This is the second in a series on the upcoming Nov. 3 election, a look at the political landscape with weeks left before the nation goes to the polls. In this edition, we focus on the House of Representatives where the Democrats have a 35 seat majority.
After the presidential election of 2016, Republicans had a majority in the House. However, in the 2018 midterm elections Democrats picked up 41 House seats and by doing so, gained control of the House of Representatives and made Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House.
Although it’s normal for the party that holds the presidency to lose seats in the House during mid-term elections, that was an historically high number of seats lost by Republicans. The losses were, in part, due to the large number of incumbents who did not run for re-election including several members of the Republican House leadership.
This year, roughly 10% of the Republican members of the House are not running for re-election. Again, that is an abnormally high number and, combined with the number from the 2018 mid-terms, potentially indicates a deeper problem among Republican sitting members of Congress
Republicans targeted House races that are close and are in blue collar areas where Trump did well in 2016. That crossover from union and Democratic-leaning voters will have to work again if Republicans are going to make any gains. Democrats are hoping to balance that out with gains in normally Republican suburban, high income areas where polls show dissatisfaction with President Trump has grown. Also concerning for Republicans are polls showing vulnerability among older voters in Florida and traditionally GOP areas of Texas, both states with high numbers of Congressional districts in play.
Republicans also hoped to recapture a number of seats that they lost in the mid-terms by small margins. CA-39 was one of those, for example. Republican Young Kim got the most votes in the primary in 2018 but ended up losing the general election by less than 2%. As this year’s election season started, it seemed like that race would be competitive again but polls show the gap widening and the Democratic incumbent, Gil Cisneros, is well positioned to win again. That race may be a microcosm of the House races this year.
Real Clear Politics has 34 House races listed as toss-ups. Based on polling in other races, Republicans would need to win 32 of those 34 races to win back the majority.
The respected Cook Political Report has a similar breakdown but only 25 House races that it lists as toss-ups, with the majority of those currently held by Republicans. Based on the ratings from Cook, Republicans would need to win most of the toss-ups just to maintain current status.
All of that says that Democrats will almost assuredly keep control of the House. And it will be an uphill battle for Republicans to hold on to what they have and it is not unlikely that Democrats expand their majority. If Democrats can do that, combined with the pick-ups from the mid-terms ,their majority would become almost insurmountable in the next election and Republicans would be set back significantly from where they were just 4 years ago.
From a broader perspective, if Democrats expand their majority, that may be one of the lasting legacies of the Trump Presidency. Unlike others, President Trump has put little focus on helping others in the Party. Indeed, a number of Republican elected officials that chose not to run for re-election seemingly did so out of frustration with the President. He has never hesitated to criticize even members of his own Party when they did not do what he wanted and in doing so, weakened the Republican base when they went to run again. Probably related to that, the 2018 mid-term elections were significant in the number of powerful GOP members of Congress who decided not to run again. In that election, 7 sitting members who were Chairs of committees retired, as well as the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. The Speaker is the most powerful member of Congress and for Paul Ryan to decide not to run again spoke volumes. It was widely known that he often disagreed with the President and it is presumed that his frustration with having to defend the Administration was one of the main reasons that he chose not to run again.
As Democrats push to expand their majority in the House of Representatives, the results on Nov. 3 may be the most far-reaching of this election and have the longest lasting implications.