- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2018

Republicans say last week’s primaries delivered the kind of candidates their party needs to expand its majority in the Senate, though Democrats say they also did what they needed to do to advance toward their goal of netting the two dozen House seats that would flip control of the lower chamber.

The GOP dodged one bullet in West Virginia when state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey won the party’s Senate primary, sidelining maverick Republican Don Blankenship.

Republicans said they also have viable Senate nominees in Indiana and Ohio — which, along with West Virginia, represent some of the juiciest GOP-pickup targets on the map this year.

“Republican primary voters nominated accomplished, capable candidates who have shown they have what it takes to win in the general election,” said Bob Salera, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm for Senate Republicans.

Democrats, meanwhile, grew more optimistic about their chances of retaking the House after Rep. Robert Pittenger become the first GOP incumbent to lose a House primary race, falling to the Rev. Mark Harris in North Carolina’s 6th district.

The race is now a toss-up, according to political handicappers, who note that Daniel McCready, the Democratic nominee, has $1.1 million more in the bank than Mr. Harris.

“While Republicans already lost one of their own on Tuesday, Democratic candidates who fit their districts and have deep records of service are heading into the general election with a surge of momentum,” said Tyler Law, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Six months out from the midterm elections, the Senate map favors Republicans, and the House map favors Democrats.

Democrats are defending Senate seats in 10 states that President Trump carried over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin III are running in re-election races that have described as a coin-flips.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, meanwhile, pushed the Florida Senate race into the jump ball category last month when he launched his bid to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson, and Mr. Trump is doing his part to put a dent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester reelection hopes in Montana.

Republicans, meanwhile, have only two or three seats that could be in danger — and none more so than Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who is running for re-election against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen.

“Dean Heller is the only incumbent GOP senator running for re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and his full-throated embrace of President Trump and the out-of-touch Republican agenda in Washington is not being well-received by Nevada voters,” said Sarah Abel, representative for the Nevada Democratic Party.

Although the Republicans hold only a 51-49 edge in the Senate, the geography and the number of pickup opportunities means that their much bigger majority in the House (now 236-193) is arguably at substantially more risk.

Republicans are defending seats in 22 of the 24 most competitive House races, according to the Cook Political Report. Also, the pushback against Mr. Trump has helped Democrats post strong fundraising hauls.

Conservatives are rushing to defend their majority, with megadonor Sheldon Adelson reportedly cutting a $30 million check for the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Another warning sign came via a CNN poll that found that when voters are asked whether they plan to vote for a Republican or Democrat in their House race this year — known as the “generic ballot” test — Democrats’ lead has shrunk to 3 percentage points. It was 16 points in that survey in February.

Still, Democrats have made strides in a host of special election races since Mr. Trump took office — including snaring a House seat in Pennsylvania in a region Mr. Trump had easily won in 2016.

“I think 2016 should have taught everyone to be open-minded about what might happen in the upcoming elections,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, a non-partisan campaign tracker. “I think a majority of the polling evidence and special election results point to a good election night for Democrats, but it’s not a done deal.”

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