Nevada Republican Dean Heller remains in top spot
Senate Democrats are still defending 10 states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, but six months out from Election Day, the most vulnerable senator remains a Republican.
The Democrats’ odds of flipping a few GOP-held open seats in Arizona and Tennessee have increased over the past six months, but this list — like the one we did a year out from Election Day — ranks incumbents most likely to lose — not seats most likely to flip. That means nine of the 10 senators are Democrats, with the second and third spots remaining unchanged.
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III have traded places, with Heitkamp now at fourth and Manchin at fifth. Democrats would have been happy to face Don Blankenship in the West Virginia Senate race, but they’re also not getting Rep. Evan Jenkins, whom they spent nearly $2 million against in the primary.
The biggest change is Florida Sen. Bill Nelson moving up from eighth to sixth with Gov. Rick Scott’s entry into the race. That pushes Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Browndown a spot each to seventh and eighth, respectively.
As always, this list is compiled after consultation with strategists from both sides of the aisle and the race ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.
Heller remains at the top spot because he’s the only Republican up for re-election in a state Clinton carried in 2016, and Democrats have a favorable national environment this cycle. Heller has one less hurdle with perennial candidate Danny Tarkanian dropping his primary challenge to run for the House, at Trump’s urging. Democrats contend Heller moving toward Trump while Tarkanian was in the race could come back to haunt him. They have coalesced around Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is already up on television. (She does have a self-funding primary challenger.) Rosen raised more than twice as much as Heller in the first quarter of the year, pulling in $2.6 million to Heller’s $1.1 million. But Heller still has a cash on hand advantage.