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19 House Races Shift Toward Democrats

List of competitive seats grows amid shifts against president’s party

New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s race for re-election has switched from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s race for re-election has switched from Solid Republican to Likely Republican. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The midterm elections are still nearly a year and a half away, and the political dynamics could yet change, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that history and the current environment are merging together for a potentially great set of elections for Democrats in November 2018. 

The president’s party has lost House seats in 18 of the last 20 midterm elections, and it’s lost an average of 33 seats in those 18 elections. Democrats need to gain 24 seats in order to take back the majority. 

President Donald Trump’s job approval rating is slumping at 40 percent, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average, while 55 percent disapprove of the job he is going. That’s not good news for GOP candidates, considering that midterms are often a referendum on the president’s performance and Trump’s name won’t appear on the ballot.

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And Democrats also appear to have an edge in enthusiasm. From protest marches after inauguration to confrontational town halls with GOP members, Democratic candidates are overperforming in special elections. And with a 30-year-old former Capitol Hill staffer raising over $20 million in just a few months, Democrats are anxious for the next fight.

Of course, there is plenty of time for the political climate to change, but our Inside Elections ratings need to reflect the reality that Democrats have more takeover opportunities than if this was shaping up to be a status quo election, or certainly more opportunities than if Hillary Clinton had been in the White House. 

We’ve changed our ratings in 19 races, including adding nine GOP-held seats to the list of competitive races and dropping one Democratic seat (Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois’ 10th District) after the Republicans’ best potential candidate declined to run.

That means Republicans are now defending 39 seats on the list of competitive races compared to just 14 currently held by Democrats. That disparity isn’t as large as prior to the 2010 elections when Democrats were defending 100 competitive seats and Republicans just nine, but just as it’s possible for the Republicans’ electoral prospects to improve, they could also get much worse. 

Once again, there is plenty of time between now and November 2018. We’ll crown two Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Nationals can win two World Series, there will be two new NBA Champions, and the Seattle Seahawks will hoist another Lombardi trophy between now and the midterm elections.

For now, time should not be an excuse to ignore the fact that history and the current political dynamic favors Democrats and are good reasons to watch the fight for the House. For more detailed analysis of over 100 districts, check out the May 19 issue of Inside Elections.

Inside Elections ratings changes

From Solid Republican to Likely Republican (new additions)

From Likely Republican to Leans Republican

From Leans Republican To Tilts Republican

From Tilts Republican to Toss-Up

From Toss-Up to Tilts Democratic

From Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic

From Likely Republican to Tilts Republican

  • Montana’s At-Large District, vacated by GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke; Special election is on May 25.

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