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A Blue Wave on November 6? 5 House Races to Watch on Election Night

FOR THE LAST few months, political pundits have been predicting that Republicans in the House of Representatives will lose their majority. While it is true that the party in control of the White House traditionally loses seats in the House, this election will be anything but traditional.

The last time the majority in the House of Representatives changed hands was following the 2010 midterm elections, which happened to be the first midterm election following President Obama’s ascension to the White House. Most political observers agree that this result came about because of voter displeasure with the president’s legislative agenda and the state of the economy.

In 2018, there are certainly those who are displeased with the President Trump’s legislative agenda, but much of what he has done is exactly what he said he would do. As for the economy, most indicators suggest it is surging.

So, how does a blue wave come crashing down on the Republican majority in the House?

By the Numbers

The way congressional districts are configured the incumbent is almost always assured of re-election.

Most political handicappers believe that Democrats are guaranteed to keep 181 solid seats and will likely hold on to 21 more. Therefore, the minority party should have 202 seats securely
in its column even before any votes are counted. As for Republicans, they seem certain to maintain at least 153 solid seats, and keep 51 more seats. As such, they should enter November 6 with 204 seats on their side of the ledger. That leaves 29 true toss-ups races.

Those 29 races will determine which party reaches 218 seats and the majority. The problem for Republicans is that 27 of those toss-up seats are in their hands and Democrats are far more enthusiastic about heading to the polls than rank and file Republicans. That means 2018 might look a lot like 2010, and five races will likely tell the tale.

Five Races to Watch on Election Night

1) Kentucky 6—Rep. Andy Barr (R) vs. Amy McGrath (D)
In 2016, Donald Trump won this district by 15 points, and Rep. Barr won his third term by 22 points. This should be the least likely race to change hands out of the 29 tossups on the map. That being said, current polling indicates Rep. Barr is having trouble pulling away from his opponent.

The district contains Lexington and Frankfort, so it has a large makeup of city and suburb constituents—many of whom have become unsettled with some of the activities in Washington. That fact has put traditionally Republican districts in this toss-up category—like this one. In addition to that factor, there is Rep. Barr’s opponent herself. Amy McGrath is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot who flew 89 combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following her combat experience, she served on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon in various capacities for the Marine Corps. Before her retirement, she returned to the Naval Academy as an instructor.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky usually provides its election results very quickly. As such, this race will give us a very good indication of just what color wave might be coming soon after the polls close.

2) Colorado 6—Rep. Mike Coffman (R) vs. Jason Crow (D)
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won this district by 9 percentage points, but Rep. Mike Coffman won his race by 9 points, too. Coffman’s opponent, Jason Crow, is a former Army Airborne and Ranger officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, he was a featured speaker at the 2012 Democratic National Convention as well as an adviser to president Obama’s 2012 campaign.

Rep. Coffman has been a longtime public servant in the district and has had tough races in the past. In 2016, he beat the former Colorado State Senate Minority Leader. However, he will not be able to look for help from the president or vice president in his district because such a visit could do more harm than good.

If the Democrats are to have any chance of taking back the House, they must win this race.

3) Illinois 6—Rep. Peter Roskam (R) vs. Sean Casten (D)
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won this western Chicago district by 7 points. Seeing an opportunity, Sean Casten, a molecular biologist, biochemical engineer and founder of several clean-energy producing businesses, threw his hat in the ring. Though he has no political experience, he has raised significant funds and has made this one of the toughest races in the 2018 cycle.

Rep. Roskam won re-election in 2016 by 19 points. The district’s voters are comfortable with him—even though many supported the Democratic nominee for president. Rep. Roskam is a friend of NCA and we have supported him this year and in years past. However, there is no doubt he is in for a fight—Vice President Pence has already made a trip to the district to help bolster his chances.

It is widely expected that this race will be one of the most competitive in the country and will ultimately determine which party reaches the magic 218 number.

4) New Jersey 7—Rep. Leonard Lance (R) vs. Tom Malinowski (D)

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the district by 1 point. Also, this district has high property taxes and many here will be hurt by the new federal tax law that limits their ability to deduct property tax liability from their federal taxes.

This district also includes the “Summer White House” in Bedminster, N.J., and many are not happy with the traffic issues caused by the president’s frequent visits, let alone his policies. All of this means the environment was ripe to bring this Republican district into the toss-up column.

Tom Malinowski fled communist Poland as a child and went on to serve as a National Security Council advisor to President Clinton and as an Assistant Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. He has the money and the ability to bring the local tax issue and general feelings against the president to bear on this race.

In 2016, Rep. Lance won re-election by 11 points, which should give him some comfort going into 2018. He has represented the area for 10 years and is very well liked. With many NCA-member clubs in his district, Rep. Lance has been a friend of the private club industry and we will work to support him. However, he will have his toughest battle yet.

If the blue wave does come, look for this seat to be one of the first to fall.

5) Texas 32—Rep. Pete Sessions (R) vs. Colin Allred (D)
Like Rep. Barr’s district, this Dallas area district should be the last place Democrats hope to flip a seat, but in 2016 Hillary Clinton won here by two points. As a result, Colin Allred, a former NFL player and Special Assistant at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration, jumped into the race.

Rep. Sessions is an 11-term incumbent who did not have a Democratic opponent in 2016. He won his 2016 race by a margin of 52 points over lesser party candidates. While that would seem to indicate this is a safe Republican seat, recent polling suggest that Rep. Sessions cannot get much separation from his opponent and Pence has now added a trip to the district to help.

Though there are other seats that have a better chance of flipping, if this seat changes hands then it will likely mean the blue wave has arrived.

What Could Happen in November

The five races outlined above (and the 22 other Republican-held toss-up districts) really shouldn’t be toss-ups at all—incumbents have a natural advantage and they win a staggering percentage of re-election campaigns. Of course, with Republican voter enthusiasm down and Democratic energy up, the solid red nature of these districts is now in jeopardy.

If excitement and interest in this midterm election do not improve for the majority party, low turnout will cause some of these seats to flip. Should that happen, a blue wave could leave many House Republicans looking for higher ground on November 6.