The State of the Race for the House

A voter leaves a polling site in Somerville, Mass., September 4, 2018. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Three weeks before Election Day, most of those open seats in red districts still look safe for Republicans.

Way back in January, I went through the then-34 seats where a Republican incumbent was retiring and concluded that most were in deeply red districts and not likely to flip to Democrats.

Pollsters and media organizations are less inclined to conduct surveys of House races, both because there’s less public interest and because such polling is expensive, given that area codes don’t always align neatly with congressional district lines. Moreover, many of the House-race polls that have been released to the public are sponsored by a partisan firm, and a slew of house districts with open seats haven’t been polled at all, so you should feel free to take the following with as many grains of salt as you like.

All that said, in the districts where we’ve seen a poll since summer, things generally look pretty good for the GOP. Here’s where things stand as of now.

Arizona second district: The just-completed Siena/New York Times poll of this race found Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick ahead of Republican Lea Marquez Peterson by eleven points.

Arizona eighth: Republican Debbie Lesko won a special election in April, and so this is not technically an open-seat race anymore. A late-September poll put Lesko ahead of Hiral Tipirneni by four points.

California 39th: A Berkeley IGS survey released October 4 put Democrat Gil Cisneros ahead of Republican Young Kim by a point. A Monmouth University survey from September 18 put Kim ahead of Cisneros by ten points.

California 49th: Two polls conducted in September put Democrat Mike Levin ahead of Republican Diane Harkey; one by 14 points, the other by ten points.

Florida 27th: Mason-Dixon puts Republican Maria Salazar ahead of Democrat Donna Shalala by two points. The New York Times/Siena poll currently has Shalala ahead by eight points, but it is not complete.

Idaho first: A poll done way back in July by Dan Jones and Associates put Republican Russ Fulcher eight points ahead of Democrat Cristina McNeil.

Kansas second: A September Emerson College poll put Democrat Paul Davis ahead of Republican Steve Watkins by four points, while a September New York Times/Siena poll put Davis ahead by one.

Michigan eleventh: The New York Times/Siena poll puts Democrat Haley Stevens ahead of Republican Lena Epstein by seven points. Three polls by ALG Research put Stevens ahead by five to ten points.

Mississippi third: A July poll by Triumph campaigns put Republican Michael Guest ahead of Democrat Michael Ted Evans by 29 points.

New Jersey eleventh: This seat opened up when Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen announced his retirement at the end of January. The NYT/Siena poll released this week had Democrat Mikie Sherrill ahead by nine over Republican Jay Webber.

New Mexico second: An early-October poll by the Tarrance Group put Republican Yvette Herrell four points ahead of Democrat Xochitl Torres-Small. The mid-September New York Times/Siena poll put Small ahead by three, while a Research & Polling Inc. survey one week earlier had Herrell ahead by seven.

Oklahoma first: A SoonerPoll.com survey conducted from mid to late September found Republican Kevin Hern 22 points ahead of Democrat Tim Gilpin.

Ohio twelfth: This is another seat that is not technically open, because Republican Troy Balderson won a narrow victory over Democrat Danny O’Connor in a special election in August. Balderson faces O’Connor in November, and a GBA Strategies poll from mid September found him ahead by one point.

South Dakota at-large: An August Public Opinion Strategies survey put Republican Dusty Johnson ahead of Democrat Tim Bjorkman by 21 points. A July Public Policy Polling survey put Johnson ahead by ten.

Texas sixth: A late-July survey by Public Policy Polling found Republican Ron Wright ahead of Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez by nine points.

Texas 21st: An early-July poll by Change Research put Republican Chip Roy ahead of Democrat Joseph Kopser by six points.

Washington eighth: An early-October Elway poll had Republican Dino Rossi ahead of Kim Schrier by ten points. The NYT/Siena survey from late September had Schrier up by eight-tenths of a point.

West Virginia third: Two polls conducted this month put Republican Carol Miller ahead of Democrat Richard Ojeda, one by 4.4 points and one by 2.3 points. An Emerson poll from mid September had Ojeda ahead by five.

Wisconsin first: The NYT/Siena poll from mid September found Republican Bryan Stiel ahead of Democrat Randy Bryce by six points in the race to succeed retiring House speaker Paul Ryan.

To summarize, then, the GOP is looking better than expected in California’s 39th, Florida’s 27th, and Washington’s eighth, as bad as expected in California’s 49th and Michigan’s eleventh, and worse than expected in Arizona’s second, Kansas’s second, and New Jersey’s eleventh.

Does this mean the GOP is out of the woods when it comes to control of the House? Not at all. Polling looks rough for GOP incumbents such as Mike Coffman in Colorado, Kevin Yoder in Kentucky, David Young in Iowa, Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, and Barbara Comstock in Virginia. What’s more, Democratic House candidates have vastly outpaced their Republican counterparts in fundraising down the stretch of the cycle, which is an ominous sign.

But if Democrats do take back the House in a few weeks, it will likely be because they knocked off enough vulnerable Republican incumbents in swing districts, not because they won a bunch of open-seat races in red districts.

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