We've talked endlessly about the White House and Senate races, but how is the House shaping up in 2020? There are vulnerable incumbents in both parties, and the general consensus is that the Dems may pick up 5-10 seats overall, but if Trump's collapse down the stretch in the suburbs and with Seniors turns into a downticket disaster, the Dems could end up with a whole lot more House seats. 538's House gurur, Nate Rakich:
Now, Democrats must defend 30 seats in districts won by President Trump in 2016 (as opposed to only six Republicans who sit in districts that Hillary Clinton carried). Yet Democrats are on offense once again this year: 28 of the 50 House districts that the Deluxe version of our model considers most likely to change parties are held by Republicans.
There are a few explanations for why Democrats still have room to grow. The first is that they are virtually guaranteed to flip two seats right off the bat thanks to redistricting. After a court declared in 2019 that North Carolina’s old congressional lines showed signs of “extreme partisan gerrymandering,” the state legislature passed a new map that reconfigured two Republican-held seats as Democratic strongholds: the 2nd District and 6th District. Their current occupants, Reps. George Holding and Mark Walker, announced they would retire from Congress soon after, and now the seats are Democrats’ two best pickup opportunities in the entire nation. Our model gives the party a greater than 99 in 100 chance of winning both races.
Another is that, though Democrats picked most of the low-hanging fruit in 2018, there are still a few easy pickup opportunities left: That is, there are a few Clinton districts still represented by Republicans. In Texas’s 23rd District, Rep. Will Hurd defeated Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by just 0.4 points in 2018, but this year, Hurd was one of many Texas Republicans who decided to retire. As a result, Ortiz Jones (who is running again) has a 74 in 100 chance to win in 2020 against Republican Tony Gonzales. And Democrats did win California’s 25th District in 2018, but a sex scandal forced Rep. Katie Hill to resign, and Republican Mike Garcia flipped the seat back in a special election. Our model considers the rubber match to be a toss-up, giving Democrats a 56 in 100 shot. Finally, Democrats aren’t in quite as good a position to defeat Rep. John Katko in New York’s 24th District, but Democrat Dana Balter still has a 33 in 100 chance. (The one Republican in a Clinton district who seems pretty safe is Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania’s 1st District; with an 89 in 100 chance to win, he doesn’t even make the table above.)
But the biggest factor may be the continued leftward march of American suburbs. After Democrats cleaned house in the suburbs in 2018 — three-quarters of their 2018 gains came in predominantly suburban congressional districts — they are back this year for the many suburban districts they left on the table. Their best such pickup opportunity is New York’s 2nd, a dense suburban district on Long Island where Republican Rep. Peter King is retiring after surviving his closest electoral call since 1992. Our forecast gives Democrat Jackie Gordon a 59 in 100 chance of victory there. Republican Rep. Susan Brooks is also retiring from Indiana’s 5th District, which covers the northern Indianapolis suburbs and went from voting for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by 17 points in 2012 to narrowly voting for Democrat Joe Donnelly in the state’s 2018 Senate election. The race to replace her is almost a pure toss-up.
Similarly, Georgia’s 7th District, a suburban Atlanta district that Romney carried by 22 points, hosted the closest House race in the country in 2018. Republican Rep. Rob Woodall opted to retire (sensing a pattern?), and now Democrats have a 45 in 100 chance to win it in 2020. I could go on — Democrats have between a 30 and 40 percent shot in Nebraska’s 2nd District in metro Omaha, Texas’s 24th District in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth and Ohio’s 1st District around Cincinnati — but my editor does put word counts on these things.
Of course, Republicans have pickup opportunities too. They’re favorites to flip just three House seats vs. Democrats’ five. And their likeliest win would represent the end of an era in the House: Republican Michelle Fischbach has a 74 in 100 chance to defeat Rep. Collin Peterson, the powerful chair of the House Agriculture Committee. Peterson represents by far the Trumpiest district currently held by a Democrat — the Minnesota 7th voted for Trump by 31 percentage points in 2016. While Peterson’s conservative views have helped him survive in recent election cycles, the district is getting redder and split-ticket voting is becoming rarer.
Another likely Republican pickup is a seat the party held until July 4, 2019, when Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan’s 3rd District announced he was leaving the GOP. Facing a difficult reelection bid as a third-party candidate, Amash has since decided to retire, and Republican Peter Meijer now has a 68 in 100 chance of taking the seat back for the GOP. (That said, Democrats also have a 32 in 100 chance to flip the seat into their column.)
Republicans have also set their sights on winning back several House seats they lost in 2018, although our model thinks they’re favored in only one — and even then, just barely. Oklahoma’s 5th District produced the biggest upset of 2018 (according to the Deluxe version of our 2018 model), as Democrat Kendra Horn prevailed in a district that voted for Trump by 13 points in 2016. Here in 2020, Horn (49 in 100) and Republican Stephanie Bice (51 in 100) have almost the exact same chance of winning the seat. Also too close to call is California’s 21st District, where Republican former Rep. David Valadao is seeking a comeback in a district he lost by just 862 votes in 2018. Although Clinton won this district by 16 points, it is more Republican in down-ballot races, and Valadao has a 48 in 100 chance of winning. Finally, Republicans are almost even money to defeat Rep. Joe Cunningham in South Carolina’s 1st District, which also voted for Trump by 13 points in 2016. Republican Nancy Mace has a 46 in 100 chance of victory here.
Beyond those seats, Republicans have a fighting chance in several other Democrat-held districts whose names you might recall from 2018: the Georgia 6th, New York 22nd, Iowa 2nd, California 48th, New Mexico 2nd, Utah 4th, New York 11th, Texas 7th, New Jersey 7th, California 39th, Florida 26th and Nevada 4th, to name (more than) a few. But they are clearer underdogs in these races. And they would need to win all of the races I have mentioned in the last four paragraphs — without surrendering a single other seat to Democrats — in order to flip the 17 seats5 they need to attain a House majority.
In other words, Republicans would somehow have to have the perfect night to win back the House.
It won't happen.