Politics

The 10 Most Vulnerable House Incumbents on Election Day

Iowa’s Rod Blum gives up the top spot but remains vulnerable

Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus claims the top spot in Roll Call’s final list of the most vulnerable incumbents of the 2018 cycle. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Heading into Election Day, Republicans once again occupy all 10 spots of Roll Call’s list of most vulnerable House incumbents, but for the first time this cycle, Iowa Rep. Rod Blum is not leading the pack.

While President Donald Trump won Blum’s 1st District in 2016, operatives from both parties have consistently identified the two-term congressman as the incumbent most likely to lose this cycle — until the past month.

Blum’s race has tightened of late, with outside groups on both sides re-engaging. Democrats and Republicans agree that a handful of GOP incumbents in tougher districts are now in more trouble than him. That begins with Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus, who tops the list, followed by three Republicans in districts that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.

[The 10 Most Vulnerable Senators on Election Day]

The rankings are based on conversations with strategists from both sides of the aisle, polling, and the race ratings from Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. We look solely at vulnerable incumbents and do not include open seats that are likely to flip.

Watch: 25 Race Ratings Changes Less Than a Week Before Midterms

1. Keith Rothfus, R-Pa.

Rothfus’ fate was complicated by a new Pennsylvania congressional map. His district shifted from one Trump carried by 21 points to one that would have supported him by just 3 points. Rep. Conor Lamb’s decision to challenge Rothfus in the new 17th District further complicated matters, since the Democrat brought high name recognition and a lot of money to the race. There has been minimal outside spending here, according to a Daily Kos Elections analysis, which is a sign that Republicans view the race as essentially a lost cause. Race Rating: Leans Democratic

2. Mike Coffman, R-Colo.

Coffman has beaten back previous Democratic attempts to unseat him, but his prospects look bleaker this year. Some Republicans admit the 6th District race has moved away from them, and the National Republican Congressional Committee pulled its money here last month. Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC backed by House GOP leadership, cut its spending in September. Coffman, a Marine veteran, faces Democratic Army veteran Jason Crow in a district that Clinton carried by 9 points. Race Rating: Tilts Democratic

3. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan.

Clinton only won Yoder’s 3rd District by 1 point in 2016, but Democrats view this year’s race as an example of suburban voters rejecting the GOP agenda, and believe the Republican gubernatorial nominee, conservative firebrand Kris Kobach, could be a drag on Yoder. Democrat Sharice Davids, who is backed by the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List, has also proved to be a strong fundraiser who could make history as one of the first Native American women in Congress and the first LGBT representative from Kansas. Race Rating: Leans Democratic

4. Barbara Comstock, R-Va. 

The two-term Republican remains where she was last month on the list. Some polling of her race against Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Wexton shows slightly tighter margins than in Coffman and Yoder’s re-elections. Comstock has a history of winning tough races and has worked to distance herself from her party on some issues. But the fundamentals of the 10th District, which Clinton carried by 10 points, remain daunting for the incumbent. Race Rating: Tilts Democratic

5. Rod Blum, R-Iowa 

Blum moves down the list as polls have shown his 1st District race getting closer. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initially pulled out in a show of confidence in state Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s chances of defeating Blum. But they’ve since re-engaged, and CLF jumped in after outside GOP groups declined to spend here for most of the cycle. The district backed former President Barack Obama twice but then supported Trump by less than 4 points. Race Rating: Leans Democratic 

6. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn. 

This is Paulsen’s second straight month on the list, although he’s dropped three spots since October to make way for the races in Clinton districts, where outside groups have cut their losses. Paulsen overperformed Trump in this affluent, suburban Twin Cities district in 2016, but this is his first time running for re-election with a Republican in the White House. Regardless of how much he tries to distance himself from his party, 3rd District voters like splitting their tickets and seem to be receptive to his Democratic challenger, first-time candidate Dean Phillips.Race Rating: Tilts Democratic 

7. Jason Lewis, R-Minn. 

The freshman Republican returns in seventh position as he faces a rematch against Democrat Angie Craig, whom he narrowly beat in the 2nd District in 2016. Craig’s running a different campaign this year, not talking about Trump or going after Lewis for controversial comments from his talk radio days. Another big difference: the third-party candidate who took nearly 8 percent of the vote two years ago isn’t on the ballot this time. But Lewis may be in slightly better shape than Paulsen given that his district, which narrowly voted for Trump, is more conservative. Race Rating: Tilts Democratic

8. John J. Faso, R-N.Y. 

Faso remains in the No. 8 spot in the closely divided 19th District, which swung from Obama to Trump. (Faso himself referred to the district as a “microcosm of the country.”) He faces Democratic lawyer Antonio Delgado, who had a slight edge in cash on hand heading into the final weeks of the race. Delgado, who also had a crowded primary, has raised twice as much as Faso throughout the campaign, $7.9 million to Faso’s $3.7 million. Outside groups on both sides are also spending in this upstate New York district. Race Rating: Tilts Democratic

9. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine

The Republican sophomore moves up a spot after debuting on the list last month. While Trump won the rural, working-class 2nd District by 10 points in 2016, it’s still ancestrally Democratic turf and voted twice for Obama. Poliquin faces a tough challenge from Democratic state House Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden, a Marine veteran who’s been attacking the incumbent for voting to repeal the 2010 health care law. There’s no public polling suggesting Poliquin can win more than 50 percent of the vote, and if he doesn’t, the state’s ranked-choice voting system kicks in, which would likely benefit Golden. Race Rating: Toss-up

10. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y. 

Tenney moves down a spot in part because party strategists say Poliquin could be in more trouble. The race between Tenney and Democratic state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi in an upstate New York district Trump carried by 16 points remains close. Brindisi’s brand, name recognition and fundraising have helped put the 22nd District in play for Democrats. Tenney’s closing argument includes aligning herself with Trump and attempting to tie Brindisi to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whom he has said he will not support for speaker.Race Rating: Tilts Democratic

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