With the 2018 midterm elections just around the corner and the fate of the U.S. at stake (for at least the next two years), the midterms can get very chaotic and difficult to follow.

The lower chamber, or House of Representatives, was last won by the Democrats in 2008 during the landslide that brought us the Obama presidency.

In Obama’s first midterm, the Republicans gained 63 seats in the House to overtake the majority. While current models predict Democrats will gain many seats – though probably not 63 – the Democrats look well-positioned to win back control of the House for the first time in 10 years.

And some House races can give us a sneak peek at the direction the two political parties are heading toward both during and after the Trump presidency, which may clue us into what might happen in 2020.

Different House seats will be divided into different sections based on their demographic makeup and general voting history. Each group will be introduced with a small paragraph about what makes those districts so similar. All these seats are considered in play and important in determining who will control the House of Representatives come 2019. Anyone interested in these specific districts can find up-to-date information on the House forecast section of fivethirtyeight.com.

First up are traditionally Republican suburbs. These districts are all held by Republicans and vote mostly Republican in presidential elections, with the exception of 2016.

Donald Trump’s populist message, along with demographic and messaging issues of the Republicans, has made these districts more vulnerable to Democratic takeover. From Orange County, California, to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., these districts used to embody what a Republican in well-to-do suburbs use to be: moderate, affluent and business-friendly. Now they are on the verge of extinction. These races include: California’s 39th district, CA-45, CA-48, TX-32, OH-01, GA-06 and VA-10.

Trump’s heartland is the next category. When Trump won the presidency, it was pretty clear that a very large portion of his coalition consisted of rural farmers in the Midwest. In some instances, Trump turned some rural Democrats to the Republicans, not just because of the economy but also due to cultural and security issues. The main point is the Democrats abandoned them.

Democrats may win them back on one issue: trade. Trump’s trade strategy has hit the homeland hard, and many are already losing faith in the president. Of course, other issues are also on their minds, like healthcare where Democrats are also hoping to get their Midwest “blue wall” back. Some of the seats to watch in this category are held or were held by Democrats, but if Trump’s new Midwest majority is going to last, he needs to win most (if not all) of these seats. These seats are: IA-03, MN-01, MN-08, IL-12, KS-02, MI-07 and MT-AL.

Next are Republican seats that tend to be more Democratic. Moderate Republicans in blue districts are actually quite common, but will that change? Many moderate Republicans – those most critical of Trump – are in trouble of losing their seats to Democrats, who are very critical of Trump. Will moving to the left on some issues, like immigration and climate change, be enough to save their seats? Only time will tell in the age of Trump. These seats to watch are: FL-26, FL-27, TX-23, AZ-02, CA-10, CO-06 and WA-08.

Hardcore Republican districts are also on the line this cycle. It sounds crazy that districts that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by more than 20 percent during the presidential campaign would be competitive on the House level, but that is exactly what is happening. From West Virginia, which voted 68 percent to 26 percent in favor of Trump, to rural, working-class areas of Washington state, many ruby-red districts are now competitive, and Democrats have a legitimate chance of winning. These races include: WV-03, KY-06, OH-12, NC-07, IA-04 and WA-05.

There are also Trump Democrats to watch out for. These are not Democratic members in Congress who support Trump, because there are none (I’m only slightly exaggerating). These are Democrats in the House whose districts were won by Trump on the presidential level. None of them are seriously competitive unless the incumbent decided not to run, like in MN-01 and MN-08.

In these races, don’t look to see if the Republican will win, because they probably won’t; see instead what the margin is at the end. If it is large, Trump may have a real problem and may not have the widespread revolutionary support he thought he did in Democrat-leaning, white, working-class areas he won in 2016. These races are: NH-01, PA-08, WI-03, MN-07 and AZ-01.

—By Blake Lincoln

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