GOP Senate hopefuls once dismissed as ‘fringe’ by elites are now in positions to win

With less than a week to go until the midterm elections, several Senate races nationwide once thought to be comfortable Democrat victories are now neck and neck as outsider Republican candidates, many backed by Donald Trump, defy elite expectations after being dismissed by leaders of both political parties.

Democrats were so confident that some of these candidates labeled "far-right" or "fringe" by the media wouldn't win that Democrat campaigns and outside groups actually funneled money to them, thinking they'd be easier opponents in a general election than Republican primary hopefuls deemed more moderate or part of the GOP establishment.

Republican leaders similarly thought these outside disruptors were longshots, even poor-quality candidates — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

"I think there's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate," McConnell said at a local Chamber of Commerce event in August. "Senate races are just different. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome."