How Republicans' control of Congress could change in the 2016 elections

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For all the power Republicans currently wield in Congress, their hold on the legislative branch is precarious. The GOP is defending about a dozen Senate seats which polls show are competitive, while Democrats only have one incumbent in a competitive race. In the House, projections show Republicans will lose seats but the GOP will keep control.

In 2016, the advantage Republicans have built in Congress since 2010 needs its greatest defense at the worst possible moment. Seven GOP Senators elected for the first time in 2010 are facing tough reelection bids with Donald Trump polling behind Hillary Clinton in their states. And Republican representatives in states that are typically blue in presidential years — like California, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania — are in competitive races.

Click through some notable members of congress:

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Notable current members of congress
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Notable current members of congress
Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, talks to members of the media after a closed-door Republican meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 9 2015. With just four weeks to raise the U.S. debt limit or risk default, House Republicans are careening into chaos, with no clear leader, no path to pick one and open warfare among factions who blame each other for the party's plight. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, USA - SEPTEMBER 16: Senator John McCain questions General Lloyd J. Austin III, Commander of U.S. Central Command, and Under Secretary Of Defense For Policy Christine Worth during a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing on U.S. Military Operations to Counter the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in Washington, USA on September 16, 2015. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, listens to the semiannual report on the economy by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, July 16, 2015. Yellen said the Federal Reserve is 'highly focused' on the risks of raising interest rates too early. Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks during a news conference before a Democratic presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Facebook at Wynn Las Vegas on October 13, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Five Democratic presidential candidates are scheduled participate in the party's first presidential debate. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) adjusts his eye glasses during a media briefing after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon September 29, 2015 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Senate Republicans held the luncheon to discuss GOP agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 14: Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, appears before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Rayburn Building on criminal justice reform, July 14, 2015. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., also testified. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen Richard Durbin, D-Ill. questions Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, during the committee's hearing on oversight of the Homeland Security Department. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
AMES, IA - SEPTEMBER 12: Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R_KY) leaves Jack Trice Stadium after greeting fans before the start of the Iowa State University versus University of Iowa football game on September 12, 2015 in Ames, Iowa. Several GOP candidates campaigned at the event. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, stands on stage before the start of the first Democratic presidential debate at the Wynn Las Vegas resort and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015. While tonight's first Democratic presidential debate will probably lack the name-calling and sharp jabs of the Republican face-offs, there's still potential for strong disagreements between the party's leading contenders. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JULY 29: Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., proposes an amendment as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee holds a markup of the 'Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015' on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 29, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) listens during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on July 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. The committee is examining the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, focusing on combating campus sexual assault. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
House GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his office at the U.S. Capitol, on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 in Washington. Scalise is facing a test of his vote-wrangling skills as the chamber votes on the Republican budget proposal. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 01: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, October 1, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, talks to members of the media after a closed-door Republican meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Oct. 9 2015. With just four weeks to raise the U.S. debt limit or risk default, House Republicans are careening into chaos, with no clear leader, no path to pick one and open warfare among factions who blame each other for the party's plight. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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In sum, Democrats stand a good chance of taking control of the Senate while Paul Ryan will likely remain Speaker of the House.

Here's where some of the competitive Senate and House races stand — and what they say about how Congress may look after the election.

Senator Ron Johnson, Wisconsin

The Senate race has not been heavily polled. But there's little doubt former plastics manufacturer and current Sen. Ron Johnson is in trouble. An early August poll put former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold up 11 points over Johnson. RealClearPolitics, Sabato's Crystal Ball and others project Democrats will pick up the Senate seat. Out-of-state Republican groups know the race is in jeopardy, spending nearly $5 million so far on ads against Feingold or in support of Johnson.

Johnson, who beat Feingold to win the seat six years ago, has sparred with his liberal opponent over the economy and trade. Feingold has hit Johnson for "shipping Wisconsin jobs overseas" while the Republican has touted free trade for creating jobs in his Rust Belt state.

Senator Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has consistently gone blue in recent presidential elections, but only three of Pennsylvania's 11 senators since 1951 have been elected as Democrats. But Katie McGinty is looking to buck that trend.

A former top environmental aide to federal and state officials, McGinty is polling evenly with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The fact that Toomey is still competitive, while Trump lags in Pennsylvania by eight points shows the conservative is a strong candidate who may be able to outperform his party's presidential nominee. Toomey was elected in 2010, defeating Democrat Joe Sestak.

Representative Mike Coffman, Colorado

There are no polls to show how much trouble Republican Mike Coffman faces in holding his district that represents the Denver suburbs. But the three-term congressman is concerned enough that he launched an ad distancing himself from Trump. In early August, Coffman drew national attention for saying he would "stand up to" Trump if he is elected president.

Coffman knows he cannot let voters in his swing district connect him to the unpopular Republican nominee — he was only reelected by two points in 2012. If voters kick out swing district conservatives like Coffman in favor of Democrats, Republicans stand to lose a dozen or more House seats. For her part, Coffman's Democratic challenger, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, is doing all she can to connect the dots for voters. Carroll told the Denver Post, "Donald Trump and Mike Coffman's vision for Colorado — a divided state where we live in fear of each other, where we demonize those not like us — is out of touch with the voters of this state."

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