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With President Trump's base support beginning to erode and a Republican-held Congress failing to achieve any of its chief policy aims, the stage seems set for a Democratic takeover of the legislative branch in 2018. But Democrats are staring down one huge obstacle: the Senate map.

Expand chart
Data: Dave Leip's Election Atlas, U.S. Senate; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The problem: 25 Senate seats currently held by Democrats or independents caucusing with them are up for election in 2018 — more than half of the Democratic caucus. Even more significantly, 10 of those seats are in states that voted for Trump in 2016. Conversely, just eight Republican seats are up for election with only one in a state that went for Hillary Clinton.

Think of it this way: 538 presented a scenario that should terrify Democrats: it took Iraq, Katrina, the start of the Great Recession and rock bottom approval ratings for George W Bush for the Dems to grab a 60-seat Senate supermajority in 2008. But 30 states went for Trump in 2016, meaning the GOP would just need to nab both senators from those states in order to attain a supermajority — not unthinkable in today's hyperpartisan, straight-ticket environment.

It's not over — yet: A RealClearPolitics analysis showed that — while 2018 is certainly bad for Democrats — next year's map isn't historically bad. Based on trends, Democrats are likely to lose a few seats, but that might put them in a better spot with a more favorable map and a presidential race in 2020. It's also worth noting that Democrats managed to pick up two seats, in Missouri and Indiana, with the same map in 2012.

Three things in Democrats' favor:

  • A sense of where things went wrong: The Trump era has led Democrats, especially those hanging on in midwestern states, to recalibrate their priorities. A Politico profile from earlier this year showed how Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin is reaching out to dairy farmers by decrying almond milk and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown has made the opioid crisis a focal point of his tenure.
  • A lack (right now) of high-profile challengers: Of those 10 Democrats up for reelection in states that Trump won, only two — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey — have declared opponents who have previously held federal office.
  • Trump's continuing unpopularity: Trump's approval ratings among all voters remain at historically low levels for a modern president, and Axios reported over the weekend that Trump is also seeing his GOP base erode in key swing states.

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

Senate Republicans block voting rights bill

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor on Jan. 18. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats' voting rights legislation from coming to a final vote on Wednesday in what was largely viewed as a doomed effort from the start.

Why it matters: The failed vote underscores the Democratic Party's current uphill battle to pass sweeping legislation in a 50-50 Senate.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."