(CNN) Seeing as the calendar nears 2018, the battle for control of the Senate is shifting in all types of unexpected ways — alterations driven mainly by bad behavior but also a national political environment heavily colored by President Donald Trump’s widespread unpopularity.
Consider this series of recent developments:
These three moments don’t all work in one party’s favor. A Jones win in conjunction with Bredesen’s candidacy would plainly offer Democrats momentum. The Franken resignation requires a chair that wouldn’t even be on the map in 2018 — his term isn’t until 2020 — and makes it a difficulty that Democrats have to handle in a time when they already are defending more seats than Republicans.
This series of events lands in what was already a very unpredictable Senate election cycle. On its face, 2018 ought to be a banner time for Senate Republicans, with merely nine seats to defend and 23 Democratic seats (certainly not counting the potential Minnesota wide open seat) to target. Of these 23 Democratic seats, almost 50 percent — 10 — were carried by President Trump in 2016 incorporating five (Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia) where Trump received by double digits.
It hasn’t turned out that way — yet! — for Republicans simply because Trump’s unpopularity has created a countrywide political environment where Democratic applicants are coming out of the woodwork to perform while top-tier Republicans happen to be more hesitant to take action.
In Montana and North Dakota, two strongly Republican states represented by Democrats, Republicans have yet to property an “A”-type candidate. In Indiana and West Virginia, there happen to be crowded primaries on the Republican side that will be nasty and costly even before a dime is certainly allocated to the Democratic incumbents.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake into pension and top rated Nevada Sen. Dean Heller to And Steve Bannon-backed major challengers are making lifestyle problematic for Republican incumbents, chasingSen. Jeff Flake into pension and leadingSen. Dean Heller to brag that he “helped write” a tax bill that’s widely unpopular.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott — who Republicans hope will go against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next time — set the heartburn Trump is certainly causing even his staunchest allies in perspective when asked at a Republican Governors Association meeting last month whether Trump will help or hurt GOP applicants in the midterms. “We’ll see what goes on in 2018,” Scott stated.
Would he want Trump to marketing campaign for him in Florida? “I don’t know if I’m going to be a applicant. We’ll worry about this next time,” Scott stated. Can Trump help Republicans on the ballot next year? “You’d have to ask them.”
Not specifically a ringing endorsement.
The 2018 cycle started with Democrats expecting to play defense over the board. There were way too many seats to defend, and only two pickup possibilities (Arizona and Nevada) if they have to add three seats — and hold onto all their own — to manage the Senate.
If you asked Republicans at the start of the 2017 whether it had been more likely that they would lose their majority or wind up with 60 seats by the end of 2018, they would have chosen the latter option every single time.
Now, the Senate majority looks in play — regardless if Republicans still retain an edge because of the sheer number of Democratic seats in take up and where those seats are.
If Jones wins next Tuesday in Alabama or Bredesen can turn Tennessee competitive — and Trump stays unpopular — the stakes get a lot higher. Add in Minnesota and the participating in field is even bigger and less predictable.
It’s not immediately sharp whom that heightened unpredictability benefits. But Democrats surely under no circumstances expected to be even sniffing at speak of regaining the Senate majority come 2019. And, for now, that’s a probability you wouldn’t acquire laughed out from the room for mentioning.