Around this time last month, I wrote a piece for Fox News headlined “Why I am still betting on Republicans to hold the Senate (but check with me in a month).”
Since then, readers have been checking in via email and social media to see what I think will happen with House races in the Nov. 6 midterm elections. Let me remind everyone to take what I say with a lot of salt – after all, I predicted a Hillary Clinton win in 2016!
So while leading pollsters, such as FiveThirtyEight.com, forecast a 6 in 7 chance of Democrats winning enough seats to control the House, you can also turn those numbers around. It is also true that FiveThirtyEight.com is predicting a 14.2 percent chance that Republicans hold the House majority.
That means the GOP has better odds of winning than gamblers holding lottery tickets. That gives Republicans reason to hope that the “Blue Wave of 2018” will go down in history along with Clinton’s fabled Electoral College “Blue Wall” of 2016.
OK, now – with a big helping of humility – here are my predictions based on the best available polling, fundraising data and 40 years of experience covering political campaigns.
Like the baseball umpire said, “I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.”
At the moment, the Democrats look to have the wind at their backs as they try to gain the House majority.
The Republicans, similarly, have the lead as we enter the homestretch of the campaign in their fight to hold onto their majority in the Senate. But having written about the Senate races last month, let’s stick with the House races this time.
The Democrats need at least 24 seats to flip the House majority. Let’s go to the map to see how they can get there.
For starters, there are seven districts in deep blue California that are currently represented by Republicans but that went for Clinton in 2016.
California law requires congressional districts to be drawn by a nonpartisan citizens’ redistricting commission. This has all but eliminated any gerrymandering edge California Republicans could have counted on in previous elections.
By my count, the Democrats have every reason to be confident of winning seven House seats in California. Add to that 16 more GOP-held districts outside of the Golden State where Clinton beat Trump.
Let’s be extremely generous and say that GOP manages to hold onto four of those 16, leaving the Dems with a pickup of 19 seats.
The GOP is also defending nine House districts where Trump won by less than eight points.
And Republicans are also defending the seats of two members – Chris Collins in New York and Duncan Hunter Jr. in California – where the incumbent is under indictment on federal corruption charges.
In addition, The Hill newspaper reported last week that “ more than 70 Democratic House hopefuls outraised Republican incumbents in the third quarter of 2018 … giving them a sharp financial edge in the final stretch of the midterms.”
Then there are the wildcard House races – and there are more of those than in past midterms.
The reason is that Democrats have fielded some impressive candidates who are surprisingly competitive in red Trump congressional districts. These Democrats include:
- Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot. She could well knock off incumbent GOP Rep. Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District.
- St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, also a Navy veteran. He is well-positioned to win his bid to replace incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Bost in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District.
- Richard Ojeda, an outspoken retired U.S. Army officer. He is polling within the margin of error against the Republican in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District.
Republicans have only one path to preserving their majority in the House: they need to run the table. Meanwhile, Democrats have multiple plausible paths to net the 24 seats they need.
And never forget, a Democratic majority in the House means that key House committees – Intelligence, Government Operations, and Judiciary – will have subpoena power that will enable them to keep an eye on the Trump White House.
President Trump told The Associated Press recently that he thinks it would be unfair to blame him if the GOP loses the House majority. Even as many of the races become referendums on the Trump presidency – and disapproval of his presidency remains higher than his approval numbers – the president described himself as “helping people.”
But it is hard to see how continually insulting women by demeaning their looks – the president recently stirred that pot by referring to Stormy Daniels as “Horseface” – is going to help Republican candidates with women voters.
President Trump’s most loyal supporters may try to ignore such nasty remarks or even find them funny – definitely not politically correct – but polls already show college-educated white women voting against Republicans in November.
As for the Senate, I am still betting that Republicans hold that chamber and that Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will continue to be the Senate Majority Leader in the 116th Congress.
The Senate races in Texas, Tennessee and North Dakota all seem to be breaking for the Republicans.
In North Dakota, for instance, the latest Fox News poll showed Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer beating incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp by 12 points. Heitkamp’s vote against confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court seems to have sealed her fate in a state Trump won by more than 36 points.
The most recent polls also show Republicans Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada and Rep. Martha McSally in Arizona in close Senate races in states with a history of voting for conservatives. An Emerson College poll shows Heller with a 7-point-lead. The latest RealClearPolitics average shows McSally ahead but well within the margin of error.
So Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief – the Senate looks safe even as the House looks to be a good bet for Democrats.
But midterm elections are still more than two weeks away – an eternity politics, especially in the Trump era.