With barely one week before the all important midterm elections, increased enthusiasm among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, along with gradually improving approval numbers for President Trump, has led many political analysts to begin downplaying the prospects of a Democratic “blue wave.”
While Democrats are all but certain to gain seats in the House, more likely than not enough to recapture control of the chamber, the exact number has been the subject of endless speculation by political prognosticators.
One thing is for sure, however: what was once expected to be a 40-60 seat blow-out victory by Democrats has gradually eroded to a projected 25-35 seat gain, with at least one respected analyst acknowledging Democrats could come up short.
As Election Day draws closer, Democrats still have a number of avenues to gain the 25 seats needed for a majority, while Republicans have a number of avenues (albeit fewer than the Democrats) to hold their majority.
For Democrats to win back the House, they must do well in the following races.
Open Republican Seats Won by Clinton
With 41 open Republican seats (the most since 1930), the GOP faces the difficult task of defending eight open seats in districts won by Hillary Clinton.
Democrats are all but certain to win Pennsylvania’s 5th and 6th districts, and have a credible opportunity in the state’s 7th as well.
Martha McSally’s 2nd district in Arizona is another likely pick-up as she has opted to run for Senate, while Darrell Issa’s 49th district is the Democrats’ best opportunity in California.
While Democrats were excited over their chances in Florida’s 27th, repeated stumbles by the Democratic candidate, former Obama administration official Donna Shalala, has given Republican candidate Maria Elvira Salazar a chance to pull off a win.
California’s 39th is a toss-up, as is Washington’s 8th district.
Republican Incumbents in Districts Won by Clinton
Despite the advantages that come with incumbency, at least 10 Republicans in districts won by Clinton are in danger.
Barbara Comstock in Virginia’s 10th is widely considered the most vulnerable, followed closely by Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th, Kevin Yoder in Kansas’ 3rd district, and Peter Roskam in Illinois’ 6th.
Erik Paulsen in Minnesota’s 3rd district remains in a tenuous position as well.
Orange County, California’s shifting demographics have left Mimi Walters in the 45th district vulnerable, while Dana Rohrabacher in the nearby 48th is in a somewhat stronger position.
Moderate Republicans Leonard Lance in New Jersey’s 7th and Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania’s 1st are in races considered toss-ups, along with Texas Representative Pete Sessions in the state’s 32nd district.
GOP Minority-Majority Districts
Democrats are hoping to drive up turnout among minority voters in an effort to dislodge several Republican incumbents in minority-majority districts, but are facing difficulties.
David Valadao in California’s 21st district is widely considered safe, given his popularity among voters, while fellow Republicans Jeff Denham in the 10th and Steve Knight in the 25th are on less solid footing, but still considered favorites.
Eager to make inroads in Texas, Democrats are targeting John Culberson in the 7th district and Will Hurd in the 23rd.
Carlos Curbelo has regularly won re-election in Florida’s 26th district, but faces a serious challenge this time around.
Unlike the other districts here, which all voted for Clinton, Georgia’s 7th voted for Trump, leaving Rob Woodall in a better position than the others.
Districts That Flipped From Obama to Trump
At least seven incumbent Republicans who represent districts that swung from Obama to Trump are in danger, chief among them being Rod Blum in Iowa’s 1st district.
Another Congressman in Iowa, David Young in the 3rd district, is also in a tough race.
Mike Bost in Illinois’ 12th and Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd are locked in races considered toss-ups, while Mike Kelly is still the favorite in Pennsylvania’s 16th.
New York’s 19th district in the Hudson Valley swung from a six point victory for Obama to a similar margin for Trump, leading some Democrats to believe incumbent Republican John Faso is vulnerable.
Despite surviving a bitter primary, Dan Donovan in New York’s 11th district (Staten Island) is still the favorite.
Open Republican Districts Won by Trump
Democrats are hoping enough suburban voters who begrudgingly supported Trump will now cast ballots for a Democrat after the Republican incumbent in their respective district opted to retire (or, in the case of Mark Sanford in South Carolina’s 1st and Robert Pittenger in North Carolina’s 9th, lost their respective primaries).
New Jersey’s 2nd is all but certain to flip, while the state’s 11th is trending that way as well.
Michigan’s 11th, Kansas’ 2nd, and New Mexico’s 2nd are all toss-ups trending Democratic, while Florida’s 15th and Virginia’s 5th are trending Republican.
Some Democrats are optimistic about the open seat in West Virginia’s 3rd, as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat in Wisconsin’s 1st, but strong Republican leanings in both districts will likely prove too much for Democrats to overcome.
“Blue Wave” Districts
If Democrats do in fact move into “blue wave” level gains, incumbents in districts Trump won by single digits, as well as districts with sharp urban/rural divides, could be in trouble.
Randy Hultgren in Illinois’ 14th, Mike Bishop in Michigan’s 8th, and Keith Rothfus in Pennsylvania’s 17th are all in tough races, while polls show Keith Lewis in Minnesota’s 2nd trailing his opponent.
Don Bacon has seen his race for re-election in Nebraska’s 2nd move back in his favor, though it remains close, while Tom MacArthur has seen his race in New Jersey’s 3rd tighten.
Despite wishful thinking by some Democrats, it would take a “blue tsunami” to oust Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th, Ann Wagner in Missouri’s 2nd, Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st, or Mia Love in Utah’s 4th.
A stronger-than-expected showing among urban voters could hurt Republicans in districts with sharp urban/rural divides, including Andy Barr in Kentucky’s 6th and Ted Buds in North Carolina’s 13th.