The Eight States that Will Determine Which Party Controls the House of Representatives

Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi.
Alex Wong, Leon Neal/Getty Images

The majority of the 99 seats in the House of Representatives identified by the Cook Political Report as “competitive” in 2018 are in eight states: California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Michigan.

Of the 435 seats in the lower chamber of Congress, 336 are not competitive–180 held by Democrats, 156 held by Republicans, according to the Cook Political Report’s ratings.

Only 15 of the 99 competitive seats are currently held by Democrats, while 84 are held by Republicans.

The simple math–24 more non competitive seats are held by Democrats than are held by Republicans–and the Republicans have 69 more seats at risk in competitive districts than Democrats–suggests that the Democrats are well positioned to secure the net gain of 23 seats they need to secure a narrow 218 to 217 majority in the November 2018 mid-term elections.

Fifty-one of the 99 competitive races are in those eight states–California (10), Pennsylvania (9), Florida (7), Ohio (5), Minnesota (5), New Jersey (5), New York (5), and Michigan (5).

Only eight of those 51 seats are currently held by Democrats, while 43 are held by Republicans.

Minnesota is the only state in the country where more Democrat held seats are competitive (3) than Republican held seats (2).

Five of these eight states–Pennsylvania, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio, and Michigan–were battleground states in 2016 (though Democrats and the mainstream media did not realize Minnesota was a battleground state until election day, when Hillary Clinton squeaked to a narrow victory there).

Two of the states–California and New York–are extreme blue states with pockets of intrastate red resistance.

One state–New Jersey–has been a consistently blue state for decades, but–at least for the 2018 midterm elections–can be considered a battleground state because one of the state’s two Senate seats is in play this year. The incumbent, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has been severely wounded politically by the two-and-a-half years he was under indictment on public corruption charges. Though Menendez skated on those charges after a November mistrial and a January decision by the Department of Justice to drop all charges, his GOP opponent in the November general election, Bob Hugin, is following a campaign strategy to try him in the court of public opinion.

Judging by Menendez’s tepid primary performance on Tuesday against an unknown and unfunded challenger, Hugin’s strategy appears to have a chance of working.

The outcome of each of these competitive House races will be influenced by three types of issues: some that are local and specific to that district, some that are statewide and specific to that state, and some that are national in nature. In addition, the quality of the campaign run by each candidate matters. Are they energetic, photogenic, and proactively communicating their message effectively to voters to define themselves, or are they passive, reactive, and allowing their opponent to define them?

In a “wave” election, such as the “Tea Party” election of 2010 that swept Republicans into the majority in the House of Representatives with a net gain of 63 seats, national issues predominate.

The Democrats and much of the mainstream media have been hoping for a “Blue Wave” election in 2018, where anti-Trump sentiment predominates, but recent events may suggest these national issues may be more of a “drizzle” than a wave, and former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has gone so far as to suggest that the 2018 midterms could be a “Red Wave” election, thanks largely to the mounting successes of the Trump administration.

The generic Congressional ballot, which looked so promising for Democrats in December, when they had a 16 point advantage, tells another story now, six months later, on the eve of President Trump’s unprecedented summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore next week.

The Real Clear Politics Average of Polls currently shows the Democrats with a 7.6 point generic ballot advantage, barely above the five point generic ballot advantage most political analysts say Democrats need to break even, due to Republican success in state legislatures gerrymandering Congressional Districts after the 2010 census.

A recent court decision in one state–Pennsylvania–threw out those old gerrymandered district boundaries and forced new, more Democrat- friendly boundaries onto the state’s 19 seats in the House of Representatives, which in turn helped put eight seats currently held by Republicans–and only one seat currently held by a Democrat–into the “competitive race” category.

“An analysis today of the Governor’s Congressional redistricting map provided to the PA Supreme Court shows that [Democrat] Governor Wolf designed a blatantly partisan map that fails to meet the criteria established by the Court, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-28),” Pennsylvania’s Republican state legislative leaders said of the new map when it was released in February.

“A review of the Governor’s submission highlights that it is a partisan endeavor, clearly drawn solely to favor Democrats. To achieve this goal, Governor Wolf submitted a map that unnecessarily splits communities and violates federal law, opening the Commonwealth up to claims of intentional racial gerrymandering,” they added.

Despite Republican objections, the Congressional district boundaries drawn by the state’s Democratic governor on the basis of an order from the Democrat-dominated State Supreme Court were in place in the May primary election and will also be in place in the November general election.

Democrats had hoped that the “jungle primary” held on Tuesday in California and its 53 Congressional districts might keep Republicans off the ballot in the 14 seats they currently hold, but that hope did not pan out, as Republicans placed in the top two finishers who qualify for the November ballot in all of those districts.

This is the first in a series of articles on the 2018 mid term elections in the 99 competitive races in the House of Representatives.


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