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Six Districts The GOP Appears To Have Abandoned — And Maybe Two More It Should

Welcome to our Election Update for Wednesday, Oct. 10!

As of 9:20 a.m. Eastern time, Republicans have a 4 in 5 chance (80 percent) of holding the Senate, according to our Classic forecast. The situation is much more dire for the GOP in the House, where Democrats have a 7 in 9 chance (78 percent) of taking control. They are so dire in some GOP-held districts, in fact, that national Republicans have begun pulling their resources or never invested them in the first place — effectively ceding those seats to Democrats, presumably so that the GOP can bolster more winnable districts.

Why take such a drastic step? Usually, it’s because party elders believe the seat is already lost. But parties don’t always show the best judgment about these things, so we thought we would compare the seats that Republicans have given up on with the seats most likely to flip to Democrats in our model. And what we found was that Republicans are indeed picking their battles wisely, at least based on what we know right now.



Daily Kos Elections is tracking House districts that either party appears to have conceded. According to its data, there are six Republican-held districts that both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund1 have opted out of: the California 49th, Iowa 1st, New Jersey 2nd, Pennsylvania 5th, Pennsylvania 6th and Pennsylvania 17th.2 (By contrast, national Democrats haven’t abandoned any Democratic-held districts so far, according to the Daily Kos list.) Below are the eight Republican-held districts that our model says are most likely to fall to Democrats, as of 9:20 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

Where the GOP pulls the plug, Democrats have better odds

Republican-held districts where Democrats have the highest chances of winning, according to the Classic model of the FiveThirtyEight 2018 House forecast, as of 9:20 a.m. Eastern time on Oct. 10

Democratic candidate Republican candidate
District Name Chance of Winning Name Chance of Winning
PA-5 Mary Gay Scanlon >99.9% Pearl Kim <0.1%
PA-6 Chrissy Houlahan 98.6 Greg McCauley 1.4
NJ-2 Jeff Van Drew 97.6 Seth Grossman 2.4
IA-1 Abby Finkenauer 97.5 Rod Blum 2.5
PA-7 Susan Wild 96.7 Marty Nothstein 3.3
AZ-2 Ann Kirkpatrick 95.3 Lea Marquez Peterson 4.7
CA-49 Mike Levin 93.7 Diane Harkey 6.4
PA-17 Conor Lamb 89.4 Keith Rothfus 10.6

Our model generally agrees with top Republicans’ assessments: All six of the districts that Daily Kos has tracked make our list as well. Republicans are almost certainly correct to give up hope about the Pennsylvania 5th, which (along with every other district in the state) was redrawn in court-ordered redistricting this year; it is now 26 percentage points more Democratic-leaning than the country as a whole.3 The Pennsylvania 6th also got bluer, but the real death knell to the GOP came when incumbent Rep. Ryan Costello backed out of his re-election campaign, leaving his long-shot primary challenger as the only Republican candidate. National Republicans abandoned the New Jersey 2nd District after their candidate linked to a white supremacist website, and in the Iowa 1st, Rep. Rod Blum trails by a wide margin in the polls amid an ethics scandal.

You may have noticed that two of the eight districts in our table aren’t on the Daily Kos list. That’s because Republicans apparently haven’t backed away from them yet — but maybe they should. The Arizona 2nd (which typically plays host to some of the closest congressional races in the country) and the Pennsylvania 7th (another redrawn seat) are strong Democratic bets by our calculations — even stronger than the California 49th and Pennsylvania 17th. But Republicans better not give up on too many seats; each one they triage lowers the number of competitive districts Democrats have to win to take back control of the House. But remember: There’s nothing stopping the GOP from jumping back into any of these races at any time between now and Nov. 6, so nothing is yet lost for good.

Footnotes

  1. The NRCC is the official House campaign arm of the Republican Party, and the Congressional Leadership Fund is a Paul Ryan-affiliated super PAC that is Republicans’ main independent-expenditure weapon in congressional races.

  2. Determining which party currently controls certain Pennsylvania districts can be difficult because the state’s congressional map was completely redrawn for this year’s elections as a result of an anti-gerrymandering lawsuit. FiveThirtyEight considers a new district to be Republican-held if its most similar natural geographic predecessor was.

  3. According to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric, or the average difference between how a state or district votes and how the country votes overall. In our new and improved partisan lean formula, 2016 presidential election results are weighted 50 percent, 2012 presidential election results are weighted 25 percent and results from elections for the state legislature are weighted 25 percent.

Nathaniel Rakich is FiveThirtyEight’s elections analyst.

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