By Amber Phillips / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — All this year, we’ve been ranking the top 10 House races most likely to flip parties in November’s elections. But with the election just a month away, we’ve had to scramble that plan. There are more than 10 races that could flip parties, and they’re all so close together that it’s nearly impossible to rank them.
That’s a reflection of how well Democrats are positioned to win a majority of the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010. Fourteen of the 15 races below are pickup opportunities for Democrats. (Democrats need to net 22 seats to regain control.)
So instead of rankings, we grouped what is now the top 15 races into three categories: total goners, likely to flip parties and true toss-ups. Here’s where things stand in the battle for the House a month before the election
Both sides agree these seats are going to flip parties in November. And all three are currently in the Republican column, though the GOP congressmen representing them have either already left office or retired; a reflection of how much the historic level of Republican retirements is hurting House Republicans this year. In the case of Pennsylvania, both districts also got reshaped by a gerrymandering battle that ultimately favored Democrats.
1. Pennsylvania’s 5th district (open): This seat is easier for Democrats to take as a direct result of the #MeToo movement. Former GOP congressman Patrick Meehan resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal. Its boundary lines have been redrawn, and the new 5th district would have had Hillary Clinton winning by nearly 30 points. Whoever wins will break a glass ceiling. Republicans nominated lawyer Pearl Kim and Democrats lawyer Mary Gay Scanlon, which means Pennsylvania’s currently all-male House delegation will have at least one woman on it next year — most likely Scanlon.
2. Pennsylvania’s 6th district (open): Shortly after Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court redrew this district’s boundaries, GOP Rep. Ryan Costello announced his sudden retirement, throwing shots at President Trump on his way out. Republicans had no choice but to select little-known lawyer Greg McCauley in May as their replacement nominee. He’ll face Democrat and former Air Force captain Chrissy Houlahan.
3. New Jersey’s 2nd district (open): Longtime GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s decision to retire has practically handed the seat to conservative Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew. Republicans acknowledged they didn’t have a solid candidate. In that vacuum, pro-Trump former Atlantic City councilman Seth Grossman won the Republican nomination, and he’s likely too much of a firebrand to win in this centrist district, especially without any help from national Republicans – which he stopped getting after some offensive comments about black and Hispanic Americans came to light.
Case in point for how well November is shaping up for Democrats: The eight seats that currently seem more likely than not to flip parties are all in the Republican column.
1. Iowa’s 1st district (Republican held): GOP Rep. Rod Blum’s race looks likely to go to Democrats for two reasons: Republicans privately say he’s not working hard enough to win a competitive race, and Democrats nominated 28-year-old state Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who is getting buzz because she could be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and the first woman elected to the House from Iowa.
2. Pennsylvania’s 17th district (Republican held): This is a new addition to our list, and it’s a weird one. Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus is technically the incumbent, but redistricting has also thrown Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb into this district. Lamb’s national popularity on the left after winning a special election deep in Trump country this spring has helped him run away with this race; Republican operatives now say this is likely a gimme to Democrats.
3. Minnesota’s 2nd district (Republican held): Democrats are excited about a rematch between first-term GOP Rep. Jason Lewis and Democrat Angie Craig in this swing district outside the Twin Cities. In 2016, Craig lost by two points when a third-party challenger was on the ballot. Lewis has willingly cast himself in Trump’s image and some local pundits say he may be too conservative for this district. But a Republican operative argues voters like Lewis’s brash, outspoken personality. (His time as a controversial radio host recently resurfaced, like when he argued on air several years ago: “Well, the thing is, can we call anybody a slut?”)
4. Minnesota’s 3rd district (Republican held): Yet another new addition to our list. GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is a well-liked congressman who avoids controversy in this centrist district outside Minneapolis. But Republicans fear the district is starting to turn just blue enough to put Paulsen in danger. Democrats have nominated wealthy businessman Dean Phillips, whom Republicans have attacked. But a New York Times/Siena College poll has Phillips ahead 51 to 42 percent. This race has Republicans worried.
5. Kansas’s 3rd district (Republican held): Another new addition to the list. If there is one race Democrats are most excited about, it’s the chance to unseat GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in a district Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016. “This district despises Trump,” said one Democratic operative. At the very least, a New York Times/Siena poll shows Democrat Sharice Davids with 51 percent of the vote, mirroring Democratic polling that she is on track to win the majority of the vote. The struggling Kris Kobach, who is leading the ticket for Republicans in Kansas’s open gubernatorial race, isn’t helping Yoder. Republicans argue the polling isn’t reflective of Yoder’s strength as a candidate, but they acknowledge this race is getting more competitive than it looked this spring.
6. Colorado’s 6th district (Republican held):Another new addition to the list. Democrats have tried and failed to unseat GOP Rep. Mike Coffman for several cycles now. This might finally be their chance; some Democratic private polling shows him losing to Democratic attorney and Iraq veteran Jason Crow. Like he has every cycle, Republicans say Coffman (also a military veteran who has run ads in Spanish) is doing what he needs to win, but the suburban Denver district may be turning too Democratic for him.
7. New Jersey’s 11th district (Open seat, previously Republican held): Another new addition to the list, another potential Democratic pickup thanks to a Republican retirement, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. Democrats nominated one of their most dynamic candidates of 2018, former Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill. She’s up against state lawmaker Jay Webber in this district Clinton narrowly won. Some Republicans are worried because Sherrill has more money to spend than Webber.
8. Arizona’s 2nd district (Open seat, previously Republican held): This Tucson-area race has been on our list since the spring, but it’s getting more favorable to Democrats as November nears. GOP Rep. Martha McSally left it open to run for Senate, and former Democratic congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who represented a neighboring Arizona district and ran for Senate in 2016, is the current front-runner. Republicans have Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce CEO Lea Marquez-Peterson, but she’s just not as well known as McSally was.
As the political winds turn in Democrats’ favor, Republicans running in these three tight races have managed to hang on. Republicans’ best pick up opportunity is here too. These races are likely to be close right up to Election Day.
1. Virginia’s 10th district (Republican held): GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock is perennially one of Republicans’ most vulnerable lawmakers but perennially one of the party’s smartest campaigners. She represents the outer Washington suburbs that voted Democratic in 2017 state elections, but she also disavowed Trump in 2016. The much more novice Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Wexton is trying to unseat her, and some private Republican polls have Comstock ahead. This race could come down to whether Democrats in the district register their displeasure with Trump by voting against Comstock.
2. Florida’s 27th district (open): It’s a testament to Republican recruitment that this seat isn’t a goner. Longtime GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is leaving a heavily Hispanic Southern Florida district that went for Clinton by 20 points. But Republicans nominated Cuban TV journalist Maria Elvira Salazar, who they hope will keep the district’s more conservative Hispanic voters voting Republican. Democrats have former Bill Clinton cabinet official Donna Shalala, who has virtually unlimited money to spend. Private polling on both sides places this race in the margin of error.
3. California’s 49th district (open): In the San Diego area, Rep. Darrell Issa (R) is retiring rather than try to win reelection in a district he barely held onto in 2016, and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report places this race as Democrats’ best pick up opportunity in California. Democrats have lawyer Mike Levin while Republicans have former state official Diane Harkey. The New York Times/Siena poll has Levin up, 51 to 41.
4. Minnesota’s 8th district (Democratic held): Finally we get to Republicans’ best pickup opportunity of 2018. Rep. Rick Nolan, a Democrat, retired from the most pro-Trump seat any Democrat held onto in 2016 to run for lieutenant governor. Republicans love their candidate, former county commissioner Pete Stauber, who comes from a well-known hockey family in the area. Democrats nominated former state lawmaker Joe Radinovich. This race looks to be within the margin of error, but Republicans are really bullish about Stauber and plan to spend money to help him win this seat.
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