STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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 2, 2018 11:43 PM
Updated: Oct 2, 2018 11:43 PM

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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36680

Reported Deaths: 1250
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds304154
DeSoto200920
Madison150839
Jones123149
Harrison118316
Rankin113719
Neshoba104577
Forrest104343
Lauderdale97281
Scott83115
Jackson80419
Washington75313
Copiah67516
Leake63520
Lee63022
Grenada6259
Oktibbeha62328
Warren60021
Holmes59841
Lamar5847
Wayne56819
Yazoo5667
Lowndes54917
Leflore53956
Lincoln53835
Pike51120
Lafayette5094
Sunflower5058
Panola4616
Monroe46036
Simpson4533
Covington4505
Bolivar41618
Tate39513
Attala38624
Newton37710
Adams36720
Pontotoc3636
Marion34912
Claiborne31511
Pearl River30832
Chickasaw30219
Winston30211
Marshall2973
Jasper2826
Noxubee2799
Walthall2748
Clay26211
Smith25612
Union25612
Coahoma2356
Clarke22825
Lawrence2162
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie1974
Montgomery1863
Kemper18414
Carroll18311
Humphreys17410
Calhoun1705
Hancock15213
Itawamba1478
Tippah14711
Jefferson1373
Webster13511
Prentiss1274
Tunica1263
George1253
Jefferson Davis1254
Greene11610
Alcorn1112
Amite1113
Tishomingo1091
Quitman1011
Wilkinson1019
Perry914
Stone772
Choctaw764
Franklin572
Sharkey480
Benton470
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 54768

Reported Deaths: 1096
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7012170
Mobile5061140
Montgomery4599112
Tuscaloosa274353
Madison25359
Marshall205012
Shelby176425
Lee164737
Morgan13975
Baldwin134111
Walker111332
Elmore107622
Etowah106914
Dallas10189
DeKalb10017
Franklin95016
Unassigned77728
Autauga71515
Russell7130
Chambers68530
Cullman6686
Limestone6653
Butler65529
Houston6417
Tallapoosa63069
Lauderdale6006
St. Clair5983
Calhoun5545
Colbert5286
Escambia5128
Lowndes49222
Pike4805
Jackson4422
Coffee4364
Covington43512
Talladega4177
Dale4061
Barbour4022
Bullock37810
Hale36323
Marengo36111
Chilton3452
Blount3311
Clarke3236
Wilcox3158
Marion30914
Winston3095
Sumter29713
Pickens2786
Randolph2759
Monroe2683
Perry2552
Conecuh2388
Bibb2271
Macon2229
Choctaw22012
Greene2009
Henry1573
Washington1529
Lawrence1460
Crenshaw1343
Cherokee1317
Geneva1010
Fayette901
Clay892
Lamar891
Coosa671
Cleburne481
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Columbus
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Oxford
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 68°
Starkville
Scattered Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 68°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather