Adding to the terrible math Democrats face with the U.S. Senate heading into the the 2018 cycle is a lack of real targets, even in a good year for them. Only eight Republicans face re-election next year, nearly all of them in comfortably red states:
While very, very, very optimistic progressives and Democrats will insist Ted Cruz could be defeated, the most realistic and generous exploration of the map gives them two seats they could realistically compete in, if the news cycle benefits them late next year: Jeff Flake in Arizona, who won a close election in 2012 and faces a re-election in a state that has seen some Republican erosion in the last decade, and Dean Heller, who barely won his election in 2012 and faces re-election in a state that narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton.
Assuming the Democrats have a great cycle, and manage to defend Manchin, Heitkamp, Tester, McCaskill, Donnelly, Casey, Baldwin, Brown, Nelson and Stabenow, their path to a majority lies through Flake and Heller, and the latter is proving to be a problem. Senator Heller should be vulnerable: again, he narrowly won in 2012, Democrats have kept up a fierce registration pace and held Harry Reid’s seat last year. The problem for Democrats?
Nobody is in against Heller, at least according to veteran Nevada political reporter Jon Ralston:
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) February 7, 2017
With Governor Sandoval building his own political machine, and a midterm election without Harry Reid, Democrats need either a self-funding candidate or a big, big political name. But nobody, at least so far, has stepped forward.
The first step in winning is running, and so far, Senator Heller is the only one doing so. Keep a serious eye on this seat as 2017 rolls on. If the political winds have changed and the Democrats are heading into a very good cycle, somebody big will eventually declare. Anything can happen in 2018. We’ve seen enough political surprises in the last eighteen months to be cautious about declaring an entire legislative body off limits to a political party.
But as of right now, Republicans will probably control the U.S. Senate until at least January 2021.