Here’s why Senate Republicans are starting to freak out about the 2018 midterm election
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at CPAC 2011 (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Things aren't looking good for Republicans after over a year with President Donald Trump in the White House and it's starting to pop up in their television campaign ads.


In Tennessee, the possibility of a win is evaporating rapidly. So, the GOP is trying to woo voters by warning them that the GOP could lose their majority in the Senate and with that would come a battle over Supreme Court judges. While the same argument was made by Democrats in 2016, it wasn't successful.

National Public Radio spoke with Senate Leadership Fund President and CEO Steven Law, who warned that when Republicans took back the House in 2010, Democrats still managed to hold onto the Senate. The conventional belief is that state-wide districts are more immune to drastic swings that come from national trends. That doesn't seem to be the case this year, however.

Thus far, the GOP hasn't been successful in special elections because of the GOP's own candidates, many who weren't half as bad as the moral quandaries Alabama's Roy Moore faced. Now, West Virginia candidate Don Blankenship is running against officials like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. While they might be tapping into an anti-establishment majority in the GOP, it doesn't exactly spell success in a general election.

It seems Trump even understands this himself. In a Monday tweet the president outright said Blankenship has no hope.

"To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State...No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!" he tweeted.

Trump's problem is that he tried the same strategy with Roy Moore in Alabama. It failed.

"The political train in the Senate is a lot more favorable for Republicans than it is in all these House districts that were carried by Hillary Clinton...I think we've got a lot more terrain to play with that makes the task of defending the Senate majority, I wouldn't say easy, but a task that we think we can undertake and win," Law said in an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd.

The wind should be at the backs of the GOP as the general election gifted a favorable electoral map where mostly Democrats will be forced to defend themselves. At the same time Republicans are raising money hand over fist. Still, the vast majority of it will go to defend candidates who can win in a general election. Those candidates aren't the type to make it through a GOP primary, however.

While fundraising might be better for the GOP over Democrats, NPR argued that the the fundraising numbers aren't as good as in recent years where Republicans crushed their opposition.

Republicans think that Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) are the two most likely options for the GOP to pick up Democratic seats. The GOP was also overjoyed by the announcement that Gov. Rick Scott would challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). The billionaire candidate can easily self-fund his campaign and the GOP wouldn't have to throw their own money into the race, while the Democrat's comparatively meager wealth is tied up in property, so he can't use it for campaign funding.

Other seats that once looked like Republicans could take back, aren't looking as easy. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) all have their own strong national personalities. While Trump has tried to wage a war against Tester over the Veterans Administration nominee, Republican senators agreed with Tester and making the race about an unqualified nominee to lead the VA at a time when veterans need help probably isn't the best option for the GOP.

Heitkamp was facing an uphill battle, until the Republican slated to run against her pulled out of the race, sending their party back to the drawing boards. Manchin is the candidate the GOP sees as a possible take-back because Trump won the state by more than 20, however, the Democrat is beloved in a state where he's worked diligently to keep industry alive. It could serve as a serious contrast if the GOP nominates Blankenship, who went to jail after his company was found responsible for the deaths of coal miners from lax safety precautions.

To make matters worse for the GOP, traditionally competitive states like Ohio and Pennsylvania are no longer within reach as the party struggled to find viable candidates.

"Republicans are airing all this dirty laundry for us, and they've been doing it pretty rampantly," NPR cited one Democratic operative working for several Senate races this cycle.

Read the full analysis at NPR.org.