Democrats suffered a blow in their efforts to regain the Senate majority as NBC News projected that Republican challenger Mike Braun will defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
The race has been considered a toss-up because Donnelly was seeking re-election in a state President Donald Trump had won in a landslide in 2016. Trump endorsed Braun and campaigned for him, most recently on Monday. Donnelly’s seat was considered a must-hold in order for Democrats to possibly find themselves in the majority next year.
As was the story for much of the 2018 cycle, the Senate map presents Democrats with narrow opportunities to regain the majority. Ten Democrats, including Donnelly, were up for re-election in states Trump won, whereas just one Republican was up for re-election in a state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won.
In Tennessee, a race that at one point looked to be neck-and-neck, NBC News projected that Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn will defeat former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. NBC News also projected that Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia would win his re-election battle.
Republicans began the day with a 51-49 advantage in Congress’ upper chamber as the two parties battle for control of the Senate.
In another crucial race, a Democrat finds himself in trouble. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida trails Republican Gov. Rick Scott by a slim margin with more than 95% of the vote in. The race is still too close for NBC News to project.
Nelson’s seat was also considered to be a must-win for Democrats to take the majority. Polling showed a close race between the two candidates in the run-up to Election Day.
Though the map presented Democrats with some obstacles, incumbent Democrats from Rust Belt states Trump won built up substantial polling leads over their GOP opponents. Additionally, Democratic challengers are locked in competitive races out West in Arizona, Nevada, and Texas.
Earlier in the evening, NBC News projected that Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio were re-elected. Based on polling of the races, neither senators’ re-election effort was ever in much doubt.
Republicans, on the other hand, are geared for possible pickups in states like North Dakota and Missouri.