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Five House races to watch
Democrats are hoping to win control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. But for the "blue wave" they expect, Democrats need to wi ...
Tuesday, November 06, 2018
by Martin Barillas

Update: Democrat Jennifer Wexton defeated incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock in the 10th Congressional District of Virginia. Incumbent GOP Rep.Andy Barr of Kentucky was reelected. Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell defeated incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida. Democrat Abby Finkenauer defeated incumbent Rep. Rod Blum. Democrat Harley Rouda is slated to defeat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

Democrats are hoping to win control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday. But for the “blue wave” they expect, Democrats need to win at least 23 seats to displace the Republicans. Various odds-makers are predicting that the 2016 mid-term races will resemble those in the past in which the party not represented in the White House takes control of Congress. However, some of these same analysts did not see the groundswell that brought Donald Trump to the White House in 2016.

The make up in the House is currently: Republicans 240, Democrats 194. Currently, the electoral map for House races has 202 seats on which Democrats have probable wins, while Republicans have 194 locked in. Therefore, there are 39 races that are “toss ups” for either party to win on Tuesday.

According to Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, who has long been cited as an expert source, Democrats can be expected to win 34 seats on Tuesday. RealClearPolitics expects Democrats to take roughly 26.5 seats. Inside Elections foresees the Democrats gaining between 25 and 35 seats, while Cook Political Report asserts that Democrats have 182 solid seats and 10 that are leaning. Three more seats, according to Cook’s, are toss ups.

Interestingly, Sabato’s Crystal Ball predicted that Hillary Clinton would win by a substantial margin in the presidential election that went to Donald Trump in 2016. Cook’s Political Report predicted a win for Clinton and that Texas would turn blue. Inside Elections also predicted a win for Clinton. These false predictions may be among the reasons why Republican strategists in Washington are confident that the House will remain in Republican control. 

House Races To Watch

Florida 26th — Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., vs. Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

The 26th district of Florida is home to a sizeable community of Cuban-Americans and others of Latin American ancestry, where incumbent Republican Curbelo has long enjoyed a comfortable seat. However, it is a district that voted for Obama in 2012 and Clinton in 2016 by double-digit margins. According to both FiveThirtyEight and the Cook Political Report, the district is a “tossup,” even while other analysts believe is leans to Republicans. 

Cuban-American Curbelo is facing Mucarsel-Powell, a naturalized citizen who immigrated from Ecuador. Mucarsel-Powell has said that she was inspired to run because of Curbelo’s vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the 2017 tax reform bill. 

For his part, Curbelo has tried to put daylight between himself and Trump regarding immigration, having voiced opposition to Trump’s rhetoric about illegal immigration. He has tried to portray himself as a loyal Republican despite his differences with the president, it is not certain whether voters believe him. In the days before the election, Curbelo has succeed in winning a 3-percentage point lead over Mucarsel-Powell, who had a 1-percentage point lead over Curbelo in October.

Kentucky 6th — Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., vs. Democrat Amy McGrath

Barr’s narrow lead over McGrath disappeared in recent weeks, having had but a 1 percentage point advantage as of September. The Cook Political Report calls the race a toss up, while a New York Times/Sienna poll said it is a tie. The 6th District has demographic characteristics that make it worthwhile to watch. For example, the district has registered Democrats than Republicans, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., lost the district in 2016. However, President Trump won the district by 15 percentage points in 2016, and Mitt Romney won there in 2012. 

In light of Trump’s success in the district, Barry has cast himself as an ally, having chosen to make appearances with Trump during the campaign. In 2016, Barr had a landslide victory in the district, thus making the current findings of a tight race all the more interesting because of Democrats’ self-assurance of a “blue wave.”

California 48th — Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., vs. Democrat Harley Rouda

Long considered a Republican bastion, the 48th Congressional District is where registered Republicans have a 10-point advantage in voter registration. But Clinton won the district by 2 percentage points in 2016. According to a New York Times/Sienna poll released on Sunday, Rouda holds a bare 1 point lead over the veteran Rohrabacher. Estimates of voter turnout for Rouda have the race going to her by 2 percentage points. Since July, the polls have shown the two candidates going back and forth with small leads into September when the race was judged a “tie."

The former Republican Rouda said he left the party over his differences with Trump. He has since garnered the support of progressives and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Iowa First — Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa, vs. Democrat Abby Finkenauer

Barack Obama won the 1st Congressional District in 2008 and 2012 by double-digits. But in 2016, Trump beat Clinton by 4 percentage points, becoming the first GOP presidential candidate to carry Dubuque County since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. Analysts are watching the district for signs of an impending “blue wave.” Observers believe that Blum is “likely” to lose his seat. 

According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Democrat Finkenauer is up by 9.5 percentage points, while other media show that he has a significant lead over incumbent Blum. Because Blum is a Trump ally and a members of the House Freedom Caucus, who is facing a progressive, pro-labor candidate, the race is being seen as a bellwether for the 2020 presidential race. 

Virginia 10th — Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., vs. Democrat Jennifer Wexton

Rep. Comstock is popular in her district, even while Trump himself is not. She has voted regularly in favor of Trump’s agenda (97.5 percent of the time) while representing a district that went for Hillary Clinton by 10 percentage points. However, Comstock voted against the repeal of Obamacare. The 10th district is thus one where Democrats have a good chance of flipping. Comstock differentiated herself from Trump and fellow Republicans by voting against repealing and replacing Obamacare in 2017. She told CNN in October, "I'm my own woman, and I focus on the priorities of my constituents," and added,  "I have worked with a Republican governor and a Democrat governor." Even so, Comstock is trailing her Democrat opponent by 8 points. 


Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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