Six months out, what GOP insiders expect in November

Inside Politics: 6 months to the midterm elections
Inside Politics: 6 months to the midterm elections

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    Inside Politics: 6 months to the midterm elections

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Inside Politics: 6 months to the midterm elections 04:37

Washington (CNN)Here are the stories our D.C. insiders are talking about in this week's "Inside Politics" forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow's headlines today.

1. Who can hug Trump tightest in Indiana?

A nasty Senate primary is just 10 days away in Indiana: Two Republican congressmen and a wealthy businessman are competing to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, one of the most endangered incumbents in the country.
The Republican nomination fight may hinge on which candidate can tie themselves closest to President Trump, CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports. "The three Republican candidates are in a fight to see who can out-Trump themselves, who likes him more, who can support his policies more," Zeleny says.
    So far, the President has not weighed in publicly. But, Zeleny says, "If he is drawn into this by television coverage, that could be fascinating."

    2. Lawmakers want answers on House chaplain's firing

    There was bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill this week over the forced departure of the House chaplain, Catholic priest Patrick Conroy. Conroy says House Speaker Paul Ryan asked for his resignation.
    Democrats are demanding an investigation, but even Republicans want to know why Ryan, who is a practicing Catholic, did what he did.
    "Basically, Ryan had been hearing a lot of complaints from a small faction of the Republican conference that was more evangelical," Politico's Rachael Bade reports. "They wanted a chaplain to minister to them who was married and who had kids and who can sort of speak to that walk of life."

    3. Day 3 of Arizona teachers strike

    Teachers in Arizona will stay on strike tomorrow, demanding higher pay and more funding for education. It's yet another example of teachers in red states demanding more resources for education. "This is a broader issue we are seeing all over the country now," reports FiveThirtyEight's Perry Bacon.
    "The fight is really about a lot of states have cut taxes a lot in these last five or six years, and teachers are now saying it's cut too much, there needs to be more money invested in public education, more in teacher pay."

    4. Battle lines drawn over CIA nominee

    Now that the Senate has confirmed Mike Pompeo as secretary of state, attention will turn to another controversial nominee: Gina Haspel, President Trump's pick to run the CIA. And The Washington Post's Karoun Demirjian reports she may have a tough road to confirmation.
    "The numbers right now, if Democrats don't back her, are not in her favor. She can't necessarily get through, and so it's going to be a very tight, touch-and-go game," Demirjian says. "You've got a lot of tension brewing right now between senators and the administration."
    Haspel's confirmation hearing is scheduled for May 9.

    5. T-minus six months 'til Election Day

    The 2018 midterms are six months from Tuesday, and some primaries coming in the days ahead will begin to set the battle lines in a few more key races. The President's big rally Saturday night was a reminder that his midterm role is somewhat unresolved, too; some Republicans will be thrilled to have a presidential visit while others worry he is toxic with some key voting blocs.
    There is no dispute that both the GOP's House and Senate majorities are at risk. But six months out, CNN's John King reports there are widely different assessments within the GOP ranks about how difficult the environment will be, and about how certain it is that the losses will run deep.
    The biggest factor in midterm years is the President's approval rating. President Trump's in the the 40% range, and most Republicans believe it is unrealistic to expect it to get much better. The "generic ballot" test has been more of a moving target. Voters consistently prefer Democrats to control Congress, but the margin has gyrated over the past few months.
    King says some Republicans tell him they are already resigned to losing the House. Asked to offer his assessment of the climate, one seasoned Republican replied that "30-plus" was his current estimate of House losses. That would be more than enough to hand Democrats the majority. Another veteran GOP strategist, however, says he believes it possible the losses could be kept in the mid to high teens, a result that would narrowly leave the GOP in control.
    The Senate math is also the subject of considerable debate.
    Republicans entered the year hoping to defy history and gain seats, based on a 2018 map that has far more Democratic incumbents on defense. Indiana's May primary is one of the key dates ahead in Senate calculations. Republicans also feel more upbeat about North Dakota in recent days, in part because of encouraging GOP polling numbers, and there is a better mood about Florida now that Gov. Rick Scott is officially in the race and is beginning to get more active on the trail.
    On the flip side, some Republicans are increasingly worried about GOP-held seats in Tennessee and Arizona where Democrats have strong candidates.
    Six months seems like a long time, but the May primaries will kick things into a higher gear.