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Race to House majority runs through the 10 Toss-ups

Democrats likely need to win nine of 10 Toss-up races for the majority

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Wash., won a seat in 2022 that went Republican for president in 2020, and faces a Toss-up race in November.
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Wash., won a seat in 2022 that went Republican for president in 2020, and faces a Toss-up race in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Even with President Joe Biden’s job approval rating stuck underwater, Democrats have a path to the House majority. It just involves winning virtually all of the Toss-up races. 

On the other hand, even though Republicans are seeing their current House majority shrink with each passing resignation, the GOP is better-positioned to maintain control of the House a little more than seven months before Election Day. 

Currently, the math is easier for Republicans if they win the races they are currently favored to win. The 187 races rated as Solid Republican by Inside Elections, added to the 29 races rated as Likely, Lean, or Tilt Republican gets the GOP to 216 seats. That means Republicans need to win just two of the 10 Toss-up races to get to 218. 

The math is more difficult for Democrats. Adding the 174 races rated as Solid Democratic to the 35 races rated as Likely, Lean, or Tilt Democratic by Inside Elections gets the Democrats to 209 seats. That means Democrats need to win nine of 10 Toss-up races to get to 218. 

Those totals include three North Carolina seats (the 6th, 13th, and 14th districts) currently held by Democrats flipping to Republicans because of the new map drawn by Republicans. It also includes three current Republican districts flipping to Democrats including Alabama’s 2nd and Louisiana’s 6th because of redistricting, and Rep. Brandon Williams in New York’s 22nd, which Biden won with 54 percent in 2020 and was redrawn slightly as well.

So how difficult is Democrats’ path in the Toss-up races? 

Usually, the easiest way to gain seats is to hold your own first. That doesn’t look too difficult considering Biden won nine of the 10 Toss-up districts in 2020, including three seats with a Democratic incumbent (Colorado’s 8th with Yadira Caraveo, New Mexico’s 2nd with Gabe Vasquez, and North Carolina’s 1st with Don Davis) and Michigan’s 7th, which is open because Rep. Elissa Slotkin is running for the Senate. 

But Biden won those districts with an average of 51 percent in 2020, and there’s no guarantee he will do it again as an unpopular incumbent seeking reelection. With a high correlation between presidential and House results (just 16 districts split their ticket in 2020), that will make it more difficult for Democratic candidates to hold those seats. 

The only Toss-up race in a district that President Donald Trump carried is Washington’s 3rd District, represented by Democratic Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. She won by less than 1 point in 2022 while Republicans largely stayed away from the general election after Republican Joe Kent kept GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler from winning one of the top two spots in the primary. Republicans will go after Gluesenkamp Perez this time around and Trump may do even better in the district. 

The good news for Democrats is that Biden averaged 55 percent in the five Toss-up races in districts currently held by Republicans. That includes John Duarte and Mike Garcia in California’s 13th and 27th districts, Anthony D’Esposito and Mike Lawler in New York’s 4th and 17th districts, and Lori Chavez-DeRemer in Oregon’s 5th. 

Looking at the races individually, it’s not hard to see Democrats winning the seats necessary for a majority, even though it could be an expensive endeavor with some of the key races being held in the expensive Los Angeles (California’s 27th) and New York City (New York’s 4th and 17th) media markets.

The larger task of winning virtually all of the Toss-up races is more daunting. And that assumes Democratic incumbents such as Mary Peltola in Alaska and Jared Golden in Maine hold on in deeper Trump territory. 

This down-to-the-last race scenario also assumes that the presidential race remains close and competitive and neither candidate veers too far from their 2020 performance. But if the 2024 presidential race gets lopsided in either direction, that will affect the Toss-up races and the entire House battlefield. 

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