What a Republican Hold in the House Might Look Like
As we move toward the close of this election cycle, impending control of the House of Representatives remains up in the air. The general consensus among analysts is that Democrats are the favorites, perhaps by a substantial margin, but that Republicans remain in the game.
This raises a question: What do we mean by Republicans staying in the game? Regardless of what the math might indicate, are there plausible scenarios that result in the GOP keeping the House? Or are we demanding something of an inside straight, where multiple pollsters are simply wrong and districts where Republicans trail by significant margins in the polls have to go their way for them to keep their majority?
The answer is the former. There really are believable scenarios that don’t require Republicans to win districts that they have written off. Republicans have to catch some breaks, but they don’t have to catch breaks in ways that shock and surprise us. We can still assume that suburban districts move against them, which they almost certainly will. We can even include some surprising Democratic wins.
Tomorrow I will follow up by outlining a scenario where Democrats win a wave election, but below is one that allows House control to remain in GOP hands:
Arizona – Republicans lose AZ-02. This open Romney/Clinton district is just too much for Republicans to hold on to. Ann Kirkpatrick comes back for her third stint in Congress (she previously represented AZ-01).
California – Low Hispanic turnout enables Republicans to hold the 10th, in the Central Valley, and Steve Knight squeaks out a win in the northern reaches of LA. Dana Rohrabacher defies the odds and keeps his seat. Republicans lose the 49th District, which most analysts have had leaning toward Democrats for quite some time, and also lose the remaining two Orange County seats (CA-39 and CA-45).
Colorado – This year is too much for Mike Coffman, who managed to survive strong Democratic challenges in 2012, 2014, and 2016. This Obama/Clinton district goes blue for the remainder of the redistricting cycle.
Florida – Donna Shalala’s campaign limps across the finish line to pick up FL-27 for Democrats. Republican Carlos Curbelo hold on to FL-26 in a recount. Democrats come close in a number of other districts, but their partisan leans are ultimately too much for them to overcome.
Georgia –Democrats show surprising strength in the 6th and 7th districts, but the Republican DNA is too much for them to overcome, at least for this cycle.
Illinois – Peter Roskam loses an ancestrally Republican district. The downstate districts retain their newfound GOP loyalty. Randy Hultgren is pressed in the Chicago exurbs, but the underlying partisanship (Romney + 10, Trump +4) is once again too much for Democrats to overcome.
Iowa – Democrats pick up the 1st District, but the 3rd – which went for Trump by 10 points – breaks Republican.
Kansas – The Kansas City suburbs prove to be too much for Republican Kevin Yoder to hold on to his seat (notwithstanding an overall GOP lean), but the rural 2nd District that went for Donald Trump by 20 points isn’t ready to send a Democrat – even a moderate one – to Congress.
Michigan – MI-8 and MI-11 are both Romney/Trump districts, but the state is too inhospitable for the party this cycle. Republicans lose both.
Minnesota – Democrats win two Minneapolis districts, but Republicans win two rural districts, for a wash.
Nevada – A strong Election Day turnout for Republicans pushes Danny Tarkanian over the finish line in NV-3. The fifth time turns out to be the charm.
New Jersey – The Garden State, as expected, turns into a bloodbath for Republicans, who lose the 2nd, 7th, and 11th districts. The only bright spot for them is that Tom MacArthur holds on in his district, which went for Trump by six points.
New Mexico – Democrat Xochitl Torres Small surprises in this conservative district – there are bound to be a few on Election Night no matter what happens.
New York – Undecideds break away from Republican John Faso’s upstate New York district, sending Antonio Delgado to Congress. But Claudia Tenney holds on in her district, where Trump maintains a solid approval rating.
North Carolina – The map holds for Republicans, although they get a scare in the 2nd District. Unanticipated rural turnout offsets suburban discomfort with the GOP’s Mark Harris in the 9th District.
Pennsylvania – The remapping delivers as promised for Democrats, handing them control of the Philadelphia suburbs. The 5th, 6th, and 7th districts flip. In Pittsburgh, Conor Lamb wins handily against Keith Rothfus, but that is offset by Democrats losing the open 14th Congressional District. Brian Fitzpatrick, whose district was largely unaffected by redistricting, is the only incumbent Republican in the Pennsylvania delegation to hold on.
Texas – The Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio/El Paso suburbs retain their Republican DNA, at least for this cycle.
Utah – Mia Love continues her spate of weak performances in this heavily Republican district, and ends up losing by a thread.
Virginia – The Republican tendencies of the state’s 2nd and 5th districts lead to Republican wins (albeit close wins), but Barbara Comstock’s 10th District is too Democratic for her to hold, while Dave Brat finally proves to be too conservative for his (albeit ancestrally Republican) district in the Richmond suburbs.
Washington – Dino Rossi just can’t get it done, once again. Democrats finally pick up WA-8, a suburban Seattle district that has long eluded them.
If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 22 districts for Democrats, which is just enough for Republicans to keep control of the chamber. I don’t think this scenario involves any races where I would truly be shocked if the Republicans win, and I could probably push further -- without feeling delusional -- for a scenario where Democrats pick up just 19 or 20 seats.
With that said, this isn’t the most likely outcome, either. Tomorrow I will sketch out a scenario for a big Democratic win that stretches in excess of 40 seats.