Senate and House race ratings show Democrats increasingly competitive in Republican areas

Inside Elections has also revised upward its projections for how many seats Democrats are likely to pick up in each chamber. In the Senate, it’s now a net gain of four to six seats, which puts Democrats well on the path to the majority. They need a net gain of four seats to flip the Senate, or three if they win the White House since the vice president breaks ties in the Senate.

The more noteworthy of the two Senate race ratings changes is in Kansas, which moves from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican. Sen. Pat Roberts is retiring, leaving an open seat in a state Trump carried by nearly 21 points. Democrats haven’t won a Senate seat here since 1932, so this theoretically should have been an easy one for Republicans to hold.

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But GOP Rep. Roger Marshall, whose primary victory over Kris Kobach relieved Republicans, isn’t providing much relief in the final stretch of the campaign. Instead, national GOP groups are having to spend on his behalf, while Democrat Barbara Bollier — a former Republican — raised nearly $13 million in the third quarter. She began October with about $7.6 million compared to Marshall’s $1.7 million.

Colorado’s shift from Tilt Democratic to Lean Democratic is more predictable. GOP Sen. Cory Gardner is running for a second term in a state Trump lost by five points in 2016 and could lose by an even wider margin in November. The fight over the Supreme Court vacancy has only further nationalized the race, reminding voters that despite what Gardner says about loving the environment and being bipartisan, he’s still a Republican senator.

In the House, Inside Elections now projects Democrats to pick up a net of 10 to 20 seats. That’s an extraordinary position for Democrats to be in given that they’re defending their 2018 historic midterm gains, many of them in districts Trump carried four years ago. But the President is proving to be a drag on down-ballot Republicans even in districts he won, while he’s helping Democrats go on offense in red districts that were not part of the battlefield at the beginning of the cycle. Republicans would need a net gain of 17 seats for a majority, which appears very, very unlikely.

Suburban seats moving toward Democrats

In a world in which House races have become even more nationalized, Trump’s unpopularity is bad news for congressional Republicans — even long-time incumbents in traditionally red districts.

Arizona’s 6th District, for example, voted for Trump in 2016, but it has one of the highest rates of college education of any still represented by a Republican, according to Inside Elections. That’s one reason it’s moving from Tilt Republican to Toss-up, although Rep. David Schweikert also hasn’t done himself any favors with his ethics issues. Meanwhile, Biden and Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly are likely to boost Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, an emergency room doctor who’s outraised the five-term incumbent.

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Arkansas’ 2nd District, represented by GOP Rep. French Hill, and Missouri’s 2nd District, represented by GOP Rep. Ann Wagner, share similar suburban dynamics that make them competitive for Democrats in a way they haven’t been in the past. Inside Elections moves Hill’s district from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican and Wagner’s from Tilt Republican to Toss-up. Wagner’s defeat would be a loss for Republican women, of whom there are only 13 in the current GOP conference, with two not running for reelection.

The Long Island suburban vote is threatening New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Trump ally who’s facing Democrat Nancy Goroff, the former chair of the Stony Brook Chemistry department. She’s been leaning into her background as a scientist since the beginning of the race, but the pandemic — and Trump’s flouting of scientific guidelines — has given her another opportunity to argue that it’s time for Trump and Zeldin to go. Inside Elections moves the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.

Biden’s strength may also be threatening Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a freshman facing off against former gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. The race moves from Tilt Republican to Toss-up.

The top of the ticket may also improve Democratic chances in Florida’s 18th District, where GOP Rep. Brian Mast is running for a third term. The race moves out of the Solid Republican category to Likely Republican.

Democrats’ odds also look better in some suburban districts they’re defending, including six they flipped in 2018. Inside Elections shifts Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s rematch against former GOP Rep. Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th District from Tilt Democratic to Lean Democratic. Another 2018 pickup, Kansas’ 3rd District, shifts from Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic, dropping off the list of competitive seats. Likewise, Iowa’s 3rd District moves from Tilt Democratic to Lean Democratic. New Jersey’s 3rd District moves from Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic, while Texas’ 32nd District moves from Likely Democratic to Solid Democratic.

Florida’s 26th District was a bright spot for Republicans this summer. With a strong recruit in Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Trump doing better with Cuban American voters, it looked like they had a chance to unseat Democratic freshman Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. But it’s hard to see Gimenez overcoming the national environment in this district, which Clinton won and Biden is likely to carry. It moves from Toss-up to Tilt Democratic.

Other seats moving toward Democrats

It’s not just the suburbs where Democrats are expected to do better. A few seats that are either very rural or just places where Trump did well in 2016 are also moving toward Democrats.

Maine’s 2nd District, for example, completely falls off the list of competitive seats, moving from Lean Democratic to Solid Democratic. Trump carried the state’s sprawling northern district comfortably in 2016 — and he still could win it this year, but likely by much less given Biden’s inroads with White working-class voters. That’s a problem for the President since he was counting on picking up an electoral vote here. Besides Biden making this seat competitive, Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, who flipped the district in 2018 in the country’s first use of ranked choice voting for a House race, has a strong profile in the district and significant financial advantage over his GOP challenger.

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Another district where Trump did well in 2016 — South Carolina’s 1st District — was supposed to be a top takeover opportunity for Republicans after Democrat Joe Cunningham flipped the Charleston-area district in 2018. But the coastal district doesn’t look anywhere near as strong for Trump this year, while a competitive Senate race may also boost Democratic turnout. It moves from Tilt Democratic to Lean Democratic.

Republicans hoped to target Pennsylvania Rep. Matt Cartwright in the 8th District, which Trump carried. But Biden’s advantage in the state won’t help Republicans unseat the four-term Democrat, and it’s now a Solid Democratic race.

Democrats are increasingly excited about taking over several Trump districts. Minnesota’s 1st District, a rural district that Trump carried by a wide margin, is one of three districts that Republicans flipped in 2018, with GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn narrowly winning what was then an open seat. But the freshman Republican has faced ethics questions and struggled to raise money in his rematch against Democrat Dan Feehan. It moves from Tilt Republican to Toss-up.

Virginia’s 5th District, where an underfunded Republican defeated the GOP incumbent at a convention, looks brighter for Democrats with a well-funded candidate who’s in position to take advantage of the national environment. It moves from Lean Republican to Tilt Republican.

Pennsylvania’s 10th District, where Democrats have long been enthused about their recruit, state Auditor Eugene DePasquale, moves from Tilt Republican to Toss-up. He’s trying to unseat GOP Rep. Scott Perry, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. In Illinois, GOP Rep. Rodney Davis looks like he’s in more danger in a rematch against Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan in the 13th District, which moves from Tilt Republican to Toss-up.

At the beginning of the cycle, it would have been hard to imagine that North Carolina’s 11th District could be competitive. But it became slightly less red in court-mandated redistricting, and now that Meadows is in the White House, it’s an open seat. It moves from Solid Republican to Likely Republican.

Seats moving toward GOP

There are far fewer pick-up opportunities for Republicans than at the beginning of the cycle. But two Democrat-held seats are moving their way. Both are seats Trump won, where he’s expected to do well again in 2020, even if not matching his 2016 performance.

Minnesota’s 7th District is the seat held by a Democrat that Trump carried by the biggest margin in 2016. Rep. Collin Peterson, the chairman of the Agriculture Committee, is well-known in the massive district and is widely regarded as the last Democrat who can hold the seat. But he’s faced close contests against an underfunded GOP challenger the past two cycles, and this time, his opponent — former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach — actually has money and national party backing. Inside Elections moves the 7th District from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up.

Democrats are also on defense in New Mexico’s 2nd District, which Rep. Xochitl Torres Small flipped in 2018 when it was an open seat. She’s locked in a rematch against Republican Yvette Herrell. The race moves from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up.

Texas’ 23rd District is one of four Clinton districts still held by a Republican. Democrats were thought to have an especially good shot at picking off the district this year with GOP Rep. Will Hurd not running for reelection. Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who lost narrowly two years ago, had a head start against Republican Tony Gonzales, who was stuck in a protracted runoff. But an encouraging national environment hasn’t trickled down to this border-district sprawling nearly half the state as much as in other places. It moves from Lean Democratic to Tilt Democratic.

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