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At the Races: The 10 Most Vulnerable Incumbents

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 broke down the 10 most vulnerable incumbents in each chamber, Minnesota Democrats steered clear of controversial GOP comments, and we dug into a competitive House race in New York.


UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 29: Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., door knocks in Coon Rapids, MN, October 29, 2016. Paulsen is running for reelection in Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is a new addition to the 10 Most Vulnerable Incumbents list for the House. He’s running for re-election in Minnesota’s 3rd District, which Hillary Clinton won by 9 points in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Starting Gate

10 Most Vulnerable: With one month left before Election Day, we revisited our regular “10 Most Vulnerable Incumbents” lists for the House and Senate. For the first time this cycle we changed which senators were on the list, adding two new names. Find out who they are here. Republicans continued to dominate the House list, but there are two new additions with some members moving up as their re-election prospects have dimmed. We also went over the state of play in each chamber in our latest At the Races video.

*BOOKMARK* We’re down to 33 days until Election Day (WHAT). To stay up to date on the competitive House and Senate races this cycle, bookmark Roll Call’s Election Guide, which features race ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Nathan also made some recent ratings changes, which he explains in this video.

Uff-da! It’s a busy time in Washington, D.C, (hey, Brett Kavanaugh!) but President Donald Trump is headed to southern Minnesota tonight. Why? Because the 1st District is one of Republicans’ top pickup opportunities this year. Three-time GOP nominee Jim Hagedorn is all in on Trump — the president’s portrait is framed on the wall in his Mankato campaign headquarters. Trump carried this district by 15 points in 2016, but Democratic-Farmer-Labor nominee Dan Feehan believes the voters are looking for a check on the president.

Over in the 2nd District, which voted for Trump by a much narrower margin, DFL nominee Angie Craig is hearing the same thing, especially from Republican women, in her rematch against Rep. Jason Lewis. The freshman Republican isn’t as pro-Trump as Hagedorn, but he’s not going to “throw him under the bus,” he told us.

Not Going There: Like Trump, both Hagedorn and Lewis have made offensive comments about women. Those comments have been used against them in previous races. But interestingly, Democrats aren’t going there this year. (In Minnesota specifically, that may be a reflection of how Rep. Keith Ellison, the DFL nominee for attorney general, has put Democrats in bind because of assault allegations from a former girlfriend.) That’s just one way the rematch between Craig and Lewis feels different from two years ago. Lewis actually slid down a few spots on our most vulnerable list (see his team’s polling here) mostly because the 2nd District is a tougher one than, say, Minnesota’s 3rd, where Rep. Erik Paulsen is in a tight spot.

New York State of Mind: If you’ve heard of the race in New York’s 19th District, you’ve probably heard about rap lyrics. Democrat Antonio Delgado has been hit in Republican ads for his previous career as a rapper (between graduating from Harvard Law School and becoming a lawyer). Delgado is taking on GOP Rep. John J. Faso, who has consistently been on our list of most vulnerable House incumbents. Bridget traveled to the upstate New York district to get the view from the ground in what could be a very close race.

Take a trip to NY-19 with this video on the race. And for more on House contests in upstate New York, check out Bridget’s discussion with Roll Call deputy editor Jason Dick on the latest Political Theater podcast.

Did Someone Say Health Care? It is no secret that Democrats are eager to talk about health care this year and view it as a winning issue in House and Senate races. CQ health care reporter Mary Ellen McIntire digs into how the issue is playing out on the campaign trail. And here’s a closer look on how the issue is affecting one hotly contested House race.

The Count: 12

House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer has a list of 12 races he’ll be watching on election night to figure out if he and his fellow Democrats will take control of the House. Katherine Tully-McManus has the lowdown on his bellwethers.

Nathan’s Notes

Election night is going to have some surprises! And Nathan knows exactly what they will be and he’s going to tell you all of them — just kidding. If we knew which races were going to surprise us, then they wouldn’t be surprises! But Nathan breaks down how upsets happen in his latest column.

Candidate Confessions  

While Republicans are slamming Delgado for his rap lyrics, Faso is more eager to talk about the Democrat’s recent move to the district. The (Albany) Times Union reported that Delgado moved into New York’s 19th District from New Jersey (he worked in Manhattan) and formed a congressional campaign committee one month after he and his wife bought their house in Rhinebeck. Delgado pushed back on the notion that he moved to the area to run for Congress. “I didn’t pick this district to run in. I moved home,” he said in an interview.

Delgado is from Schenectady in the nearby 20th District and played basketball at Colgate University in the 22nd. His wife is from Woodstock, which is in the district. He said they wanted to be closer to their family to raise their young children. “It’s worth noting that I proposed to my wife in the district at the Ship to Shore [restaurant] in Kingston, that we got married in the district at the Catskills,” he said. Though he didn’t mention it in the interview, he was also inducted into the Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Reader’s Race

Arkansas’ 2nd District, anchored in the Little Rock metropolitan area, represents the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity of the deep-red state’s four House seats.

Incumbent French Hill, a banker and George Bush-era Treasury official and White House aide, was one of the party’s early targets for 2018. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently redoubled its commitment to the race, announcing Tuesday that it would spend about $250,000 on ads supporting 37-year-old state Rep. Clarke Tucker, whom the party sees as a rising star.

A rare public poll of the race, released Sept. 10, showed Tucker has so far failed to come within striking distance. The survey from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College put the incumbent up 49.5 percent to 40.5 percent, with 8 percent undecided. Tucker was behind in fundraising as well per the most recently available FEC reports. As of June 30, the end of the second quarter, he had raised $975,000, to Hill’s $1.95 million.

Tucker has campaigned on his personal experience beating bladder cancer to highlight Republican opposition to the 2010 health care law and has said he would oppose Nancy Pelosi for leader of the Democratic Caucus. There are signs that Hill, who won a second term by 20 points in 2016, is taking the challenge seriously. He’s released attack ads criticizing Tucker’s state House voting record, in particular his absent or “present” votes, and attempting to link him to Pelosi. Expect the slugfest to heat up in the coming days.

For next week, reply to this email and let us know which race you want to know more about: Pennsylvania’s 10th or the Ohio Senate race. 

We want to hear from you!

Talk to us. It’s easy. Email us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. As always, send us any race you think we should pay more attention to and we’ll look into it.

Photo Finish

A sweaty Beto O’Rourke joined Willie Nelson onstage last weekend in Austin, Texas, and our own Bill Clark was there to capture the moment. Check out his other photos from his trip here.A sweaty Beto O’Rourke joined Willie Nelson onstage last weekend, and our own Bill Clark was there to capture the moment. Check out his other photos from his trip

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