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House Update: Keeping An Eye On Democratic ‘Reach’ Districts

Welcome to our Election Update for Sunday, Nov. 4!

As FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver wrote last week, the battleground for the House is quite large: In the Classic version of our House forecast, there are 111 districts where both parties have at least a 5 percent chance of winning, as of 8 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 3. But Republicans are defending most of these districts — 102 of them, in fact. So one possibility on Election Day is that Democrats end up winning a few “reach” districts (in which their odds of winning are greater than 5 percent but less than 35 percent). Under those conditions, Democrats are underdogs in 63 of the 102 districts Republicans are defending. Two of those districts have garnered some attention in the past couple of weeks: the Alaska at-large district and the Colorado 3rd. But new polls have moved these districts in opposite directions within our model.

In Alaska, Republican Rep. Don Young, who is the longest-serving congressional representative, could lose his honorific of “Dean of the House.” He faces stiff competition from first-time candidate Alyse Galvin, an independent who won the August Democratic primary. From the start, our forecast thought the race could be competitive despite Alaska’s GOP lean and Young’s incumbency, but recent polls have shown a sharp narrowing of Young’s lead in the final stretch. In fact, pollster Ivan Moore Research found1 Galvin up 1 point over Young. Now, this poll may prove to be an outlier — after all, it’s the first poll in the race to give Galvin a lead. But it’s not unusual for a close race to have a poll or two showing the underdog ahead. The Classic version of our House forecast now has Young as a 2 in 3 favorite to win, though the Deluxe version — which adds in expert opinions — still has Young as a 4 in 5 favorite. Although he’s still ahead, Young could be in danger if Democrats have a good night on Tuesday.

The news is better for Republicans in the Colorado 3rd. Absent any polling data through most of October, the Classic version of our forecast viewed the 3rd, held by Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, as a competitive seat — even a toss-up.2 But two new polls shifted the district toward the GOP in our model. First, a Change Research poll found3 Tipton ahead of Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush 53 percent to 38 percent — we wrote more about that here. Then a poll from JMC Analytics and Bold Blue Campaigns also found4 Tipton up, though by a narrower 5-point margin. The Classic version of the forecast now has Tipton as a 5 in 6 favorite to win re-election, and the Deluxe version has him as an 11 in 12 favorite. While the race could still be close, it seems less likely now that Republicans will lose control of the 3rd.

Given the GOP’s edge in both of these districts, neither ranks as a top-tier target for Democrats on Election Day. Still, the races are not shoo-ins for the GOP, so they could surprise on election night.


  1. Poll was conducted by Ivan Moore as Alaska Survey Research from Oct. 26 to Oct. 29.

  2. Under FiveThirtyEight’s rating system, a toss-up means that neither candidate has a win probability above 3 in 5 (or 60 percent).

  3. Poll was conducted from Oct. 27 to Oct. 29.

  4. Poll was conducted from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2.

Geoffrey Skelley is a senior elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight.