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Ratings Change: 5 GOP Open House Seats Shift Toward Democrats

Recent Republican struggles in special elections don’t augur well for party in fall

The race for retiring Michigan Rep. Dave Trott’s 11th District seat is now a Toss-up. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The race for retiring Michigan Rep. Dave Trott’s 11th District seat is now a Toss-up. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

It’s dangerous to extrapolate too much from any single special election, but the trend is clear across nearly all of the special contests over the past year: Democrats are over-performing and Republicans are struggling to hold open seats.

The over-performance by Democratic candidates hasn’t been limited by geography, considering they have done better than expected in Montana, Kansas, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Arizona, even if they’ve fallen short in all but one of those races.

Based on that trend, here are our rating changes:

Michigan’s 11th District

GOP Rep. Dave Trott isn’t running for re-election, leaving an open seat that President Donald Trump carried with less than 50 percent. Both parties have competitive primaries on Aug. 7, but, once again, this is the type of district Republicans will likely struggle to hold in this environment. Move from Tilts Republican to Toss-up.

New Jersey’s 2nd District

Longtime GOP Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo’s retirement opened up this South Jersey seat that Trump carried by 5 points. Democrats have a credible challenger in state Sen. Jeff Van Drew. He already represents some of the most Republican territory in the congressional district and has the early advantage in campaign cash. Van Drew had $456,000 in the bank on March 31, while none of the Republicans had more than $83,000. That fundraising discrepancy is part of the recipe for Democratic success. Move from Toss-up to Tilts Democratic.

New Jersey’s 11th District

District voters backed Trump by just 1 point, but that might not be the greatest challenge facing the GOP. The likely Democratic nominee is retired Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill, who had nearly $1.7 million in campaign funds at the end of March. She was already on pace to give 12-term Republican incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen the re-election race of his life, before he announced his retirement. GOP state Assemblyman Jay Webber had $221,000 in the bank, about the same amount as two lower-tier Democrats. Move from Toss-up to Tilts Democratic.

North Carolina’s 9th District

This seat opened up after former pastor Mark Harris ousted Rep. Robert Pittenger in the Republican primary last week. Even though Trump carried the district by 12 points, the seat is at greater risk now, considering Harris had just $71,000 in his campaign account on April 18. Democrat Dan McCready unsurprisingly won his primary, and he enters the general election with $1.2 million in the bank. Democrats were already psyched about McCready given his profile as a Marine veteran and founder of a solar energy investment company. At a minimum, it looks like the National Republican Congressional Committee is now going to have to spend money defending this seat and bailing out Harris. Move from Likely Republican to Tilts Republican.

Ohio’s 12th District

Trump carried this north-central Ohio seat by 11 points, but after watching Republicans lose a district that backed the president by 20 points (the old Pennsylvania’s 18th) and struggle to win another that he won by 21 points (Arizona’s 8th), that’s enough evidence to move the Aug. 7 special election race in a more competitive district. GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi resigned in order to take a job with the Ohio Business Roundtable. Democratic Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor will face GOP state Sen. Troy Balderson in the special and general elections. Move from Likely Republican to Tilts Republican.

Republicans are also at considerable risk of losing California’s 39th and 49th districts, which are open because of retirements. But because the Golden State has a top-two primary system, we’re going to wait until after June 5 to make sure Democrats get a candidate to the general election before re-evaluating the races.

Watch: Which House Races Are the Parties Targeting? Look to the Money, the TV Ad Money

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