Redrawn district map backs up predictions for election victories
There is little good news for Republicans when it comes to the battle for control of the U.S. House, save for one district in southwestern Pennsylvania that every prognosticator says is a virtual lock to flip to Republicans next month.
The trade-off, however, is six or seven other Pennsylvania seats that Democrats have designs on — all because of a major court-ordered redrawing this year of the state’s congressional maps, moving them from overwhelmingly Republican to competitively Democratic.
Indeed, if things go the way Democrats hope, Pennsylvania alone could account for more than a quarter of the 23 seats they need to win control of the House.
Just how Democratic the year is shaping up was underscored last week when Nathan L. Gonzales, who runs Inside Elections, released his latest prognostication. He made changes in 24 House contests — all of them in Democrats’ favor.
“At this stage, we’re talking about whether Democrats have a good night or a great night in the House,” Mr. Gonzales said in releasing his update.
Democrats have recruited a good crop of candidates, their fundraising in House races is solid and, perhaps most important to their prospects, Donald Trump is still president.
Although the fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh has awakened Republican voters, party strategists acknowledge it’s not enough to reverse the momentum that Democrats have built up since Mr. Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
That is hurting in districts like the one held by Rep. Barbara Comstock, just outside of Washington, where the Virginia Republican faces a stiff challenge from state Sen. Jennifer Wexton, and in races in Florida and California, where longtime Republican incumbents are retiring.
In former Republican stronghold Orange County, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, is in real jeopardy for only the second time in 30 years.
“They’re all suburban seats, they’re all places where we’re having trouble with women, and they’re all places where Republican voters — not necessarily Trump voters but Republican voters — want to send a message to the administration,” said Mike McKenna, a Republican Party strategist.
He said Republicans are desperately trying to persuade those voters to find a different channel for their anger and hoping to convince them of the consequences of a protest vote.
“The message they want to send is going to have a lot of terrible baggage to it,” Mr. McKenna said. “What they don’t seem to understand is the net effect of that is you’re handing the keys over to Nancy Pelosi and her crowd.”
He said the Kavanaugh surge has helped somewhat, perhaps lowering Democrats’ ceiling by five seats — though he predicted they are still on track to win the 218 needed to claim a majority.
Analysts approach congressional elections by dividing seats into districts that are safe for one party or the other, then breaking down the remainder into districts that lean one way or the other, and those that are pure toss-ups.
Every major analysis suggests Democrats have far more “safe” seats than Republicans. FiveThirtyEight. com, one leading prognosticator, calculated this week that Democrats have 191 safe seats and Republicans have just 140. Mr. Gonzales is the most bullish on the Republicans’ chances, with 162 safe seats — though Democrats in his analysis still top that with 186 safe seats.
Republicans do have far more seats in the “lean” category that they are projected to win, and analysts say there are also enough toss-up seats that either party can win the majority.
But another metric also leans against Republicans: The “generic” ballot, in which pollsters ask whether a voter plans to pull the lever for a Democrat or a Republican in the local congressional race, has also been decidedly blue. The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives Democrats a 6.9 percentage point lead nationally.
Mr. Trump continues to predict a Republican wave to defy prognosticators.
“The energy on the Republican side, I don’t think it’s ever been greater,” the president said as he jetted off to Iowa for a campaign trip.
But Stuart Rothenberg, an analyst for Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication, said the fundamental trajectory of the election hasn’t changed and it’s still good for Democrats.
In his latest evaluation Wednesday, he said Democrats who stayed home in 2016 or who voted for a third-party candidate, finding Hillary Clinton flawed, are more enthusiastic to turn out to cast a vote against Mr. Trump. Meanwhile, many suburban Trump voters in 2016 who
State Sen. Jennifer Wexton is the Democrat challenging Ms. Comstock for the 10th District seat representing Northern Virginia’s suburbs on Nov. 6