Podcast: What Defines a Political Wave in the House?
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 6

MARCH 14: Speaker Paul D. Ryan holds a press conference with House GOP leadership in the Capitol on Wednesday, March 14, 2018, as a television displays election results from the special election in Pennsylvania. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With President Donald Trump’s mediocre job ratings, Democrats’ advantage on the national generic ballot and success in special elections in Pennsylvania, Alabama and elsewhere, there’s plenty of talk about a political wave. In this week’s Decoder, Roll Call elections analyst Nathan Gonzales, sitting in for David Hawkings, talks with Roll Call columnist Stuart Rothenberg about how many seats it takes to make a wave and which Republicans might survive.

Show Notes:

Democrats Look to Dan Sena to Secure House Majority
Veteran operative is the first Latino to direct a party campaign committee

Dan Sena, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is interviewed in his Washington office on August 14, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Armed with a Nokia cellphone and a couple of semesters of graduate school, Dan Sena was ready for battle.

It was 1998, and the future executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was going to be a key cog in his party’s effort to take over a House seat in New Mexico, even though at the time his previous professional highlights included teaching tennis at a country club, washing dishes on his college campus and selling CDs at the Villa Linda Mall.

Ratings Update: Texas Primaries Narrow Democratic Fields
Some top recruits fail to make runoffs

Texas Democrat Colin Allred finished first in the 32nd District primary and will face Lillian Salerno in the May runoff for the chance to take on GOP incumbent Pete Sessions (Courtesy Colin Allred for Congress)

After months of speculation, the 2018 midterm elections are officially underway with initial primaries in Texas.

There’s more evidence of a Democratic surge previously seen in Virginia and in special elections around the country, but also the reality that some of the swarm of Democratic candidates aren’t even going to make it to the general election.

Rating Change: Special Election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Moves to Toss-Up
Democrat Conor Lamb is still standing despite continuous GOP attacks

Democrat Conor Lamb, left, and Republican Rick Saccone will face off March 13 in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th District. (Courtesy Conor Lamb/Rick Saccone/Facebook)

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

“While the Pennsylvania race isn’t getting much attention now, that should change next year, considering all of the 2017 special elections eventually became national stories,” my colleague Leah Askarinam wrote in the Dec. 15 issue of Inside Elections. “By the numbers, the 18th District special election shouldn’t be particularly competitive. But the 2017 slate of special elections demonstrated that every race could turn into a struggle for Republicans, even in favorable territory.”

Rating Change: Special Election in Arizona’s 8th Gets More Vulnerable for GOP
And it could become even more so between now and the April 24 general

Former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko is the Republican nominee in the 8th District race to replace Rep. Trent Franks. (Courtesy Debbie Lesko/Flickr)

It might look like Republicans dodged a disaster in Arizona’s 8th District, considering former state Sen. Steve Montenegro didn’t win Tuesday’s primary. But as we’ve written before, Republicans seem to find new ways to make these special elections competitive, and Democrats everywhere are excited to send a message to President Donald Trump.

Unlike Montenegro, former state Sen. Debbie Lesko, the GOP nominee, has not received a topless photo from a staffer. But she has been accused of violating campaign finance rules by illegally funneling state funds to a federal race.

Bernie Sanders’ Son Weighing House Run in New Hampshire
New Hampshire Democrats conflicted over ‘carpetbagger’

Levi Sanders, right, arrived with Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife Jane Sanders at a primary night rally in Essex Junction, Vermont. in 2016. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP file photo)

Levi Sanders, son of 2016 presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, is considering a run in New Hampshire's First District.

“Oh, absolutely. I’m definitely considering it. I’m excited, motivated and interested in the race,” Sanders told Vice News Thursday. “I’m just dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s.”

Ratings Changes: 15 Races Shift Toward Democrats, 1 Toward Republicans
Democratic chances have improved beyond Pennsylvania

From left, Democrats Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Stephanie Murphy of Florida are looking more secure in their re-elections this fall, while, from right, Republicans Ted Budd and Mimi Walters may be more vulnerable. (Bill Clark/Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photos)

Less than eight months before Election Day, the midterm landscape is still taking shape. It’s still not clear whether Democrats will have a good night (and potentially fall short of a majority) or a historic night in the House that puts them well over the top. But mounting evidence nationally and at the district level points to a Democratic advantage in a growing number of seats.

Democratic prospects improved in a handful of seats in Pennsylvania, thanks to a new, court-ordered map. And the party’s successes in state and local elections over the last 14 months demonstrate a surge in Democratic voters, particularly in blue areas, that could be problematic for Republican candidates in the fall. GOP incumbents in districts Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 might be particularly susceptible to increased Democratic enthusiasm.

New Pennsylvania Map, New Pennsylvania House Ratings
Six races shift in Democrats’ direction, two in GOP’s favor

Under the new lines, Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s district shifted from one carried narrowly by President Donald Trump to one carried narrowly by Hillary Clinton. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If you’ve been wondering what political handicapping is like in a redistricting cycle — or it’s been long enough for you to forget — the Pennsylvania Supreme Court offered a good reminder.

With newly drawn districts, misplaced incumbents and new district numbers, confusion is inevitable. But the bottom line for Pennsylvania is that Democrats had a half-dozen takeover opportunities with the old map and they have a half-dozen takeover opportunities with the new map, although they have a distinctly better chance at gaining those seats.

This Is Why Republicans Can’t Get Women Elected to Higher Office
GOP keeps throwing up roadblocks in front of credible candidates

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., speaks at the 2016 Republican National Convention in 2016. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

I’m starting to wonder why any Republican woman would attempt to run for higher office.

Last year, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri all but announced her challenge to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill before getting the cold shoulder from GOP strategists in Washington and the Show Me State who preferred a candidate who wasn’t even hustling to get in the race.

Some Answers, More Questions for Mysterious Club for Conservatives PAC
Background, finances a tangled web

Club for Conservatives PAC has given to the Senate campaigns of Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta and Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photos)

Inflammatory, hyperpartisan fundraising emails are a standard part of the election process, but who’s behind them can sometimes be a mystery. Take the case of a political action committee set up last fall that raised over $160,000 by sending out roughly a dozen emails.

Since its inception in October, the Club for Conservatives PAC has been a confusing web of details. The group’s year-end report with the Federal Election Commission provided more information about its fundraising and spending, but also raised new questions about its operations.