Vulnerable House Republicans Hold On

Democrats have gained a net of at least six seats

Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., won re-election, signaling that down-ballot Republicans in competitive districts may be able to overcome Democratic efforts to tie them to Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 10:00 a.m.

With Donald Trump winning the White House, Republicans continue to hold a comfortable House majority. 

Vulnerable Republicans in districts where Trump was once thought to be a liability held on, while even some Democrats once considered safe faced tighter than expected re-elections Tuesday night. 

Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock and Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman all won re-election in districts where Trump was thought to be a drag down-ballot. Democrats spent big trying to tie all three Republican incumbents to the GOP presidential nominee.

And in places where Trump was expected to do well — majority white districts in Maine and Iowa, for example — down-ballot Republicans prevailed. Iowa Rep. Rod Blum, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, won re-election in a district that President Barack Obama twice won by double digits. His district is 90 percent white. 

Democrats knocked off six Republican incumbents: New Hampshire Rep. Frank C. Guinta, Illinois Rep. Robert J. Dold, New Jersey Rep. Scott Garrett, Florida Reps. John Mica and David Jolly and Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy. They flipped the open seat in Nevada’s 3rd District. 

But in Nebraska’s 2nd District, Democrats may have lost one of their one incumbents. Republican Don Bacon was leading freshman Rep. Brad Ashford, a vulnerable Democrat sitting in a Republican district. The Associated Press has yet to declare the race, but if Bacon loses, Democrats will have gained a net of only six seats.

Democrats expected to be on the offensive going into Election Day. But several incumbent Democrats who weren’t expecting competitive re-elections found themselves in surprisingly tight races as the night wore on.

New Hampshire’s Ann McLane Kuster won re-election in the 2nd District. But for much of the night, her margin over GOP challenger Jim Lawrence looked thin. Kuster spent $1.9 million in her campaign, while Lawrence spent only $59,000, according to October FEC filings. 

And in Minnesota, Democrats weren’t expecting 1st District Rep. Tim Walz to have a competitive re-election. But he defeated his GOP challenger by less than one point.

Elsewhere in Minnesota, the Associated Press called the 7th District for Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Collin Peterson with just a single-digit margin. Campaigning for his DFL colleague Rick Nolan last month, Peterson made fun of how little money his GOP opponent had raised. 

“I’m campaigning hard, and I might make it,” Peterson joked, boasting that the National Republican Congressional Committee had given up trying to knock him off. 

Nolan won his race in the 8th District, defeating Republican Stewart Mills for the second time in as many years.

Republicans have held onto the majority of tossup and lower-tier seats that Democrats targeted.

Trey Hollingsworth held onto Indiana’s open 9th District for the GOP. New York Rep. Lee Zeldin won in the 1st District, a Long Island seat where Trump polled well. In New York’s 24th District, Rep. John Katko prevailed, over-performing the top of the GOP ticket.

Republican Mike Gallagher kept Wisconsin’s 8th District in GOP hands. And Minnesota 3rd District Rep. Erik Paulsen and Iowa 3rd District Rep. David Young won second terms.

Curbelo was the first vulnerable Republican to survive Tuesday night. The GOP freshman worked hard to distance himself from Trump in the 26th District, which became slightly more Democratic in redistricting. That didn’t stop Democrats from trying to tie him to the presidential nominee. 

Curbelo’s victory in the 26th District seat suggested good news for other down-ballot Republicans hoping to overcome Democratic efforts to tie them to Trump. 

And indeed, and hour later, Comstock prevailed in her suburban Virginia district, where Trump hadn’t polled well among wealthy well-educated moderates. 

Democrats scored two moral victories that might help them sleep better this week. Democrat Josh Gottheimer defeated Scott Garrett in New Jersey’s 5th District. Democrats seized on comments Garrett made about not wanting to support gay candidates. 

And in Florida, Democrat Stephanie Murphy knocked off Mica, a 12-term congressman. Mica may have only himself to blame for his loss. He has been faulted for not taking his first real re-election fight seriously or expending the resources needed to introduce himself to new voters in his redrawn seat. Murphy beat him on TV this fall and ran a much more aggressive campaign.

Besides Mica’s, Democrats picked up two other seats in the Sunshine State. Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist defeated GOP Rep. David Jolly in the 13th District, the first competitive seat of the night that Democrats flipped.

This district, which also became more Democratic in redistricting, took Democrats longer than expected to put away. But it was a must-win if the party had any chance of significantly reducing their 30-seat deficit in the House.

With former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings’ victory in Florida’s 10th District and Don McEachin’s victory in Virginia’s 4th District, Democrats won two other districts, but ones that had already been guaranteed to go blue after recent redistricting. 

Elsewhere in Florida, Republicans picked up the 18th District, which Rep. Patrick Murphy vacated to run for Senate. Republican Brian Mast defeated self-funder Randy Perkins.

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