2018 House Overview: The Expanding Playing Field

With six months to go before Election Day and their national generic ballot lead slipping to 5 points in the Real Clear Politics average, Democrats are still likely to have a good night in the House. It’s less clear whether Democrats will have a great night or an historic one. 

One thing is clear: Democrats are on the offensive in the House. After our latest round of ratings changes, we have 68 Republican seats rated as vulnerable compared to just 10 vulnerable Democratic seats. There are at least a couple dozen more GOP-held seats that could develop into competitive races in the months ahead.

That discrepancy in the playing field doesn’t guarantee an electoral wave, but it has been indicative of recent ones. In April 2010, we rated 68 Democratic seats as vulnerable compared to 11 Republican seats. And in May 2006, we had 42 vulnerable Republican seats and just 11 Democratic seats.

While the field of competitive races has expanded and veered in Democrats’ direction, they don’t have as many races “in the bag” as Republicans did eight years ago.  

We have seven Republican seats in a Democratic category now, compared to the 15 Democratic seats we had Republicans gaining in April 2010, when they later gained 63 seats. In May 2006 we didn’t have any GOP seats rated as Democratic but Democrats went on to gain 31 seats.

Statistically, Democrats’ chances should improve with a growing number of vulnerable GOP seats because they need to win a smaller proportion of them to…

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