Could Republicans do the unthinkable on November 6th and keep a majority in the House? Politico’s Rachel Bade calls it “unlikely,” but not impossible. Bade hears from Republicans and “even a few Democrats” that the political winds have shifted enough this month that it might result in a slight GOP majority once all the votes have been counted.
I want to believe:
Just about every poll predicts it won’t happen: Suburban voters are too fed up with Donald Trump, and Democrats too awash in cash, for Nancy Pelosi’s party not to seize the House on Nov. 6.
And yet House Republicans — and privately, even a few Democrats — say the GOP could still hang on, if only by a few seats. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court has given GOP voters a badly needed enthusiasm boost, they argue, and several races seen as unwinnable just weeks ago are suddenly back within reach for Republicans.
Democrats, meanwhile, have retreated from several battlegrounds once considered prime targets. They’ve also deserted a Democratic-controlled open seat in Minnesota, creating a new, rare pickup opportunity for Republicans in a cycle where they’ve consistently been on defense.
“Unlikely” seems right if one watches the polling. At FiveThirtyEight, the forecast gives the GOP a 1-in-6 chance of holding the majority, which might be slightly better than unlikely, but not by a lot. Thanks to the disparity between urban centers and everywhere else, Democrats have an advantage in the overall popular vote but Republicans have one in distribution. By their calculation, Democrats have to win the national popular vote by 5.5 points in order to win 218 or more seats in the House.
So what does the polling tell us? Right now, the RCP average Democratic lead is 7.6%. It’s close enough that it the MoE could pull it below the line needed for the gavel. Plus, as Bade notes, Democrats are noticing that the GOP are rebounding in specific races they thought they had locked up:
Democrats are also taking money from the race to unseat GOP Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, who, Republicans say, has a healthy lead. That came just days after Democrats pulled out of Hispanic-populated districts represented by Rep. David Valadao in central California and Rep. Will Hurd along the Texas border. And they’ve withdrawn $800,000 in planned ads from Rep. Vern Buchanan’s Florida district, where the Democratic challenger, David Shapiro, trails the incumbent.
They may be running into trouble in Minnesota, where Pete Stauber looks set to flip Rick Nolan’s Democratic seat in the Iron Range. Republicans might also be in trouble in MN-02 where incumbent Jason Lewis has trailed in some polls, and where Democrats win more state legislative seats of late, so it could be a trade. But a trade doesn’t help Democrats take over the House majority, either.
The wild card in this is the Kavanaugh Effect. How many Republican voters who were complacent without Donald Trump on the ballot have now been galvanized by that debacle? How many has Trump himself galvanized in his barnstorming over the last few weeks? The polling mainly missed thesurge of marginally attached voters that turned up in 2016, and may be missing it again now. Add that to the massive fundraising and organizing advantage the RNC has over the DNC, and we could be in for a surprise on Election Night.
Not that I’d bet that way, but it’s definitely possible. And maybe even somewhere north of unlikely.