5 States That Will Decide the House Majority

by Nathan L. Gonzales September 13, 2018 · 11:30 AM EDT

With a growing number of vulnerable House districts, there might be too much to watch for on election night. But by focusing on just a handful of states, you can get a pretty good idea of whether Democrats are having a good enough night to gain the 23 seats necessary to win back the majority.


Competitive races: 5

Target Democratic gain for a majority: 1

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is home to five competitive House races, which is remarkable considering there are only eight congressional districts total in Minnesota.

Netting one seat might not sound like a steep climb for Democrats (who are technically part of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party), but it would be a significant feat considering they are defending three districts that President Donald Trump carried in 2016.

DFL Rep. Collin C. Peterson is likely to win re-election in the 7th District (rated Likely Democratic), but holding the open 1st and 8th districts (left behind by gubernatorial nominee Rep. Tim Walz and retiring Rep. Rick Nolan, respectively) will be more difficult. Both are rated Toss-ups at this stage, but Democrats might be fortunate to lose just one.

On their offensive map, Democrats are probably struggling to reach a majority if they can’t defeat Republican Rep. Jason Lewis in the 2nd District (Toss-up). But if they can knock off Lewis and GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen in the 3rd District (Tilts Republican), they’ll probably be able to gain a seat out of the state.

Minnesota bottom line: Democrats probably need to gain at least a seat, while breaking even would be a disappointment.



Competitive races: 9

Target Democratic gain for a majority: 5

Unlike Minnesota, it’s virtually all upside for Democrats in the Golden State. There are at least nine legitimately vulnerable GOP districts, while the Republican takeover opportunities have either faded or have yet to develop.

The most likely to flip right now is the 49th District (Tilts Democratic), which opened after GOP Rep. Darrell Issa decided against seeking re-election. Democrats are also optimistic about winning Rep. Ed Royce’s open seat in the 39th District (Toss-up), although Republicans, who are confident about their nominee, have a very different view of the race. Democrats also believe they’re likely to defeat GOP Dana Rohrabacher in the 48th (Toss-up). Losing any of those seats — especially the open seats in districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 — would be a punch in the gut for Democrats.

But the party also has good takeover opportunities against Reps. Jeff Denham(10th District), Steve Knight (25th District), and Mimi Walters (45th District). The three races are currently rated Tilts Republican, but winning at least one of them is reasonable for Democrats under reasonably good electoral conditions.

Reps. Tom McClintock (4th District), David Valadao (21st District), and Duncan Hunter (50th District) are all vulnerable, albeit for different reasons. Their races are rated Likely Republican. Valadao has been a particularly elusive target for Democrats, and defeating him would be as symbolic of the cycle as it would be important for the majority.

California bottom line: Democrats need to gain five seats here, but could theoretically get close to half of the overall gains they need for a majority if they sweep the California races.


New York

Competitive races: 5

Target Democratic gain for a majority: 2

When it comes to New York, Democrats need a takeover state of mind, but none of the vulnerable Republican seats are easy or guaranteed. If Democrats fail to oust Reps. Claudia Tenney (22nd District) and John J. Faso (19th District), it’s going to be a long night for the party. Both seats are currently Toss-ups, but both incumbents are polling in the low- to mid-40s in most surveys.

GOP Rep. John Katko consistently turns potentially competitive races into laughers, but Democrats haven’t given up hope in the 24th District this year. Even though former Rep. Michael G. Grimm didn’t win the Republican primary in the 11th District, Democrats still have a credible challenger to Rep. Dan Donovan. And Rep. Chris Collins’ indictment for insider trading opens the door for Democrats in the open 27th District. All are rated as Likely Republican, and wins here would be indicators of a good night for Democrats.

New York bottom line: Democrats have a handful of opportunities and probably need to gain at least two for a majority. If they win more, and races such as the 1st District against Rep. Lee Zeldin truly come into play, Democrats are having a great night.



Competitive races: 9

Target Democratic gain for a majority: 4

Democrats had a handful of targets in the Keystone State before the new congressional map was put in place. Now, with a combination of new district lines and open seats, Democrats have at least seven takeover opportunities.

The 5th and 6th districts (Likely Democratic), left open by GOP Reps. Patrick Meehan and Ryan A. Costello, are ripe for the picking for Democrats. Former GOP Rep. Charlie Dent left behind a seat (now the new 7th District), which is vulnerable (Tilts Democratic), probably more so now that the GOP candidate had to spend time fending off a misconduct allegation. And new Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb has an excellent chance of knocking off GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus in the 17th District (Leans Democratic).

Democrats are also excited about their chances in the 1st District (Tilts Republican) against GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick and have longer-shot chances against Scott Perry (10th District) and Mike Kelly (16th District), with both races rated Likely Republican.

Democrats are likely to lose the 14th District, which constitutes a majority of the territory where Lamb won his special election. But Lamb lives — and is running — in the newly drawn 17th. So Democrats will have to subtract at least one from any gains elsewhere. Republicans also have a credible challenger against Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright in the 8th District (Leans Democratic), but it’s still too early to know if the congressman is in real trouble.

Pennsylvania bottom line: Democrats have a plethora of opportunities but will take at least one hit to their gains. They probably need to net at least four seats here.



Competitive races: 3

Target Democratic gain for a majority: 2

There aren’t a ton of competitive races in Illinois, but they could be symptomatic of races around the country.

GOP Rep. Peter Roskam hasn’t had a competitive race in years, but he’s vulnerable in his 6th District (Toss-up), in part because of Trump’s unpopularity in the Chicago suburbs. Downstate, Trump carried the 12th District (Tilts Republican) handily by 15 points, but GOP Rep. Mike Bost is vulnerable, in part because Democrats recruited a strong challenger.

GOP Rep. Rodney Davis is also vulnerable in the 13th District (Leans Republican) and could suffer from increased college student turnout against the president. But the congressman isn’t in as bad of a shape right now as Roskam and Bost. If Rep. Randy Hultgren ends up in a neck-and-neck race in the 14th District, Democrats are having a solid night. His race is rated Solid Republican for now. Trump carried the 14th District — drawn to elect a Republican after the last census — by nearly 4 points, but the congressman hasn’t had a real race in years.

Illinois bottom line: Democrats need to gain two seats here for numerical and symbolic reasons. The party needs the numbers to get back to the majority, but winning in the suburbs is key (6th District), and seeing their top recruits succeed (12th District) would be good for morale as well.