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GOP May Not Manage to Lose the House

April 11, 2024
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Conventional wisdom is that Republicans will lose the U.S. House this fall. That may be right.

Republicans captured a 222-213 majority in 2022, then took 15 ballots to elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker in January. Nine months later, eight Republicans joined 208 Democrats to oust him. Three weeks of chaos followed as 14 hopefuls jockeyed for the office. Republicans finally elected a virtually unknown, four-term Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson.

Republicans have some things going for them. Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R., La.) says they passed significant legislation to “confront rising crime, unleash American energy, lower costs for families, secure President Biden’s wide-open border, combat executive overreach and burdensome agency rules, and refocus our military on its core mission of national security.” But the Democratic Senate ignored most of these bills, and their value as GOP talking points gets lost in the circus Republicans have created. 

It became easier for journalists to cover the latest antics of Rep. Matt Gaetz(R., Fla.) or to highlight demands from Rep. Chip Roy (R., Texas) that his Republican colleagues give him “one thing” to “campaign on” than to report on the substance of GOP measures. Now Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.) has paused her crusade to stop the Rothschilds from setting fires in California using “space solar generators” so she can concentrate on removing Mr. Johnson from office if he allows a Ukrainian aid vote. Republicans look even nuttier. 

Yet the conventional wisdom that Republicans will lose the House may be wrong. 

One reason is retirements. Much has been made of how many Republicans are leaving, including talented members such as Wisconsin’s Mike Gallagher, North Carolina’s Patrick McHenry and Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers. But more Democrats (24) than Republicans (19) have announced their retirements. Moreover, all the Republican retirements are in overwhelmingly red districts. The only open GOP seat considered competitive—the Cook Political Report calls it “lean Republican”—is Colorado’s Third District. Cook’s partisan vote index—which estimates a district’s leaning relative to the country based on the two most recent presidential elections—labels it an R+7 seat. 

Retiring Democrats represent more-competitive seats. Cook rates the open Michigan Seventh and Eighth districts as “toss-ups.” They are R+2 and R+1 respectively. Cook classifies the California 47th (D+3) and Virginia Seventh (D+1) as “lean Democrat.” The Maryland Sixth and New Hampshire Second (both D+2) are “likely Democrat.”

The Cook Report says there are 193 “solid Republican” seats and only 173 “solid Democratic” ones. There are 22 toss-up seats, half of which are currently represented by members of each party. But Cook rates more Democrat-held seats at risk today than Republican ones: There are 12 “lean” and 16 “likely” Democratic seats, for a total of 28. By contrast, there are eight Republican “lean” and nine “likely” seats, for a total of 17—although Republican seats in Alabama and Louisiana may turn Democratic due to redistricting. 

Republicans will also benefit from improved candidate recruitment this year. The GOP has fielded better candidates in two Ohio districts—which Mr. Trump carried in 2020—than it did in the 2022 election, when Democrats won both seats. Recent Republican redistricting successes have also helped. In New York, GOP legal efforts forced Democrats to minimize legislative changes to the state’s congressional map. The redistricting put only one Republican seat at marginally greater risk while strengthening others. The newly liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a Democratic attempt to put two GOP districts at risk. The Republican-dominated North Carolina Legislature approved a new 2024 map that’s likely to add three GOP seats.

Read More at the WSJ

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