Skip to content

At the Races: Who’s in Trouble Two Months Out

Our weekly newsletter on congressional campaigns


Welcome to At the Races! You can keep track of House and Senate races with this weekly newsletter by subscribing here. We want to hear what you think. Email us at with your questions, tips or candidate sightings. — Simone Pathé, Bridget Bowman and Stephanie Akin

This week … We revisited our 10 Most Vulnerable Incumbents lists, another Democratic congressman lost a primary, and candidates courted Native American voters in key races.


North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is in a tough race against GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, and she now tops our list of most vulnerable senators. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
North Dakota Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is in a tough race against GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer, and she now tops our list of most vulnerable senators. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

10 Most Vulnerable: With Election Day exactly two months out, we revisited our tradition of listing the 10 most vulnerable incumbents in the House and Senate. Once again, Republicans dominated the House list, with one new addition. In the Senate, red-state Democrats took up most of the list, with one incumbent Democrat moving into the top spot.

*Bookmark* Keep track of all of our coverage of House and Senate races, including deep dives into critical contests, polling and ad exclusives, and broader trend pieces by keeping an eye on our At the Races page.

What We Learned: It’s been a long primary season, with both parties redefining themselves in the process. So what did we learn from all of those elections? Here are six takeaways.

Speaking of Primaries … Democratic Rep. Michael Capuanolost his primary Tuesday in Massachusetts’ 3rd District to Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who is poised to be the state’s first African-American representative in the House. Other Democratic incumbents easily fended off challenges from the left, while one crowded primary for an open seat remains too close to call.

Courting Native American Voters: Besides it being a historic year for Native American candidates — with the House likely to welcome at least one Native American woman next year, a first — Native American voters could help decide some of this year’s most competitive races. That’s especially true in states such as Montana, where the Native American vote has been crucial to Democrat Jon Tester’s previous Senate victories. As Simone explains in this video, it’s one reason why the Democratic and Republican nominees for House and Senate in Big Sky Country all came to Crow Fair last month.

There’s No Place Like Home: Kansas might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about midterm battlegrounds. But the Sunflower State is playing host to a pair of hotly contested races. One is an open-seat contest in the 2nd District. And the race for the 3rd District in the Kansas City suburbs is already getting heated with accusations that both candidates are out of touch, charges relating to abolishing ICE, and ads from outside groups.

Show Me the Base: The Missouri Senate race is expected to be one of the closest races in the country, and independent voters will be critical for both Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill and GOP Attorney General Josh Hawley. Both also need their base voters to turn out. Hawley is capitalizing on the Supreme Court vacancy to appeal to core GOP voters. McCaskill has a trickier balancing act, working to fire up Democrats while not alienating Trump voters whose support she’ll also need.

The Count: 10

With the most primaries for safe Republican or Democratic open House seats behind us, we have a good sense of some likely new members of Congress. Find out more about 10 people who are probably heading to the House next here.

Nathan’s Notes

Control of the House could be decided in five states that are hosting multiple competitive races. Nathan details which states to watch and Democrats’ chances in those contests. And if you find yourself writing on the back of an envelope to game out how exactly the House could flip in November, put down that pencil and just read Stu Rothenberg’s latest column.

Candidate Confessions

Delaware Democratic Sen. Tom Carper is facing a primary challenge from the left from community activist Kerri Evelyn Harris. Voters head to the polls Thursday, and Carper said he has worked hard to make sure he doesn’t lose, telling Roll Call Senate reporter Niels Lesniewski that he’s logged plenty of miles on his Chrysler Town & Country minivan. Carper also revealed that he solicited some advice from a close friend across the aisle who knows what it’s like to lose a primary.

Reader’s Race

In his run for a fourth term in Ohio’s 14th District, Rep. David Joyce stands out as one of the few Republicans so far who have tried to create distance from President Donald Trump, releasing an ad in August highlighting two times he says he bucked his party and the president, including his vote against the GOP bill to repeal Obamacare. It’s an interesting strategy in a reliably Republican district that Trump easily carried in 2016 — while Joyce won re-election with 60 percent. But the ad could be a sign that Joyce might be a tad nervous about this fall.

Democrats have targeted the seat as one of a handful in Ohio ripe for a takeover. Their nominee, civil rights lawyer Betsy Rader, was added to the DCCC’s Red to Blue program for strong recruits in July. She’s betting that her professional background as a senior counsel at the Cleveland Clinic and working for Medicare and Medicaid will entice voters in a state seen as a test case for successful Medicaid expansion. She’s said Joyce’s depiction of himself as an independent voice is disingenuous. He had a 93 percent party unity score in 2016, according to a CQ analysis, and voted with his party on previous attempts to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law.

The district, a mixture of suburban and blue-collar towns bordering Lake Erie that was for years represented by centrist GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette, has a lot in common with Ohio’s 12th District, where the narrow special election victory by Republican Troy Balderson, who was backed by Trump, was seen as a sign of weakness for the president’s seal of approval. Inside Elections rates Joyce’s race Likely Republican.For next week, email us at and let us know which race you want to know more about: the Nebraska Senate race or Pennsylvania’s 10th District.

Photo Finish

GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder is among the most vulnerable incumbents this cycle, but he says he won’t be outworked on the campaign trail. And he worked up a sweat on a hot Saturday last month, greeting parade-goers in his district, and stopping for the occasional selfie.


Recent Stories

Florida’s Rick Scott enters race to be next Senate GOP leader

Louisiana abortion drug bill latest front in post-Dobbs fight

Capitol Lens | Grant-ing access

Democrats refer ‘big oil’ investigation to Justice Department

Congress appoints Army veteran Thomas Austin as new architect of the Capitol

Bynum’s primary win boosts Democrats’ chances to flip Oregon seat