by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
While the path for Republicans taking back the House is not impossible, it is narrow. Republicans would need a net gain of about 18 seats to win back the House majority they lost in 2018 after eight years.
And their chances are narrowing more, according to various analyst ratings of key House races. Republican leaders and consultants hold out hope that the party won’t take too much a beating in November, with President Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a series of swing-state and national polls.
A year ago, the Cook Political Report rated 17 Democratic-held seats as toss-ups and 5 Republican-held seats as toss-ups. In February, the number of Democratic-held seats that were toss-ups increased to 19, a good sign for Republicans. But in its most recent rating, following the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests on racism in policing, the picture is looking less rosy for Republicans: 16 Democratic-held seats are toss-ups compared to 6 for Republicans.
Ratings from Inside Elections show a similar pattern. It had nine seats, seven Democratic-held and two Republican-held, rated as toss-ups on Feb. 21, along with nine that tilt Democratic and seven that tilt Republican. In its June 2 ratings, the number of Democratic-held toss-up seats decreased to four as more Democratic-held seats became safer bets for the party to keep.
Republican operatives downplay the ratings, believing they are more based on personal bias than on reality. Cook Political Report, for instance, rates dozens of districts as “lean Democratic” or “likely Democratic” that it also analyzes as having stronger voter preferences toward Republicans than the few seats it rates as toss-ups.
But largely, down-ballot House candidates must campaign in the shadow of President Trump, whose approval rating is ticking down.