House ratings: Field continues to shift towards Democrats, particularly in New York

In the past 3 months, Democrats have increased their House majority as they picked up a remarkable 3 seats in a series of special elections organized in Illinois’s 14th district, Louisiana’s 6th district, Mississippi’s 1st district. What is particularly remarkable is that all three of these districts leaned heavily Republican; in 2004, George Bush had won them respectively with 55%, 59% and 62%. Each defeat increased the chaos of the Republican caucus as the NRCC started to settle in panic mode. After the loss of MS-01 on May 13th, Tom Cole, the chairman of the NRCC, issued a remarkable statement calling on Republican incumbents to brace for the worse and find individual ways to deal with the onslaught.

And Republicans have reason to fear a second November debacle. First, Republicans are now three more seats away from the majority and it is hard to find a GOP operative willing to suggest their party has any hope of reducing that margin in November. Second, the party continues to be at a significant financial disadvantage while the DCCC has a huge pile of cash that it will use in dozens of districts in the coming months, testing any Republican seat that shows any sign of being vulnerable. While the GOP was able to respond in the special elections, they will not have the money to do the same in the fall and will be forced to make some painful choices.

Third, the success of Travis Childers in MS-01 differed from those of Don Cazayoux and Bill Foster in that his opponent was not tragically flawed; in other words, the GOP had no easy excuse to explain the loss of that seat and has to face the terrifying prospect that all of its open seats are vulnerable, no matter how competitive they have appeared in previous cycles. A number of districts that opened up in the past few months and which Republicans believed would be safe bets for re-election are now finding themselves at the center of the storm, districts like NM-02, MO-09, AL-02 and OH-07. Democrats know that they will likely not have such an opportunity to snatch away heavily Republican seats in years – perhaps even decades – and they will do everything they can to make the most of every opening they have this year.

The field has shifted towards the Democratic Party, as a stunning 53 of the 88 seats that are listed in these rankings are held by Republicans. The 25 seats Democrats are defending include the 3 districts that they have just acquired and that are likely to remain in their hands in November. New York in particular is looking to be emblematic of the national catastrophe Republicans fear. Once dominant in the Empire State, the GOP has only 6 districts left today. Next year, they might only have 2. NY-25, NY-26 and NY-29 were already on everyone’s list of vulnerable Republican seats at the time of my last rankings, though the GOP’s catastrophic recruitment process in the first two of these districts has increased their predicament. And in a sign that New York Republicans are doing everything they can to seal their own doom, Vito Fossella’s arrest and subsequent retirement and the farce Staten Island Republicans are currently playing has suddenly moved NY-13 from a barely vulnerable seat to one of the Republicans’ two most vulnerable districts nationally. And to make matters worse, Republican chances in the three districts Democrats picked up in 2006 are rapidly fading, despite GOP boasting that they would have no trouble recapturing NY-19, NY-20 and NY-24 (though the first has been making some noise again over the past few weeks, see below).

I have written full descriptions of seats that have made news since mid-February. For detailed descriptions of the other races, check last month's rankings. I indicated upgraded or downgraded next to the seats that saw their ratings change to indicate whether they became more vulnerable or less vulnerable for the incumbent party. Here is the quick run-down:

  • Less vulnerable: IL-11, IN-07, IN-07, PA-06, OH-15, OH-18
  • More vulnerable: AK-AL, AL-02, ID-01, LA-04, MD-01, MO-09, NM-02, NY-13, NY-19, NY-25, NY-26, TX-22, WY-AL
  • Changed parties: IL-14, LA-06 and MS-01
  • Off the list: DE-AL, FL-10
Outlook: Democrats pick-up 14-20 seats, with a possibility of higher gains. My current prediction is a net pick-up of 17.

Continue reading the full rankings here.


  • Taniel,

    I'm also worried about losing Lampson and Mahoney. I think Mahoney has the better chance to retain his seat.

    I see the Dems picking up 20 seats in the house, and 5 seats in the senate. And one big seat in the White House.

    By Anonymous Jim W, At 06 June, 2008 16:59  

  • Jim, I think Mahoney is looking better than he did for much of last year. If he can win by big margins in the Democratic leaning Palm Beach and St. Lucie parts of the district, while losing by less than 10 points in Republican oriented Martin county(about 35% of the district's total vote), he should be fine.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 06 June, 2008 20:25  

  • Mahoney reminds me a lot of Childers, with his ability to appeal to the conservative voter. I like his chances here, and he represents the district fairly well.

    By Anonymous Jim W, At 06 June, 2008 21:19  

  • Has anyone looked at a map of Mahoney's district, FL-16? Seems to me that it may be contiguous only at low tide.

    Ron Klein's district, FL-22, is also a doozey.

    Makes me wonder how the House would look if states had nonpartisan redistricting.

    By Blogger dsimon, At 07 June, 2008 00:11  

  • dsimon, both of those districts were drawn by Republicans in 2002 to protect Republican incumbents in Dem leaning districts, especially Clay Shaw. Clay Shaw had been reelected by about 400 votes in 2000 when his district was heavily Democratic, so in 2002 Republicans redrew the district so it didnt include a heavily Jewish and Democratic part of Miami-Dade county and added less Democratic precincts inland. This made FL-22 lean Democratic rather than heavily Democratic, but it was still not enough to help Shaw.

    They helped Foley in FL-16 by moving most of Democratic Palm Beach into other districts and stretching the district to include Republican oriented Charlotte. This changed FL-16 from lean Dem to lean GOP.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 08 June, 2008 01:26  

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