Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, speaks in Washington in 2013. (Charles Dharapak/Associated Press)

For months, GOP operatives and activists insisted that the presidential race had to remain relatively close for the Republicans to keep the Senate majority. We didn’t buy that. GOP senators especially in blue and purple states must have their own profile, and if those are strong enough regardless of whether they endorse Trump, they should operate somewhat independently.

The passage of time and polling evidence have brought the GOP to the same conclusion. Donald Trump is going to lose the presidential race, perhaps by a significant amount. Nevertheless, the fate of the Senate is far from certain. The political operatives now are wholly focused on state numbers.

Whether Trump is down 5 points or down 8 points nationally is of little consequence to Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-Ohio) fortunes, for example. Portman and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are likely to prevail no matter how badly Trump does because the Democratic candidates in Ohio and Florida (former Ohio governor Ted Strickland and Rep. Patrick Murphy) are so poor that there is little Hillary Clinton is going to do to help them. Former governor and senator Evan Bayh (who, it was just revealed, cashed in to the tune of millions of dollars after leaving office) is a dud as well, creating optimism that this seat will stay Republican. (North Carolina, where Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is running a mediocre race and sticking with Trump, however, remains problematic for the GOP, especially if Clinton, with President Obama’s help, drives up the African American vote.)

Moreover, GOP strategists point out that Clinton remains unpopular; Trump is simply much more unpopular. What polls have shown throughout the race, argues one operative, is that support for Clinton and for Trump in large part is about dislike of the opposite candidate. To the extent voters are moving to Clinton right now, it has less to do with Clinton than it does with Trump.

When you then consider that Trump has turned out to be sui generis (Who thinks Sen. Kelly Ayotte is just like Trump?), trying to tie the GOP opponents to Trump is an uphill fight. The Republicans (e.g. Rep. Joseph J. Heck of Nevada, Ayotte and Sen. John McCain of Arizona) who took the opportunity to un-endorse Trump, however belatedly, get an extra measure of insulation. Democrats are going to have to make an argument against each of the vulnerable incumbents (or against Heck battling for the open Nevada seat) based on their specific records and positions. In essence, the Senate campaign will become de-nationalized, just as Republicans prefer

Even if the margin in New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania goes to 6 or 7 points at the top of the ticket, Republican remain optimistic about winning those Senate seats.

There is, however, a new worry. If the presidency is perceived to be in the bag for Clinton, some of the Republicans who might otherwise turn out (for Clinton, if they are frightened about electing Trump, or for Trump), may simply stay home. Diehard Trumpkins, it has long been feared, might still turn out for Trump — but then leave blank the down-ticket races.

And that brings us to the “Don’t give Clinton a blank check” argument. That’s both a plea for ticket-splitting and an effort to engage Republicans. Well, yes we are getting Clinton but don’t give her the Congress too!

Republicans are virtually certain to lose Illinois and Wisconsin. That they are still competitive in enough states to keep the Senate majority is a tribute to the individual candidates and a black eye for Democrats who seem on the verge of frittering away a golden opportunity.