Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

U.S. House Outlook

In House on September 20, 2013 at 10:52 am

With virtually all of the early election cycle attention being paid to the Senate races, it’s time to divert and take a preliminary look at the upcoming House projections. As we know, the Republicans have a 233-200 advantage with two vacant seats. Later this year, both the MA-5 seat of Sen. Ed Markey (D) and resigned Rep. Jo Bonner’s (R-AL-1) seat will be filled in special elections. Each party is expected to hold the seat they previously maintained.

Assuming the parties do hold, the Democrats will need to convert 17 Republican districts to claim a one seat majority. Based upon the early numbers, the paucity of open seats, quantity and quality of challengers, 2011 redistricting plans that generally created safe seats for both parties, and what should be a more favorable (to the GOP) mid-term turnout model, the Republicans should be able to hold the House majority if not modestly expand their numbers.

In the 2012 cycle, due to redistricting and an abnormally large number of House members retiring or running for different offices, 62 seats were open. Therefore, the fact that only 17 seats are incumbent-less at this point in time, including both of the vacant seats and Rep. Rodney Alexander’s LA-5 district that he will leave before the end of the month to accept an appointment in Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) administration, means even fewer contested campaigns.

Of the 17 opens, 10 are Republican-held with the remaining seven under Democratic Party control. No open seat is in the toss-up category and only a pair could be conceivably considered a lean (R or D) CD depending upon the final candidate field developing in each situation. The two opens that could be headed in the lean direction are AR-4 (Rep. Tom Cotton – Lean R) and WV-2 (Rep. Shelley Moore Capito – Lean R).

Only seven seats are today considered toss-ups, and five of those are Democratic districts. Obviously, if the Dems are to make a serious run at the Republican majority, the number of GOP seats in this segment must drastically increase.

The seven toss-up contests are:

• AZ-2 – Rep. Ron Barber (D) – 2012 re-election %: 50
Barber again will likely face 2012 nominee Martha McSally (R), who came closer to the previous special election winner than everyone but her internal pollster, OnMessage, Inc., had predicted.

• CA-31 – Rep. Gary Miller (R) – 2012 re-election %: 55 (against another Republican)
Rep. Miller, in the most pro-Obama district in the country represented by a Republican, will have a more difficult race against a Democrat than he did facing Republican Bob Dutton under California’s new law that allows members of the same party to advance to the general election.

• CA-52 – Rep. Scott Peters (D) – 2012 re-election %: 51
Rep. Peters will likely face former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio (R), who came close to winning the 2012 Mayor’s race. Early polling already has DeMaio leading the freshman incumbent.

• CO-6 – Rep. Mike Coffman (R) – 2012 re-election %: 48
Rep. Coffman drew the toughest draw in redistricting of any incumbent Colorado Republican. He won re-election with less than a majority in 2012 and will likely face a much more difficult opponent this time, in the person of former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D).

• FL-26 – Rep. Joe Garcia (D) – 2012 re-election %: 54
Florida Rep. Garcia won an easy election on his third try for Congress when scandal-tainted incumbent David Rivera (R) imploded. Garcia will have a more difficult opponent this time in what should be a Republican district.

• NC-7 – Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) – 2012 re-election %: 50
Rep. McIntyre also received a difficult draw in redistricting and will likely face 2012 Republican nominee David Rouzer under a lower mid-term turnout model. McIntyre won the closest election in the country last November (a 654 vote victory), and is clearly endangered in 2014.

• UT-4 – Rep. Jim Matheson (D) – 2012 re-election %: 49
Matheson also likely faces his 2012 opponent again, local Mayor Mia Love (R). This is one situation where the lower turnout may not help a Republican challenger, as the 2012 model with semi-favorite son Mitt Romney leading the GOP national ticket should have been extremely favorable for Love. Rep. Matheson continues to prove he can win strong Republican districts, so Love again faces a formidable task in unseating this incumbent.

Looking at the entire House, majority Republicans currently have 154 Safe seats, 59 in the Likely Republican category, and 19 are considered lean Republican for a projected total of 232. Democrats record 162 safe districts, with just 17 likely Democratic and 17 lean Democratic CDs for a grand projected total of 196.

These numbers will probably change significantly once the campaigns begin in earnest.

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