The Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election in 2018. He is the 38th*, and most prominent member of the GOP to retire rather than face the voters in an election that may lead to a Democratic House majority in 2019. The New York Times suggests that "it could also trigger another wave of retirements among Republicans... taking their cue from Mr. Ryan."
While not likely a major factor in his decision, Ryan was facing a more challenging race to hold his district than the one he won by 35% in 2016. With his departure, Sabato's Crystal Ball moves the race from 'Likely Republican' to 'Toss-up'. The GOP has until June 1st to find a suitable replacement for Ryan on the ballot -- the only other Republican on the ballot at present is white nationalist Paul Nehlen.
Overall, Sabato currently has 193 seats as safe or likely Republican, vs. 191 for Democrats. Of the 51 remaining seats - those with the most competitive races - all but five are held by the GOP. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win control of the House.
Click the map to use these ratings as a starting point to create and share your own 2018 forecast.
* It was 37 when we started writing the article: Dennis Ross, a four-term Republican from Florida's 15th district, subsequently announced his retirement. Ross won re-election by 15% in 2016; Donald Trump won here by 10%. The race has moved from safe to likely Republican.
You can now save & share your 2018 House forecast. Use the interactive map to create your forecast, then click 'Share Map' to share it across social media. Alternately, use the Embed button to insert your map onto a web page or blog. For example, here's a map with the 50 races seen as most competitive*. Click it for an interactive version:
For those that want to make their own forecast from scratch, we have a map that starts with all 435 districts undecided.
The House map was relaunched earlier this year with a number of new features, including pan and zoom capability. The Senate and Governor maps have also been updated. We're getting close to our goal where all the various interactive maps will have roughly the same capabilities. There are 211 days until the 2018 midterm elections.
* These 50 seats are seen as toss-up or leans Democrat/Republican by Sabato's Crystal Ball as of April 9th
Rep. Blake Farenthold resigned from Congress Friday. He had previously announced he would not seek re-election in 2018 after allegations of sexual harassment and a taxpayer-funded settlement became public late last year. Farenthold remained under investigation by the House Ethics Committee at the time of his resignation.
The 4th-term Republican represents a safe Republican district in the Southeastern part of the state, including Corpus Christi.
There are now 237 Republicans and 192 Democrats in Congress, with six vacancies. One of those vacancies will be filled next week when Democrat Conor Lamb, who won a special election in PA-18 last month, is seated. Next up is a special election in AZ-8 on April 24th. With Farenthold's departure, there are 53 current members of the House not running for re-election this year.
In the race for control of the House, there is clearly a lot of energy on the left in 2018. Historical trends, number of Republican retirements and challengers in almost every seat held by the GOP all point to Democratic gains in Congress after this year's midterm elections.
Despite all these tailwinds, a Democratic takeover of the house is by no means assured. To that end, the party will certainly want to avoid any 'unforced errors' in their efforts to reach that goal. And that brings us to California.
In California, this heightened level of interest may actually work to send more Republicans to Congress. As the Wall Street Journal reports, "California’s quirky primary system sends only the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, to a general-election runoff. In a year when Democrats are lining up in droves to challenge Republicans in the midterm elections, there is mounting concern among California Democrats that too many candidates are running in key races, potentially ruining their electoral opportunity."
The Journal identified eight districts where this might happen. Of those eight, four look to be pretty safely Republican, even if a Democrat makes the top two. However, the other four are highly competitive, with three rated toss-up and one actually leaning Democratic, according to Sabato's Crystal Ball. All four of these Republican-held districts were won by Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump on the presidential side. Two of the four Republican incumbents are retiring.
It is quite possible that by the time the state's primary takes place on June 5th, Democrats will coalesce behind their strongest candidate in some or all of these districts, but that remains to be seen. Of the state's 53 districts, 39 are currently held by Democrats.
3rd term Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut will retire at the end of the year, she announced Monday. Reports surfaced last week that Esty failed to remove her Chief of Staff for several months after learning that he had threatened to kill a colleague. Making matters worse, Esty wrote a letter of recommendation for the fired staffer which he used to get a job at Sandy Hook Promise, a group created after the Newtown school shooting in 2012.
Esty's 5th district is located in the Western part of the state. Esty won reelection by 16% in 2018, while Hillary Clinton bested Donald Trump here by just 4%. Sabato's Crystal Ball moved the district from safe to likely Democrat after the scandal broke, and is maintaining that rating until there's more clarity in who's running. It is worth noting that no Republican has won a congressional race in the state since Christopher Shays was elected to an 11th term in November, 2006.
There are now 54 current House members not seeking reelection in the 2018 midterms. Esty is the 17th Democrat.
Earlier this week, The Census Bureau announced that the 2020 census will include a question about citizenship. The decision led a number of states to sue the Trump administration. The New York Times summarized the controversy this way:
"The Constitution requires that every resident of the United States be counted in a decennial census, whether or not they are citizens. The results are used not just to redraw political boundaries from school boards to House seats, but to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grants and subsidies to where they are needed most. Census data provide the baseline for planning decisions made by corporations and governments alike.
Opponents of the added citizenship question said it was certain to depress response to the census from noncitizens and even legal immigrants. Critics accused the administration of adding the question to reduce the population count in the predominantly Democratic areas where more immigrants reside, in advance of state and national redistricting in 2021."
We got to wondering how today's electoral map might be different if non-citizens were undercounted. As it turns out, we looked at this last year after Iowa Rep. Steve King introduced a resolution for a constitutional amendment that would effectively base the electoral map only on the citizen population. Of course, excluding all non-citizens is a much larger change than not counting some of them, but it gives us some idea of where there could be an impact and the potential magnitude.
Here's how the electoral map would look, based on 2013 Census estimates, and using 2016 election results, if only citizens were counted. Click the image for an interactive version.
As we found at the time, "11 states would be impacted. The big loser would be California, which would see 4 of its 55 electoral votes trimmed away. No other state was impacted by more than one electoral vote. FL, NY and TX would lose one each, while seven states (LA, MO, MT, NC, OH, OK, VA) would gain one." In terms of the 2016 election, Donald Trump would have won an additional four electoral votes, giving him a 310-228 victory, vs. the actual 306-232 result.*
* Results comparison ignores faithless electors. Here's a 2016 actual map that includes those votes.
Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello announced his retirement from Congress at the end of the year. The 2nd term Republican's path to reelection became more challenging with the state's recent court-ordered redistricting. The prior 6th district went for Hillary Clinton by about 0.6% in 2016, while the redrawn boundaries voted for her by 9%.
Costello's timing is not helpful to his party's chances to hold the seat. With the state's filing deadline having passed March 20th, the only other Republican on the May 15th primary ballot is a relative unknown. However, if Costello remains on the primary ballot and wins, the state party could select a replacement for him. Neither scenario is ideal. Sabato's Crystal Ball has changed the district rating from toss-up to likely Democratic.
There are now 53 current members of the U.S. House not seeking re-election in 2018.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to appoint Cindy Hyde-Smith to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran, the Clarion-Ledger reports. Cochran previously announced he would leave the Senate on April 1st, citing health issues. Hyde-Smith, the state's agriculture commissioner would be the first female U.S. Senator in the state's history.
The appointment is temporary, with a special election to be held on November 6th, the same date as the 2018 midterms. The winner of that election will serve the final two years of Cochran's term. The special election is unusual in that all candidates will appear on a single ballot, with no party affiliations listed. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, a top-two runoff election will follow on November 27th.
While others may declare, it is likely that Hyde-Smith's primary challengers in the special election would be fellow Republican, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, and Democratic former U.S. Rep. Mike Espy. If Democrats hope to flip this deep red seat, the most viable path - although still a long-shot - would be for the far-right McDaniel and Espy to advance to a runoff.
The Mississippi special election brings to 35 the number of U.S Senate seats to be contested in 2018.
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the Republican appeal to block implementation of the new map. This would seem to close the door on this issue -- the new district boundaries ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be effective for the 2018 midterms.
The brief order can be seen here.
The decision came shortly after a federal court dismissed a separate appeal by some Republican congressmen.
UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the Republican appeal to block implementation of the new map. This would seem to close the door on this issue -- the new district boundaries ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will be effective for the 2018 midterms.
A panel of federal judges dismissed a challenge to the redrawn Pennsylvania congressional map. The ruling comes one day before the March 20th deadline for candidates for the U.S. House to qualify for the state's May 15 primary. A separate appeal to the United States Supreme Court remains outstanding. This is the only remaining court that could halt the redistricting.
Although Republican Rick Saccone has yet to concede last week's 18th district special election to Democrat Conor Lamb, he is gathering the signatures needed to file in the new 14th district. This new district includes much of the prior 18th, but is even more GOP-friendly. Donald Trump won the old 18th by about 20 points, while those in the redrawn 14th voted for him by 29 points.
Lamb is expected to run in the new 17th district, which includes about 55% of the former 12th district, currently held by Republican Keith Rothfus. The district now includes more of Allegheny County and is thus expected to be quite competitive this November. Assuming Lamb is eventually seated, and if both make it through the primary, this will likely be the only district where two incumbents will face off in the general election. (Five of the state's incumbents have already announced they are not running for re-election).
The map below shows the current ratings for each of the new districts for November's election. The 14th is safely Republican, while the 17th is considered a toss-up. There are three other toss-up races near Philadelphia. Most of the remaining districts are safe Democrat or Republican, although there's a possibility the 8th and/or 10th district could become competitive. Ratings courtesy of Sabato's Crystal Ball.
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