October 18, 2016
National Journal: Hotline’s 2016 House Race Rankings
Two Republican incumbents crack the top 15 for the first time.
Donald Trump’s flailing campaign offers Democrats renewed hope that they can cut deeply into the Republican House majority. But even after the release of Trump’s 2005 tape, polling does not yet show the bottom falling out for congressional Republicans.
GOP leaders recognize the political environment could shift fast. The prospect of voters staying home on Election Day, primarily out of disgust for Trump, is central to the party’s fears.
Speaker Paul Ryan is sounding alarms with donors to shift substantial resources down-ballot and has pledged no longer to defend Trump. Meanwhile, Republicans are already invoking blank-check messaging in television ads, promising to hold Hillary Clinton accountable in office.
House Democrats will undoubtedly shave the GOP’s 30-seat majority in November. It remains less clear where the ceiling is for their gains.
This is Hotline’s list of the 15 districts most likely to flip. The first four seats on the list are expected to switch parties solely as a result of redistricting, and they are unchanged from previous rankings. Since the last edition in September, one vulnerable Republican, Rep. John Katko, has slid off the list as even Democrats concede he is a tougher-than-expected target.
A handful of Republicans receive honorable mentions, including Reps. Barbara Comstock of Virginia and Mike Coffman of Colorado, who are running in districts where Trump is deeply unpopular. Other open-seat races on the radar include Michigan’s 1st District, Pennsylvania’s 8th District, and Nevada’s 3rd District.
A few Democrats also face competitive challenges, including Rep. Ami Bera of California. But given a far more favorable national environment for Democrats—and the sheer size of the GOP conference—this list is dominated by Republican-held seats.
Hotline’s rankings are based on polling where available, fundraising reports, and interviews with party strategists.
14. New Jersey’s 5th District: Rep. Scott Garrett (R) (previously unranked)
Another new addition to the list comes amid increasing concern by Republicans about Garrett’s reelection prospects. Seemingly abandoned by national GOP groups and the financial industry for his negative comments about gay Republicans, Garrett has been outraised by his opponent, former Bill Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer. An October poll from House Majority PAC showed Gottheimer with a 7-point lead, and the group has routinely slammed Garrett, a Freedom Caucus member, as a better fit for “rural Alabama.”