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Ratings Change: 7 House Races Shift Toward Democrats

But one change toward Republicans isn’t particularly good news for majority chances

California Rep. Jeff Denham faces a competitive re-election fight with less than two weeks before Nov. 8. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
California Rep. Jeff Denham faces a competitive re-election fight with less than two weeks before Nov. 8. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

When nearly 90 percent of the batch of House ratings changes are in your favor, it’s normally great news. But with a limited House playing field, Democrats need to win virtually all of the competitive seats, and some initial takeover targets look like they are slipping out of reach.

In the most recent set of ratings changes by The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call, seven races shift toward the Democrats. Takeover prospects improved in a couple of California districts (the 10th and 49th), a couple of districts with weakened GOP incumbents (Florida’s 7th and New Jersey’s 5th), and two suburban districts (Kansas’ 3rd and Pennsylvania’s 8th).

[Roll Call’s 2016 Election Guide: House]

There is no question House Republicans have vulnerabilities and will lose seats. But it’s still unlikely that Democrats will gain the 30 seats they need for a majority, even with Donald Trump’s volatility at the top of the ticket.

On a national level, the Democrats’ advantage on the generic ballot has narrowed to just a few points and short of what we’ve seen in previous wave elections. And at a district level, the polling results have been mixed, in part, because Trump isn’t uniformly unpopular across the country. He’s getting crushed in the suburbs but doing fine in rural areas. And Democrats need to win House races in a diverse set of districts for a majority.

The bottom line is that Democrats need to win the vast majority of competitive seats in order capture the majority, and some GOP incumbents are looking particularly strong with less than two weeks before Election Day.

Republican Rep. John Katko represents New York’s 24th District, where President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney by 16 points in 2012. But Katko’s polling numbers against Democrat Colleen Deacon have been strong, both before and after the release of the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video. We’re moving his race from Tilts Republican to Leans Republican.

[Ratings Change: 5 House Races Shift Toward Democrats]

If Democrats can’t defeat Katko in a Democratic-leaning district, they will have to defeat a Republican in a less favorable — i.e. more Republican — seat elsewhere. It’s still possible for Democrats to win the majority, but unlikely without a seismic shift in the dynamics of the race, which would probably have to be depressed GOP turnout.

For now, seven races shift toward Democrats:

One race shifted toward the GOP:

You can get more analysis on these races and public polling in dozens of the most competitive House districts in the Oct. 21 issue of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.

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