Donald Trump’s tumultuous August has increased Democrats’ chances of winning the Senate, with a dozen states potentially in play — including previously uncompetitive races in North Carolina and Indiana.
GOP operatives still believe their incumbents and candidates can prevail against imperfect Democrats in states ranging from Pennsylvania to Nevada. But protecting the 54-seat Republican majority will require a near-sweep of competitive states that is looking increasingly unlikely.
Story Continued Below
“I think we’re in remarkably good shape considering the top of the ticket,” said Rob Jesmer, a former executive director of the NRSC. “But the X factor is Trump, so I don’t know if our current position translates into holding the majority.”
In Indiana, former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh’s re-run suddenly added a new state to the map in July. Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrats’ strength in North Carolina has Republicans pouring late money into the state to save Sen. Richard Burr. And some Democrats believe Trump’s unpopularity could help push Senate candidates forward in below-the-radar states like Arizona and Missouri — and maybe even beyond those — this fall.
To be sure, Marco Rubio’s surprising un-retirement and GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s strong performance in Ohio have made Republicans feel more comfortable in those traditional battleground states. But the new states on the competitive map have given Senate Democrats a much wider view of their path to the majority. Democrats are set to clear Labor Day tied or leading the polls in enough places to win the majority, and they lie within striking distance in even more, including states some strategists all but wrote off a year ago.
Democrats have long been favored in Illinois and Wisconsin, and polls now show them with steady if slim advantages in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, as well as larger …