Democrat Pat Ryan’s upset victory in the NY-19 special election, along with a similarly shocking close race in heavily Republican NY-23, have resulted in other major election outlets (including Sabato’s Crystal Call and the Cook Political Report) altering their election ratings, and our ratings are no exception. As our Election Team Head Joe Szymanski has written about in the past, Upstate New York represents one of the more important areas to watch in midterms. We held off our regularly scheduled ratings changes in anticipation of these primaries, and in hindsight our decision has certainly been validated.
We have a whopping 24 ratings changes to announce today, almost all of them in the House of Representatives. However, we’re not shifting our Senate ratings just yet – and we’ll explain why.
A Democratic-friendly Shift in the House
The national climate has undeniably shifted, perhaps from a Republican wave to a so-called “ripple” or neutral environment. We regard Republicans as the unequivocal favorites to hold the House, still, but our ratings changes predominantly benefit Democrats. The vast majority of our changes here are shifting potential upset races or fringe races we considered to be on the table. Additionally, we’re moving a handful of urban or suburban-oriented Republican seats back onto the board.
Currently, we favor Republicans in 218 seats (the absolute bare-minimum for a majority) and Democrats in 193. We have 24 seats rated in the Tossup column.
- AK-AL – Safe Republican to Leans Republican
- CA-03 – Safe Republican to Likely Republican
- CA-26 – Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
- CA-41 – Likely Republican to Leans Republican
- CT-02 – Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- FL-23 – Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
- IL-06 – Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
- IL-13 – Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- MD-06 – Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- NC-01 – Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- NE-02 – Likely Republican to Leans Republican
- NJ-03 – Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
- NJ-05 – Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
- NM-03 – Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- NY-01 – Likely Republican to Leans Republican
- NY-03- Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- NY-04 – Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
- NY-17 – Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic
- NY-18 – Tossup to Leans Democratic
- NY-19 – Tossup to Leans Democratic
- PA-08 – Leans Republican to Tossup
- OR-05 – Tossup to Leans Democratic
- VA-10 – Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
- FL-04 – Likely Republican to Safe Republican
The vast majority of our changes here are shifting potential upset races or fringe races we considered to be on the table. Additionally, we’re moving a handful of urban or suburban-oriented Republican seats back onto the board.
First off, we’re moving a series of districts we eyed as potentially interesting (CA-26, FL-23, IL-06, NJ-03, NJ-05, NY-04, and VA-10) entirely off the board. These seats have strong Democratic leans, but we felt that some combination of trends (FL-23), candidate quality (VA-10), or primary performance (CA-26) meant they could be, at the very least, of some interest in November. With the national climate now substantially different – at least for the time being – we now regard these districts as being out of reach for Republicans.
We’re also moving some seats we saw as viable Republican targets back into Likely Democratic, reflecting the more difficult odds Republicans face. Seats like CT-02, MD-06, NC-01, and NM-03 all remain on the board, but we feel it would be much harder for them to flip. North Carolina’s 1st in particular stands as a stark disappointment to Republicans, who hoped rapid trends in this historically black seat would be enough to flip it, only to have a truly awful nominee in Sandy Smith emerge from the primary.
Mainly in California and New York, we’re also adjusting some of the more competitive Republican-held seats. While Republicans would remain favored in these even in a truly neutral year, it’s hard to justify keeping seats like CA-03 off the table, even with a strong candidate in Kevin Kiley. Another one to watch is NE-02 – Don Bacon remains a formidable incumbent, but this is a Democratic-leaning seat still. NY-01, a marginal Biden+0.2% seat currently held by the retiring Lee Zeldin, is another example.
Finally, we’ve moved a handful of seats out of the Tossup column – at least for now. We’ve shifted both NY-18 and NY-19 back to the Leans Democratic column, along with OR-05. These seats voted for Biden by fairly decent margins, around or above double-digits. As of right now, the climate probably isn’t enough to flip them.
One exception here is Alaska – due to an oversight on our part, we had kept this race at Safe following the death of Don Young. Due to recent developments in that race, and the likely nomination and perhaps incumbency of Sarah Palin in November, we consider this to be a race that is absolutely on the board.
In contrast to our House ratings, we’re only shifting one Gubernatorial race. While Republican Heidi Ganahl is not a bad candidate, and not considerably worse than Senate nominee Joe O’Dea, we don’t think Colorado can remain on the board here, especially with a popular Democratic incumbent in Jared Polis. Colorado is the example of a white, college-educated state Republicans struggle in nowadays; a candidate like Ganahl would have been a great fit in 2010 or 2014, but it’s a decade too late for this now.
Our remaining races remain stable. Pennsylvania remains shockingly close, but we feel Democrat Josh Shapiro still holds an advantage over the controversial Republican Doug Mastriano. In fact, candidate quality is a trend here; Republicans nominated poor candidates in the Rust Belt, but strong incumbents in similarly-competitive southern states remain well set to win re-election.
Alaska might also be an interesting state to watch, as independent and former Governor Bill Walker will likely be the top candidate against incumbent Republican Mike Dunleavy. While Walker left office with very low favorability ratings, his independent nature and the ranked-choice voting system do offer a path to victory – however narrow.
Why We’re Not Shifting the Senate
One set we’re not changing are the Senate races. While current political trends – and polling – shows stronger-than-expected Democratic performances in states like North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin, we have doubts these numbers hold up to scrutiny. JD Vance remains an exceptionally poor nominee, but to lose a state like Ohio would require such a drastic underperformance that we just don’t see it as viable. Similarly, states like North Carolina (which has only voted for federal Democrats twice this century – both times in 2008) would be expected to stay Republican even in so-called neutral cycles.
Republicans also retain candidate quality issues in both Arizona and Georgia, but it’s worth noting again – even in a neutral, R/D+0 year, these states still shift right from 2020. Finally, Pennsylvania is perhaps the most controversial hold here, but we’re already seeing polling start to contradict a slew of implausible double-digit Fetterman leads. There’s no denying that Oz has been outmaneuvered so far, but we don’t feel this race should be moved just yet.