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Race Calls: Republicans' Narrow House Majority Has Expanded

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

It took days of counting, but control of the House of Representatives in the upcoming Congress was finally called for Republicans last week -- a widely expected outcome that has come via an unexpectedly tight outcome.  Votes are still being tabulated, but as of this writing, the GOP has won millions more votes than Democrats have across the nation's 435 House races, leading on this 'popular vote' metric by approximately three-and-a-half percentage points.  That advantage has not translated into more substantial seat gains because of the 'inefficiency' of those votes, meaning that Republican gains were disproportionately achieved in non-competitive races.  GOP candidates ran up the score in deep red districts, and gained ground in blue areas -- but where it was most important, they often fell short.  Among the top 36 most competitive seats, according to the New York Times' pre-election ratings, Republicans won just nine (and are leading in two more).  Democrats won the rest of them.  


House Republican leaders will have very little breathing room over the next two years, finding themselves presiding over a slim majority that will roughly (or exactly, see below) mirror the historically tight margin the Democrats currently have, following a worse-than-anticipated 2020 House cycle.  Speaker Pelosi has been adept at keeping her coalition together, and Democrats are generally better about party discipline and falling in line when the chips are down.  GOP leadership will have to contend with a more rambunctious membership, including more than a few actors who are more than happy to go rogue.  For that reason, every seat counts -- and every bit of cushion will matter. There has been some movement on that front over the last few days.  In CO-03, it looked like Rep. Lauren Boebert's race would come down to a recount, but her challenger chose to concede the race, with a rematch likely brewing.  Boebert survived, by the skin of her teeth (a few hundred votes), in a district that was drawn to to be a safer Republican haven.  It will be up to her to decide whether she plans to change her approach as a firebrand, given the signal sent by voters.  This is certainly interesting.

The Times tracker shows the Colorado race still uncalled, even though it's been conceded.  That's seat 219 for Republicans.  The same tool also shows three uncalled races in California, representing some of the last outstanding Congressional contests of the cycle (in addition to Alaska, where the Democrat appears to be in a pretty strong position to win -- thanks to two Republicans splitting the majority-red electorate, under the state's ranked-choice voting system).  One of those races is CA-03, which Decision Desk HQ has already called for Republican Kevin Kiley.  Seat 220.  In CA-22, incumbent Republican David Valadao has won re-election, per Dave Wasserman, which would be seat 221.  This was an interesting race in a double-digit Biden district, featuring a Republican who voted to impeach President Trump after January 6th.  Valadao ran a strong race and hung on (by contrast, Republicans in Washington state barely ousted another pro-impeachment incumbent in the primary process, in a much redder district, then blew the seat to Democrats).


Then there's CA-13, a true nail-biter.  The Republican in the race enters this week in the lead by a few hundred votes, but thousands of ballots remain uncounted in the preposterous and interminable process they have in place out there. It's unclear where this one ends up, but here is an update from over the weekend:

If John Duarte can close this thing out, that would be House GOP seat 222. And if that happens, Republicans and Democrats will have precisely flipped majorities, down to the seat.  222-213 blue after 2020; 222-213 red after 2022.  And when I say that every seat matters, in terms of whip counts, I mean every seat matters.  Republicans are already running into headaches over the fate of the very first vote their members will be taking in the new Congress:

I'll leave you with this good advice from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, reiterating part of what he's been saying to Republican audiences in recent days.  The quality and palatability of the party's candidates matters a lot, but conditioning Republican and Republican-leaning voters to adapt to voting rules as they exist (absent sensible reforms like Georgia's, which aren't realistic in non-Republican states) is also a necessity.  Democrats take full advantage of the system.  Republicans must, too:


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