Most Republicans believe their party has weathered the 2018 storm and brighter days are ahead in 2020. But that perspective doesn’t mean the GOP’s chances of retaking the House are particularly good.
Even if the national political environment isn’t as bad for the GOP as the midterms when they suffered a net loss of 40 House seats, there’s little evidence that President Donald Trump will dramatically improve his 2016 performance in key competitive districts next year.
That makes it difficult to envision Republicans winning those races, particularly without stellar candidates. And in some places, such as California and New Jersey, the GOP’s strongest House challengers (including Michelle Steel and Tom Kean Jr.) are running in difficult districts, against strong incumbents, or both.
With a combination of Republicans’ self-inflicted wounds, slow recruiting or suburbs continuing to shift against the president, Democratic chances of winning have improved in a dozen House races. Those rating changes include:
- Arizona’s 6th District (David Schweikert, R) From Solid Republican to Likely Republican
- California’s 25th (Vacant) Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic
- Illinois’ 6th (Sean Casten, D) Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- Illinois’ 13th (Rodney Davis, R) Tilts Republican to Toss-up
- Iowa’s 2nd (Open; Dave Loebsack, D) Toss-up to Tilts Democratic
- Iowa’s 4th (Steve King, R) Leans Republican to Tilts Republican
- Michigan’s 8th (Elissa Slotkin, D) Tilts Democratic to Leans Democratic
- Michigan’s 11th (Haley Stevens, D) Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- Minnesota’s 1st (Jim Hagedorn, R) Leans Republican to Tilts Republican
- Minnesota’s 2nd (Angie Craig, DFL) Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- New Hampshire’s 1st (Chris Pappas, D) Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- Virginia’s 2nd (Elaine Luria, D) Tilts Democratic to Leans Democratic
One race shifted toward the GOP:
- Minnesota’s 7th District (Collin C. Peterson, DFL) Leans Democratic to Tilts Democratic.
With those rating changes, the 2020 House battlefield now includes 39 vulnerable Democratic seats, 30 vulnerable Republican seats and independent/former Republican Justin Amash’s district in Michigan.
Technically, Republicans need a net gain of 19 seats to retake the majority.
But in reality, that target number will be more than 20 seats because Democrats are likely to gain at least two seats in North Carolina with a new congressional map.
There’s still time for Trump’s standing to improve enough to boost lower-tier House GOP candidates; for a significant backlash to develop against Democrats for pursuing impeachment; or for GOP House candidates to strengthen their campaigns. But right now, Democrats are most likely to maintain their majority in the next Congress.
For most specific analysis on the races with ratings changes, and more than 50 other House seats, check out the most recent issue of Inside Elections.