After a summer of doom-and-gloom predictions that the Senate was all but lost, Republicans are in the midst of an upswing that’s put them in better position to hang on than at any point since the 2014 midterms.
The GOP has hit a gusher of money from outside groups, forcing Democrats to shift their campaign tactics in difficult races. A spate of recent polls show Republicans gaining or even jumping ahead in competitive states thought to be slipping away.
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And, above all, presidential winds have shifted unexpectedly in their favor. Hillary Clinton’s struggles are dragging down Democrats just as Donald Trump’s more conventional campaign of late has allayed fears of a down-ticket deluge.
There’s still plenty of time before the election for fortunes to change again. Democrats are still favored to take the chamber by a narrow margin, thanks to an electoral map tilted decidedly in their direction. In a sign of bullishness, the party is pushing into some right-of-center states where GOP incumbents are more vulnerable than expected, such as North Carolina and Missouri.
But the fact that the GOP is even in the conversation is stunning to senior members of both parties.
“As you’ve seen Trump improve his game and you’ve seen the shrinking difference between Trump and Clinton, obviously he’s not the drag he was on our down-ballot candidates,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a two-time former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “It makes people feel better about our prospects. But having said that, there’s 55 days until the election, and something could happen at the debates that changes the whole dynamic.”
The GOP’s financial advantage is the Democrats’ chief worry — and for good reason. The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with close ties to Majority …