Skip to content

Rating changes: 12 House races shift on divided battlefield

Democrat Marcy Kaptur, Republicans Don Bacon and Ken Calvert are all more vulnerable

The Inside Elections rating for Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon’s reelection bid moved from Lean to Tilt Republican.
The Inside Elections rating for Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon’s reelection bid moved from Lean to Tilt Republican. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

ANALYSIS — Nearly seven months before Election Day, the fight for the House majority is taking shape with a dozen rating changes in a dozen races. While eight of the changes made by Inside Elections benefit Democrats, some of those are on the outskirts of the battlefield, and Republicans are in a better position to control the House next year

Overall, 72 races are rated as competitive by Inside Elections. That’s a slightly larger House battlefield compared with this point in 2022 (65 seats), 2020 (66 seats) and 2018 (69 seats) but dramatically larger than the end of March 2016, when just 34 House seats were rated as competitive. 

There’s unintentional symmetry at the core of the battlefield, where Republicans currently represent 15 seats and Democrats represent 13 seats rated as Toss-up, Tilt Democratic or Tilt Republican. But that understates Democrats’ challenge to gain control. 

Even though Democrats need a net gain of just four seats for a majority after taking over New York’s 3rd District in a mid-February special election, they need to win a disproportionate number of the competitive seats while defending nearly half of the vulnerable districts. 

Competitive open seats are generally easier to take over compared with defeating well-financed incumbents with high name ID, and Democrats currently represent the only four open seats rated as Toss-Up or Tilt. Virginia’s 7th District, being left behind by Rep. Abigail Spanberger for her 2025 run for governor, is vulnerable. So are the 7th District (where Rep. Elissa Slotkin is running for the Senate) and 8th District (where Rep. Dan Kildee is not running for reelection) in Michigan, a state where President Joe Biden is struggling to replicate his narrow 2020 victory. And California’s 47th District is vulnerable without Rep. Katie Porter’s fundraising edge after her unsuccessful run for the Senate.

Three incumbents were moved to a more vulnerable category in the most recent changes. 

Ohio’s 9th District moved from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic after Republicans nominated state Rep. Derek Merrin (instead of 2022 nominee J.R. Majewski) to face Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in a district that former President Donald Trump carried narrowly in 2020. 

Republican Rep. Don Bacon’s race moved from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican in Nebraska’s 2nd District as he faces down a primary challenge and reelection in a suburban district that Biden won in the past and is likely to win again at the top of the ticket. 

And California’s 41st District moved from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican as GOP Rep. Ken Calvert will face off against Democrat Will Rollins in a rematch of last cycle. The 2022 race was decided by less than 5 points, but Rollins will be better-funded. He pulled ahead of the incumbent in cash on hand on Feb. 14, $2.4 million to $2.3 million, and it’s a relatively inexpensive place for outside groups to air ads in the Palm Springs media market. 

Eight incumbents saw their chances of winning improve in the latest ratings. 

The race in Michigan’s 10th District, represented by Republican John James, shifted from Tilt Republican to Lean Republican. James is a fundraising machine ($2.3 million cash on hand on Dec. 31), Biden is struggling at the top of the ticket, it looks like Democrats are going to nominate Carl Marlinga again ($161,000 cash on hand), and it will be an expensive and crowded Detroit media market with competitive presidential and Senate races on the ballot. 

In Michigan’s 3rd District, Democratic Rep. Hillary Scholten’s race shifted from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic. Biden won the Grand Rapids-area district by 7 points in 2020, but Scholten also had more than $1 million more in her campaign account at the end of the year compared with any of her GOP opponents. 

Even though Nevada is hosting competitive presidential and Senate races, Republicans admit that Democrats did a good job of drawing the congressional map. Trump would likely need to win the Silver State by more than 5 points, which a Republican hasn’t done since 1988, in order to buoy Republicans in House races. So Rep. Susie Lee (3rd District) joined her Democratic colleagues Dina Titus (1st) and Steven Horsford (4th) in the Likely Democratic category. 

Republicans were hoping Ohio’s 1st District would be redrawn to endanger Democratic Rep. Greg Landsman in the Cincinnati area. It wasn’t, and that race moved from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic. 

Ever since Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi won the special election in New York’s 3rd District last month, there hasn’t been much buzz from Republicans about defeating him, particularly after the Long Island seat got a little more Democratic in the most recent round of redistricting. That race shifted from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic. 

And Oregon’s 6th District in the mid-Willamette Valley shifted from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic as well. Three-time GOP congressional candidate Mike Erickson appears more focused on his lawsuit against Democratic Rep. Andrea Salinas from their 2022 race rather than his 2024 challenge. And GOP strategists are more excited about taking on Democratic Rep. Val Hoyle in the 4th District in Southern Oregon. 

Two incumbents dropped off the list of competitive races, according to Inside Elections.

Florida’s 9th District shifted from Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic as Democratic Rep. Darren Soto’s likely opponent had $53,000 in the bank on Dec. 31 in an Orlando-area district that Biden won by 17 points in 2020. 

And Iowa Republican Ashley Hinson’s 2nd District race moved from Likely Republican to Solid Republican. Any signs of life in the Iowa Democratic Party aren’t coming from this district, where Trump won by just 4 points in 2020. The congresswoman had a $1.4 million to $36,000 advantage on Dec. 31 over her Democratic opponent, and Democrats are far more focused on defeating Mariannette Miller-Meeks (1st District) and Zach Nunn (3rd). 

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert’s decision to run in the 4th District made it easier for Republicans to hold her current seat, as the 3rd District rating shifted from Tilt Republican to Lean Republican. Republicans will still have to pay attention, however, considering Democrat Adam Frisch had $5.1 million in cash on hand at the end of the year and the GOP could nominate a candidate who was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but it’s a different race without the public and polarizing Boebert. 

Rating changes

Moved toward Republicans

  • Colorado’s 3rd (Open; Lauren Boebert, R) from Tilt Republican to Lean Republican
  • Iowa’s 2nd District (Ashley Hinson, R) from Likely Republican to Solid Republican
  • Michigan’s 10th (John James, R) from Tilt Republican to Lean Republican
  • Ohio’s 9th District (Marcy Kaptur, D) from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic

Moved toward Democrats

  • California’s 41st District (Ken Calvert, R) from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican
  • Florida’s 9th District (Darren Soto, D) from Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic
  • Michigan’s 3rd District (Hillary Scholten, D) from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic
  • Nebraska’s 2nd District (Don Bacon, R) from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican
  • Nevada’s 3rd District (Susie Lee, D) from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic
  • New York’s 3rd District (Tom Suozzi, D) from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic
  • Ohio’s 1st District (Greg Landsman, D) from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic
  • Oregon’s 6th District (Andrea Salinas, D) from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic

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

Recent Stories

Five races to watch in Pennsylvania primaries on Tuesday

‘You talk too much’— Congressional Hits and Misses

Senators seek changes to spy program reauthorization bill

Editor’s Note: Congress and the coalition-curious

Photos of the week ending April 19, 2024

Rule for emergency aid bill adopted with Democratic support