen. Joe Manchin might have the toughest race of his life, Trump won with 70 percent of the vote two years ago and remains very popular with voters.

Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Montana’s Jon Tester, and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp are other Senate Democrats with difficult terrain. Others — Ohio’s Sherrod Brown and Florida’s Bill Nelson, for example — are running in more traditional swing states. Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin is vying for reelection on the site of one of Trump’s most surprising triumphs.

The 2018 midterms will be the collision of two opposing forces: incumbent senators hoping to benefit from the national anti-Trump mood but in states where Trump remains relatively popular. And every race — its own unique flower, just like every state — comes with its own quirks and scandals.

It’s a lot to keep track of. So we thought we’d give you a rapid-fire breakdown of the elections where control of the Senate will be determined. Who’s running, what does the state look like, what’s the narrative of the campaign? Come on this journey with us. West Virginia: Joe Manchin, Don Blankenship, and some other guys

Who is the Senate Democrat? Joe Manchin, elected to the Senate in 2010. He was governor and secretary of state before that. He’s pretty moderate or even conservative by Democratic standards, though he, like everybody else on this list, voted against Obamacare repeal and the Republican tax bill.

Who are the Republicans? The conventional candidates are Rep. Evan Jenkins and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the establishment favorite and the outsider, respectively. But the whole race was upended when Don Blankenship, a former coal baron who ran a company found to be violating federal safety regulations when a mining accident killed 29 people, entered the race. Right now, polling has Jenkins and Morrisey neck and neck for the lead, but Blankenship is lurking and a lot of voters are undecided. The primary is May 8.

H ow much does the state like Trump? Trump won with 68 percent of the vote, his highest margin in the country. His approval rating is still 61 percent, highest of any state, per Gallup, the source for the rest of this list’s numbers. Manchin’s approval rating, meanwhile, is so-so: 43 percent approve; 44 percent disapprove, per Morning Consult, also our go-to source.

What’s interesting about this race, anyway? Manchin has a strong history with the state, though his brand of centrism might risk alienating actual progressives in the year of the Resistance. Blankenship is the lightning rod of the race: Washington Republicans are trying to stop him, worrying his nomination would put a gettable seat out of reach, while Washington Democrats seem to be propping him up. Things have gotten very weird.

Do we know who’s g oing to win? Nope! Manchin has pretty big leads over Jenkins and Morrisey in the early general election polling, but it’s way too soon to say. The smart folks at Cook Political Report say it’s a toss-up. North Dakota: Heidi Heitkamp and the indecisive Kevin Cramer

Who are the Republicans? Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is a pretty awkward human being but a pretty popular governor nevertheless. Notably stood up to the National Rifle Association after the Parkland high school shooting. Even Democrats give him credit for that. Scott is also very, very, very rich and willing to spend his own money on campaigns.

What’s interesting about this race, anyway? I’m not going to lie: These guys are really boring. Even their ostensible allies in the state say so. This race is all about money: Scott has a lot of it, he has nothing else to spend it on, and Nelson will have to keep up. There are some interesting twists, such as the political residue from Parkland and Puerto Ricans relocating here after Hurricane Maria. But cash rules everything around Miami.

Do we know who’s go ing to win? As long as Nelson isn’t dramatically outspent, he’s probably the favorite. But Democrats will need some dough to make sure Scott doesn’t get the upper hand. Right now, Nelson has a 3.8-point advantage, on average. Pennsylvania: Bob Casey probably doesn’t have too much to worry about

Who are the Republicans? Former Democrat Kevin Nicholson, whose parents have given money to Baldwin, and state Sen. Leah Vukmir are the frontrunners. She’s a conservative with closer ties to Gov. Scott Walker’s in-state establishment. He used to be a Democrat but has a compelling personal bio as a former enlisted Marine. Primary isn’t till August 14.

H ow much does the state like Trump? Another narrow Trump 2016 win, with 47 percent. Not so Midwestern nice for the president now: 41 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval. Badgers seem lukewarm on Baldwin: 40 percent approval, 42 percent disapproval.

What’s interesting about this race, anyway? The headliner in Wisconsin 2018 elections is Walker, bane of the state’s progressives. As Republicans and Democrats in the state told me, the more Baldwin can contrast herself with the divisive governor, the better off she’ll probably be. She’s the last statewide elected Democrat standing. Republicans want such an unabashed progressive out for that reason. There is a lot of Meaning in this race.