Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Race to Control the House

By Emma Petasis
September 6, 2018 | Blog

As midterm elections approach speculation has increased about which party will win the majority in the House of Representatives.  While Republicans currently have a strong majority in the House, many forecasters are predicting strong Democratic turnout could catapult Democrats back into the majority. Here are five facts on the race to control the House:

The Republican party has held the majority in the House of Representatives since 2010

From 2006 to 2008 the Democratic Party gained a combined 56 seats in the House of Representatives, putting them in firm control of the lower chamber. However, in 2010, spurred by strong public opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Republican Party gained an impressive 64 seats in the 2010 midterms, once again putting the GOP in the majority with 242 members. While Republicans suffered minor losses in 2012 and 2016 they currently hold a 237-193 majority in the House.

FiveThirtyEight, a statistical analysis website, gives Democrats a 72.9% chance of winning the majority in the House of Representatives

As of September 6, the FiveThirtyEight model predicted that Democrats would flip 34 House seats, giving the party a majority of 228-207.  Overall, the model gives Democrats an 80% chance of winning 14 to 53 seats, a 10% chance of gaining fewer than 14 seats, and a 10% chance of gaining more than 53 seats.  While it gives Republicans a 27.1% chance of keeping control of the House — meaning it would lose only 29 seats — it gives the party only a 0.1% chance of gaining a single seat.  While these numbers do not bode well for Republicans, FiveThirtyEight also gave Hillary Clinton a 71.4% chance of winning the 2016 presidential election, showing forecasters can be very wrong.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election analysis company, estimates that Republicans will have to defend far more hotly contested seats than Democrats

Cook uses four different qualifiers to rate races: solid, likely, lean, or toss-up.  If a seat is solid Republican or Democratic, it is highly likely that it will be won by that party.  Conversely, if a seat is a toss-up, either party has a good chance of winning. As of September 6, Democrats held 182 seats that were considered solid, compared to 150 for Republicans.  However, what is perhaps most concerning for Republicans in the House is that 28 seats currently held by Republicans have been designated as toss-ups, eight have been categorized as leaning Democratic, and three are considered likely Democratic.  This is in comparison to only two seats currently held by Democrats being categorized as toss-ups and one being designated as likely Republican.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an election handicapping website run by Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia who previously worked as a Democratic strategist, is also predicting Republicans will have to defend far more contested seats than Democrats

Sabato’s Crystal Ball uses the same qualifiers as Cook and currently rates 28 Republican-held seats as toss-ups, 11 as lean Democratic, two as likely Democratic, and one as safe Democratic. In contrast, it rates only 2 seats currently held by Democrats as toss-ups and 1 as safe Republican.

According to Roll Call, the top 10 most vulnerable incumbents in the House are all Republican

On Thursday, Roll Call published an article based on extensive “consultation with strategists from both sides of the aisle” and their own political reporters.  The top three most vulnerable incumbents were Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA), Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA), and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA). Despite representing a district that President Trump won by three points, Blum has been dragged down by an Ethics Committee investigation on his failure to disclose his role as CEO of a company and by a strong challenger in Democratic state Rep. Abby Finkenauer. Rep. Rothfus was hurt by the recent congressional redistricting in Pennsylvania and is facing Conor Lamb, a centrist Democrat who won a highly publicized special election this past spring. Finally, Rep. Comstock represents a district in northern Virginia that supported both Hillary Clinton and Democratic governor Ralph Northam by double digits in 2016 and 2017 respectively.


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