With primary election season underway, it’s a good time to examine the most interesting and important House races in 2018. These 50 races—16 open and 34 incumbent-defended seats—are the key to Democrats gaining control of the House in 2019. Democrats will need to net 64 percent of these seats (32 of 50) at a minimum in order to reach 218.
Because Democrats appear to have a greater likelihood of retaking the House (sorry U.S. Senate!), much of the political world’s focus and interest is on these elections. From now until November, get ready for experts to fixate on the quirks of each individual district demographics (blue collar Trump voters, suburban upscale Clinton voters) and the multitude of strong candidates vying for office.
The special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district was emblematic of the attention House elections are receiving. Weeks of media coverage, millions in ad buys, and endless pontificating on “what it all means” gave us a week’s delay before the loser grudgingly conceded, even though less than 700 votes separated the two for a district that won’t exist in 9 months! (As trends go, the Democrat winning a seat President Trump won in 2016 by 20 percent is seen as a bad data point for Republicans).
These districts are a diverse geographic and demographic representation of the country—and the best chances Democrats have to capture the majority. While the analyst consensus is that Democrats are probably favored to win control, the length of time before the election and wide array of outside events leave considerable uncertainty.
Races are fluid, subject to both micro and macro changes. So this represents a snapshot in time, not a final determination.
The races are summarized in this week’s Power Spreadsheet on two tabs (incumbents and open seats), sorted by a rating score aggregating the forecasts from the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. In addition I have included the statistical probabilities of Democrats taking each seat, courtesy of The Crosstab.
With the advent of data-driven statistical analysis taking hold in political campaigns, I prefer to use a holistic approach that incorporates both forecast types. In layman’s terms, this approach will give you a better understanding of where a a race is headed.
As November approaches, stay tuned for other metrics and ideas, but it’s important to keep in mind that winners and losers are rarely decided by Just One Thing. Instead, it is a combination of many factors that decide who wins a seat, and whether the margin of victory is 100 or 100,000 votes. For now, these races and metrics are a solid jumping off point for any interested observer of the 2018 House elections.
Get ready. It’s primary season.