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2020 election ratings update: House more ‘solid’ for Democrats

Of 29 changes to House ratings, only two move toward GOP

ANALYSIS — More than a decade ago, Democrats followed up a historic set of 2006 election results with more gains two years later. They’re poised to do the same thing this fall. 

After losing a net of 40 seats and the House majority in 2018, Republicans convinced themselves that things couldn’t get any worse. But with less than three months to go before the elections, President Donald Trump has yet to regain his footing and Republicans are likely to sink deeper into the House minority.

As the current Congress convened, Republicans looking toward 2020 expected the parts of their base who sat out the midterms to surge back in districts Trump won in 2016 and turn Democrats in the class of 2018 into asterisks. But the cudgels they thought would rally voters to their side — Socialism! Impeachment! — did not have the power they expected them to have. Moderate voters have soured on the president’s response to the coronavirus and race-related issues. And new Democrats also proved to be extremely adept at fundraising, keeping voters awakened by Trump’s victory in 2016 engaged and willing to put their own money behind the Democratic majority.

Now, not only is the House majority all but completely out of reach for the GOP this fall, but several initial takeover targets are dropping completely off the list of competitive races, including Lauren Underwood of Illinois and Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens of Michigan. 

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And as Trump underperforms his 2016 totals by 8 to 10 points or more around the country, dozens of Republican incumbents previously regarded as safe for reelection are potentially vulnerable. In this round of rating changes, Don Young of Alaska, French Hill of Arkansas, Vern Buchanan of Florida, and Texas Reps. Daniel Crenshaw, Ron Wright and Roger Williams see their seats added to the House battlefield. Even GOP Rep. Michael R. Turner is vulnerable, which was previously unthinkable as Trump trounced Hillary Clinton in Ohio in 2016. 

Longtime Alaska Rep. Don Young is one of seven Republicans on the November ballot whose reelection ratings are no longer considered Solid Republican, according to the latest update by Inside Elections. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With the newest set of rating changes, the House battleground now consists of 28 seats currently held by Democrats and 36 seats currently held by Republicans. Within those competitive races, Democrats are already favored to take over five GOP seats, including North Carolina’s 2nd and 6th districts, Texas’ 23rd, Georgia’s 7th, and California’s 25th, which was won by Republican Mike Garcia in a May special election

Meanwhile, Republicans don’t have a single race in a similar position. That makes it difficult for them to achieve the net gain of 17 seats they need for a majority.

Of course, it’s wise to stay open-minded that macro and micro electoral dynamics could change. Trump could rebound and Biden could implode, as many Republicans expect. But potential scenarios aren’t enough to ignore the current trajectory of these elections. Until Trump’s standing fundamentally improves, the most prudent analysis is to try to identify the depth of the GOP’s vulnerability.

Our previous projected House range was a 117th Congress with a Republican gain of five seats to a Democratic gain of five seats. We are adjusting that again, slightly in favor of Democrats, to a most likely range of no net change to a Democratic gain of 12 seats. And that might still be understating Democratic victories.

Races shifting toward Democrats

  • Alaska’s At-Large District (Don Young, R) from Solid R to Likely R 
  • Arizona’s 6th (David Schweikert, R) from Likely R to Lean R 
  • Arkansas’ 2nd (French Hill, R) from Solid R to Likely R 
  • Colorado’s 3rd (Open; Scott Tipton, R) from Solid R to Likely R
  • Florida’s 15th (Ross Spano, R) from Likely R to Lean R 
  • Florida’s 16th (Vern Buchanan, R) from Solid R to Likely R
  • Georgia’s 7th (Open; Rob Woodall, R) from Toss-up to Tilt D
  • Iowa’s 3rd (Cindy Axne, D) from Toss-up to Tilt D
  • Illinois’ 14th (Lauren Underwood, D) from Lean D to Solid D
  • Indiana’s 5th (Open; Susan W. Brooks, R) from Likely R to Lean R 
  • Michigan’s 3rd (Open; Justin Amash, L) from Lean R to Tilt R
  • Michigan’s 8th (Elissa Slotkin, D) from Likely D to Solid D
  • Michigan’s 11th (Haley Stevens, D) from Likely D to Solid D
  • Montana’s At-Large (Open; Greg Gianforte, R) from Likely R to Lean R
  • Nebraska’s 2nd (Don Bacon, R) from Lean R to Toss-up 
  • New York’s 2nd (Open; Peter T. King, R) from Lean R to Toss-up
  • New York’s 24th (John Katko, R) from Lean R to Tilt R
  • North Carolina’s 8th (Richard Hudson, R) from Likely R to Lean R 
  • Ohio’s 1st (Steve Chabot, R) from Lean R to Tossup 
  • Ohio’s 10th (Michael R. Turner, R) from Solid R to Likely R
  • South Carolina’s 1st (Joe Cunningham, D) from Toss-up to Tilt D
  • Texas’ 2nd (Daniel Crenshaw, R) from Solid R to Likely R
  • Texas’ 6th (Ron Wright, R) from Solid R to Likely R
  • Texas’ 21st (Chip Roy, R) from Lean R to Tilt R 
  • Texas’ 24th (Open; Kenny Marchant, R) from Tilt R to Toss-up
  • Texas’ 25th (Roger Williams, R) from Solid R to Likely R
  • Virginia’s 5th (Open; Denver Riggleman, R) from Solid R to Likely R

Races shifting toward Republicans

  • Florida’s 26th (Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D) from Likely D to Tilt D 
  • Illinois’ 13th (Rodney Davis, R) from Toss-up to Tilt R

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.

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