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The 2018 election cycle has started and Republicans find themselves in an interesting place.

On the one hand, the tables are turned as they will get to play offense. There are 33 races in 2018 and Democrats will defend 25 of those seats while Republicans will defend just eight of them. In 2012, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried five states where Democrats will be defending seats.

On the other hand, though, 2018 will be a midterm election, and the party in power almost always loses seats in a midterm. In this case, that would be Republicans. This is where only having eight seats up will be helpful because only two of them seem potentially vulnerable: U.S. Dean Heller in Nevada, a state that Obama carried by seven points in 2012, and U.S. Jeff Flake in Arizona. Romney carried Arizona by nine points in 2012, but Trump only won it by five points, making it a more competitive state. Democrats will be hard-pressed to make the other six seats competitive since all are in states that Romney carried by 12 points or more.

If prospects for a Democratic majority look dim in 2018, Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer may have trouble holding down retirements in his ranks. Open seats weren’t much of a factor in 2016, but they might be more of one in 2018.

It is fair to say that 2018 is not likely to be a dull cycle.

2018 Senate Ratings

2018 Senate Race Ratings


Democrats — 46

Republicans — 52

Independents — 2

The chart below provides a spectrum that analyzes the vulnerability (the chances of the seat switching parties) of the Senate races up this cycle.

Solid: These races are not considered competitive and are not likely to become closely contested.

Likely: These seats are not considered competitive at this point but have the potential to become engaged.

Lean: These are considered competitive races but one party has an advantage.

Toss Up: These are the most competitive races; either party has a good chance of winning.

Senators with names in parentheses are retiring.

Democrats | 25 Held Seats

Solid D Likely D Lean D Toss Up Lean R Likely R Solid R

Feinstein (CA)*

Murphy (CT)

Carper (DE)

Hirono (HI)

Cardin (MD)

Warren (MA)

Klobuchar (MN)

Heinrich (NM)

Gillibrand (NY)

Whitehouse (RI)

Sanders (VT)(I)

Cantwell (WA)

Menendez (NJ)*

Stabenow (MI)

Casey (PA)

Tester (MT)

Heitkamp (ND)

Manchin (WV)

Baldwin (WI)

Kaine (VA)

Nelson (FL)

Donnelly (IN)

King (ME)(I)

McCaskill (MO)

Brown (OH)




Republicans | 8 Held Seats

Solid D Likely D Lean D Toss Up Lean R Likely R Solid R



Flake (AZ)

Heller (NV)

Wicker (MS)

Fischer (NE)

Corker (TN)

Cruz (TX)

Hatch (UT)*

Barrasso (WY)

* = potential retirement