THE TOP 9 SE­NATE RACES WE’RE WATCH­ING

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Deirdre Sh­es­green, Erin Kelly, El­iza Collins, Bart Sul­li­van, Mau­reen Groppe, Led­yard King, Craig Gil­bert and Heidi M. Przybyla

Buckle up for a dra­matic, vi­cious, multi­bil­lion-dol­lar fight for con­trol of the Se­nate next year, which may end with al­most no changes to the cham­ber’s nar­row par­ti­san di­vide. About a dozen of those con­tests will be com­pet­i­tive. Two com­pet­ing cross­cur­rents of this elec­tion — an un­pop­u­lar Repub­li­can in the White House vs. an elec­toral map that puts Democrats at a ma­jor dis­ad­van­tage — could can­cel each other out. Repub­li­cans de­fend far fewer seats, and only two GOP se­na­tors are truly vul­ner­a­ble: Sens. Jeff Flake of Ari­zona and Dean Heller of Ne­vada. Ten Se­nate Democrats are up for-elec­tion in states that Trump won in 2016, and they all have tar­gets plas­tered on their backs.

With so much at stake, there’s no ques­tion that both par­ties — and their spe­cial-in­ter­est al­lies — will mount a pricey, pitched bat­tle to sway the out­come.

Blow­ing in the other di­rec­tion? His­tory. The party that con­trols the White House al­most al­ways loses seats in Congress in midterm elec­tions. Pres­i­dent Trump’s pub­lic ap­proval rat­ings are be­low 40%.

Democrats would need to pick up three seats to re­take con­trol of the Se­nate, which is un­likely. Repub­li­cans would need a net gain of eight seats to hit the cov­eted 60-vote thresh­old to break a fil­i­buster, which is equally far-fetched.

The po­lit­i­cal cli­mate could change dra­mat­i­cally by Novem- ber 2018, re­sult­ing in ma­jor shifts in the Se­nate’s 52-48 par­ti­san bal­ance. There’s no ques­tion that both par­ties — and their spe­cial-in­ter­est al­lies — will mount a pricey, pitched bat­tle to sway the out­come.

Here’s a race-by-race look at key con­tests with rat­ings from Inside Elec­tions, which pro­vides non-par­ti­san anal­y­sis. “Tos­sup” in­di­cates the race is dead even; “tilt” rat­ings in­di­cate a slight edge for the spec­i­fied party; and “lean” rat­ings in­di­cate a def­i­nite edge but an un­cer­tain out­come.

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