At the Republican convention in Cleveland in July, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) spent one afternoon kayaking in the Cuyahoga River with wounded veterans instead of spinning out interviews in the media row at Quicken Loans Center.
There was good reason to keep his distance. At the time, Trump was down in the polls in Ohio, and Portman was just a few points ahead. That week, Trump gave an interview to the New York Times where he openly questioned the U.S. commitment to NATO. There was an unsuccessful floor fight to wrestle the nomination from Trump, and Trump's wife Melania had just plagiarized Michelle Obama's primetime speech convention speech as her own.
The chances were real for Portman – as they were for Republican senators up for re-election across the country– that their fate would be inextricably tied to a wild man billionaire who seemed to be spouting off against decades-old foreign policy agreements without much regard for the damage he could do to those outside of his own race. Even Republican pundits warned, there was no way senators were going to be able to survive if Trump was losing at the top of the ticket by more than five or six points.
Democrats appeared to be certain to take back the Senate. They began to look to expand their map into places like Arizona and Iowa, where Republican Sens. John McCain and Chuck Grassley had deep ties to their constituents that had made them nearly untouchable.
With just a little more than a month to go until the general election, however, Republican incumbents appear to be a better place than many predicted.
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