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Dem Senate Takeover Probable, If Cruz or Trump Nominee

The prospect of Trump or Cruz at the top of the ticket makes Republicans holding onto control of the Senate much more difficult. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

With Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz seemingly positioned to fight it out for the Republican presidential nomination, Democrats are now poised to take over the Senate in November.  

The two Republicans still in the race who could help their party’s Senate prospects, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, continue to flounder. While a deadlocked GOP convention in Cleveland could, at least in theory, nominate a candidate with broad appeal and low enough negatives to revive the party’s Senate prospects, that development is both a long way in the future and a long shot.  

Republican Senator Shifts to More Vulnerable Rating

Portman has raised a lot of money but Democrats will spend what they need to help Ted Strickland overcome Portman's advantage. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rob Portman of Ohio won’t lose re-election due to a lack of money, but he is running for a second term in one of the most competitive states in a tumultuous political environment. We’re changing the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating from Lean Republican to Tossup/Tilt Republican.  

Fundraising is one of the senator’s strengths (he had $13 million on Feb. 24), which should allow him to introduce himself to voters who don’t remember him from his 2010 election, and remind people why they voted his opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, out of office the same year.  

Cruz and Kasich Implausible Scenarios Keeping Trump on Top

Even though he's not a factor in the Super Tuesday primaries, Kasich is banking on later ones in his home state of Ohio and in neighboring Ohio and Michigan. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The early primaries usually winnow presidential fields because each one tests aspects of a candidacy, and because only victories keep the money flowing.

But while this Republican field has winnowed, it hasn’t shrunk as much as some would like. Part of the answer involves the existence of super PAC money, which allows a handful of contributors to keep a candidacy alive. But maybe even more important this time is the shape of the field and the nature of the front-runner.  

Handicapping the GOP Race Past Iowa

While Trump, center, and Cruz, right, have established themselves as front-runners, Rubio has broken away from other establishment candidates. (Scott Olson/Getty Images File Photo)

Have we entered a new period in American politics, when establishment candidates on the GOP side don’t win their party’s nomination? That is the question I posed in a June 4, 2015 column . It is still a relevant question.  

While I answered that it is a mistake to assume that the establishment candidate would inevitably win the GOP nomination, I doubted that combative candidates such as Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, could pass the smell test for most Republicans.  

It’s Official: Put a Fork in Kasich’s Candidacy

Kasich, right, debates with Bush, center, and Rubio on Thursday in the Fox News-Google GOP Debate in Des Moines. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Feel free to believe that there is a glimmer of hope for Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination. If that gives you comfort or plays to your own preferences, be my guest. I certainly wouldn’t want to make you uncomfortable.  

But even if you believe that, try also to understand that Kasich’s campaign is done. You can stick a fork in it. He will not be the GOP nominee for president in 2016. Recent endorsements from two New England newspapers prove that.  

Strickland's Past Positions on Guns Put Him in a Tough Spot

Strickland says his views on guns have changed in the wake of school shootings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama make moves on gun policy, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's past record on the issue has put him under scrutiny.  

When he was up for re-election in 2010, the Democrat was given an A-plus rating by the National Rifle Association, which endorsed him over Republican John Kasich, who got a B.  

Obama’s Empty Campaign Threat on Gun Control

Obama listens to a question from Pintal County, Ariz., Sheriff Paul Babeu during a town hall event on Thursday. (Aude Guerrucci/Pool/Getty Images)

In the heat of his push for more gun control, President Barack Obama threatened to withhold support from anyone, including Democrats, who didn’t support “common-sense” changes. But based on the political realities of this cycle, his comments aren’t likely to dramatically impact Senate races.  

“Even as I continue to take every action possible as president, I will also take every action I can as a citizen,” Obama wrote in a New York Times op-ed . “I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform.”  

Top Races in 2016: The Midwest

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker votes in Milwaukee on Election Day 2014. (Darren Hauck/Getty Images File Photo)

This is the fourth in a series of eight regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races for 2016. The Midwest Region covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.  

Wisconsin Senate: Republican Ron Johnson knocked off Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold by 5 points in 2010, but Feingold is back to try to reclaim his seat. Even though Feingold lost re-election, he starts the rematch with a positive image and Republicans have to remind voters about why they fired him or what they should like about him in the years since he was tossed from office. Johnson is laser focused on fixing the economy and hasn’t bothered with some of the niceties of the Senate.  

TPP Will Be a Factor in Several 2016 Races

Feingold made trade a pillar of his attacks on Johnson in 2010. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The White House on Thursday released the much anticipated text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a trade deal that will likely play out in a number of top House and Senate contests in 2016, whether or not it's passed by Congress.  

Most of those races are located in the Rust Belt — states where past trade pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement from the 1990s are often blamed for the sharp decline in manufacturing jobs that once made the region prosper.  

Don’t Blame Gerrymandering for GOP Civil War

Some believe that Boehner's run as speaker was a victim of redistricting, but that's not the whole story. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Blame the earmark ban or Republican leaders. Blame Ted Cruz or even Justin Bieber. But don’t blame gerrymandering for the fighting in the House.  

As Republicans labor through replacing Speaker John A. Boehner, bemoaning redistricting has become a common refrain in explaining the GOP civil war.