Opinion

Republican House Seats Potentially At Risk

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Posted: Mar 22, 2018 12:01 AM
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Republican House Seats Potentially At Risk

Democrats must pick up 23 seats to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives this November. They have plenty of openings since 68 seats currently held by Republicans are at varying levels of risk.

A race-by-race analysis at ScottRasmussen.com shows that 28 of these Republican seats are at a high level of risk (Democrat favored, Toss-Up, Tilt Republican). Fourteen more are modestly competitive while leaning in the GOP direction. Finally, 26 others might be at risk depending upon the political environment this fall.

Seven Republican seats are already tilting or leaning to the Democrats. These are races where Republican incumbents like Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27) retired.

Another 13 races are rated as pure toss-ups bringing the number of top-tier Democratic opportunities to 20. Five (5) are found in Pennsylvania due to a court-ordered redistricting plan and most are suburban districts.

Given that midterm election dynamics typically favor the party out of power, all 20 GOP seats rated as toss-ups or tilting in the Democratic direction could easily flip from R to D in November. Adding to the challenge for Republicans is that there are very few opportunities for GOP gains. Only two Democratic seats are rated as toss-ups.

While these realities are encouraging for Democrats, they can't win the majority without defeating some Republican candidates who are currently favored. In fact, control might be determined by the results in eight (8) Republican seats currently rated as barely tilting in favor of the incumbent party. While each race has its own distinct characteristics, the results are likely to be reflective of the national political dialogue.

For example, Minnesota-3 could be decided by the electoral power of the Republican tax-cuts. In a district Clinton won by 9 points, Democrats hope to use that issue against incumbent Republican Erik Paulsen. On the other hand, Paulsen believes that "tax cuts and regulatory reform have created real momentum in our economy." If the tax cut message works, it will help Paulsen keep his job along with many other Republicans in competitive districts.

In Texas-3, John Culberson was seen early on as a potential target for Democrats. Clinton narrowly won his district and the incumbent was slow to build a campaign team and fundraise. But he may have caught a break due to the deep divide between progressives and more centrist candidates. National Democratic strategists openly opposed progressive Laura Moser in the primary, but she made it to the run-off anyhow.

The Democratic civil war may benefit Culberson and other Republicans hoping to keep their jobs. If progressive candidates like Moser are nominated, it could turn off more pragmatic voters. On the other hand, if more centrist Democrats are nominated, it's not clear whether progressive voters will maintain their enthusiasm to vote in November.

If tax cuts and the Democratic civil war help candidates like Paulsen and Culberson win, the GOP might have a decent election night and retain narrow control of the House. Still, even a good night for Paul Ryan's party would probably mean losing 15-20 seats.

On the other hand, there's a lot of potential upside for the Democrats. With 68 Republican seats at risk, Nancy Pelosi's team can dream of a victory as big as the Republican gains in 2010.