President Trump's abysmal polling since the pandemic began is seriously jeopardizing down-ballot GOP fortunes. We may be approaching the point at which dozens of House Republicans will need to decide whether to cut the president loose and run on a "check and balance" message, offering voters insurance against congressional Democrats moving too far left under a potential Biden administration.
Trump now trails Joe Biden by nine points in the FiveThirtyEight average, roughly matching Democrats' average lead on the generic congressional ballot and seven points larger than his 2016 popular vote deficit. But because there are plenty of solidly blue urban districts where Trump didn't have much room to fall in the first place, his decline is especially acute in swing suburban districts with lots of college graduates.
Republicans began the cycle hoping to pick up 18 seats to win the majority back. Now they're just trying to avoid a repeat of 2008, when they not only lost the presidency but got swamped by Democrats' money and lost even more House seats after losing 30 seats and control two years earlier. For the first time this cycle, Democrats have at least as good a chance at gaining House seats as Republicans on a net basis.
This week, we're shifting our ratings in 20 races, all reflecting movement towards Democrats. View our full ratings here.
AZ-02: Ann Kirkpatrick (D) - Likely D to Solid D
CA-04: Tom McClintock (R) - Solid R to Likely R
CA-39: Gil Cisneros (D) - Lean D to Likely D
CO-06: Jason Crow (D) - Likely D to Solid D
IN-05: OPEN (Brooks) (R) - Lean R to Toss Up
KS-02: Steve Watkins (R) - Likely R to Lean R
MN-01: Jim Hagedorn (R) - Likely R to Lean R
MN-03: Dean Phillips (D) - Likely D to Solid D
NE-02: Don Bacon (R) - Lean R to Toss Up
NC-08: Richard Hudson (R) - Likely R to Lean R
NC-09: Dan Bishop (R) - Solid R to Likely R
OH-01: Steve Chabot (R) - Lean R to Toss Up
OH-12: Troy Balderson (R) - Solid R to Likely R
PA-08: Matt Cartwright (D) - Toss Up to Lean D
TX-03: Van Taylor (R) - Solid R to Likely R
TX-06: Ron Wright (R) - Solid R to Likely R
TX-21: Chip Roy (R) - Lean R to Toss Up
TX-25: Roger Williams (R) - Solid R to Likely R
VA-10: Jennifer Wexton (D) - Likely D to Solid D
WA-03: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) - Likely R to Lean R
Updated Bottom Lines:
AZ-02: Ann Kirkpatrick (D) - Southeast: Tucson, Cochise County
Solid Democrat. Kirkpatrick returned to work in February after a month in rehab for alcoholism and her top-fundraising GOP challenger, university lobbyist Shay Stautz, dropped out in April citing COVID's limitations on voter outreach. Now the GOP frontrunner may be conservative 2018 candidate Brandon Martin, but Republicans aren't about to spend in a Tucson seat President Trump lost by five points last time.
CA-04: Tom McClintock (R) - East central: Roseville, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite
Likely Republican. McClintock, long a conservative ideologue, survived by eight points in 2018. But Democrat Brynne Kennedy, founder of remote work software company Topia, has raised $1.4 million and will highlight McClintock's lone vote in the California delegation against the Families First COVID Relief Act. It would still take a big anti-GOP shift in the Sacramento suburbs, considering Trump won here by 14 points in 2016.
CA-39: Gil Cisneros (D) - Northern Orange County: Fullerton, Yorba Linda
Likely Democrat. For over a year, Republicans have touted former Assemblywoman Young Kim's rematch against Cisneros, who beat her 52 percent to 48 percent in 2018. But Trump lost this district by nine points in 2016 and the political environment in Orange County appears worse, not better, for the GOP than it was then. Cisneros, a former mega-millions jackpot winner, can also spend whatever it takes to win another term.
CO-06: Jason Crow (D) - Denver southeast suburbs: Aurora, Littleton
Solid Democrat. One of Democrats' impeachment managers, Crow ousted GOP Rep. Mike Coffman 54 percent to 43 percent in 2018. Given President Trump's abysmal standing in suburban districts (he lost here by 10 points in 2016), Coffman is no doubt glad he ran successfully for mayor of Aurora in 2019 instead of mounting a comeback for the House. Crow should easily dispatch former state GOP chair Steve House.
IN-05: OPEN (Brooks) (R) - Central: Indianapolis suburbs, Anderson
Toss Up. Democrats are touting a GBAO poll for former state Rep. Christina Hale's campaign showing Hale leading GOP state Sen. Victoria Spartz 51 percent to 45 percent and Trump trailing Biden by ten points in this suburban Indianapolis open seat. The poll was shocking considering Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016, but the district is highly college-educated and former Sen. Joe Donnelly carried it in 2018.
Spartz, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine 20 years ago and became a successful accountant, dominated the 15-way GOP primary with 40 percent by self-funding $750,000 and airing ads against socialism. But Democrats believe Hale's profile as a "lifelong Hoosier" who worked her way up as a single mom will contrast favorably with Spartz, who is backed by the Club for Growth. Republicans are increasingly concerned.
KS-02: Steve Watkins (R) - East: Topeka, Lawrence
Lean Republican. Topeka might be the site of 2020's nastiest soap opera of a House race. On Wednesday, Watkins was charged with felony voter fraud for casting a ballot in a 2019 Topeka city council race while registered to vote at a UPS Store. Watkins claims the charges are politically motivated because local DA Mike Kagay shares a consultant with his primary opponent, but this is just one of the freshman's many problems.
GOP state Treasurer Jake LaTurner is challenging Watkins in the August 4 primary and has been on air savaging Watkins over the UPS Store, owning two homes in Alaska (and none in Kansas) and for "pitching himself to Democrats as a pro-abortion candidate right before running as a Republican" in 2018. That year, Watkins beat Democrat Paul Davis by less than a point after winning a fractured GOP primary.
In truth, Watkins only won the 2018 GOP primary with 27 percent because his father, a Topeka endocrinologist, funded a Super PAC for his son despite Watkins living in Alaska and Massachusetts most of the past two decades. Now Watkins's father is under FEC investigation for making illegal "straw man" donations in 2018 and Watkins must fend for himself, accusing LaTurner of running for three offices in two years.
Two weeks out, it's hard to see Watkins as anything other than an underdog in the primary. His best hope might be that Dennis Taylor, a former state labor secretary under Gov. Sam Brownback, splits the anti-Watkins vote and allows the incumbent to hang on with a plurality. But LaTurner, who was able to carry funds over from an aborted Senate bid, has statewide name ID and the backing of the Kansas Farm Bureau.
Waiting in the wings is Democratic Topeka Mayor Michelle de la Isla, who has raised $694,000 and has EMILY's List's endorsement. Considering Trump carried the district by 18 points in 2016, she almost certainly needs to face Watkins to have a chance. If Watkins wins the primary, it could be a Toss Up. If Watkins loses, Republicans would remain strongly favored. For now, it's in our Lean Republican column.
MN-01: Jim Hagedorn (R) - South: Rochester, Mankato, Faribault
Lean Republican. Hagedorn, a freshman who announced he has stage four kidney cancer in February, says his treatment is going well. But he also faces a tough rematch against former Defense official Dan Feehan, who ended June leading Hagedorn $1.6 million to $945,000 in cash on hand after losing by less than a point in 2018. Trump carried this rural seat by 15 points in 2016, but isn't guaranteed to do as well in 2020.
MN-03: Dean Phillips (D) - Twin Cities west suburbs: Bloomington, Plymouth
Solid Democrat. Initially, Republicans were enthusiastic about Kendall Qualls, an African-American Army veteran and healthcare businessman. But President Trump lost this highly college-educated district by nine points in 2016 and is on track to lose by even more in 2020. That's likely too strong an undertow for Qualls to swim against Phillips, who ousted GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen 56 percent to 44 percent in 2018.
NE-02: Don Bacon (R) - East: Omaha and suburbs
Toss Up. In 2018, the progressive group Justice Democrats endorsed 45 candidates for House and none won, but single-payer healthcare activist Kara Eastman came closest, holding Bacon to a 51 percent to 49 percent victory. Eastman is back for a rematch with the full support of the DCCC and a new consulting team, and Democrats are touting a GQR poll for the campaign showing Eastman ahead by a point.
Bacon, a well-liked former commander of Offutt Air Force Base, may ultimately need to run as a "check" preventing Eastman and progressives going too far. According to polling by both parties, Trump is trailing Joe Biden here after carrying this Omaha district's lone Electoral vote by two points four years ago. Both counties in the district just announced they will automatically send all voters absentee ballot applications.
NC-08: Richard Hudson (R) - South central: Fayetteville, Concord
Lean Republican. Democrats are intrigued that the new map approved by courts in December united all of Fayetteville in the 8th CD and reduced President Trump's 2016 margin from 15 points to nine points. Now, Republicans acknowledge that Hudson faces a real race after Democratic former state Supreme Court Justice Pat Timmons-Goodson outraised him $845,000 to $328,000 in the second quarter.
Timmons-Goodson, the first Black woman to serve on the state's highest court, will highlight Hudson's votes to repeal the ACA and his reputation as a longtime Capitol Hill insider. But it remains to be seen how her stance in favor of renaming Fort Bragg will play or whether Hudson will attack it (read our full evaluation here). Timmons-Goodson will need a large African-American turnout, and Hudson still has the edge.
NC-09: Dan Bishop (R) - South: Charlotte suburbs, Lumberton
Likely Republican. The site of the craziest absentee ballot fraud scandal of the 21st Century and a 2019 re-vote, this district looked like it would finally get a respite in November. African-American 9th CD Democratic chair Cynthia Wallace, who has worked in the financial services industry, had just $167,000 on hand at the end of June and isn't likely to put together a top-flight campaign.
But President Trump's weak standing nationally and in North Carolina means Bishop can't take anything for granted. The court-ordered redistricting passed in December added a handful more Charlotte precincts to the district, narrowing the GOP's advantage by a point. If the 2019 do-over race had played out under these lines, it would have essentially been a tie. In this environment, even Wallace is worth watching.
OH-01: Steve Chabot (R) - Southwest corner: Cincinnati, Warren County
Toss Up. This Cincinnati district was a missed opportunity for Democrats in 2018 when Democrat Aftab Pureval's bid against Chabot went up in flames amid a campaign finance scandal. Now Chabot's former campaign treasurer is under a grand jury investigation for embezzling over $120,000 in campaign funds, and multiple Republicans are grumbling that Chabot should have retired rather than run for a 13th term.
Democratic Cincinnati health board member Kate Schroder has raised $1.4 million and may have the ideal profile to run in a pandemic (read our full evaluation here). What's more, President Trump is likely behind in this suburban seat after carrying it by six points in 2016. In 2008, Chabot lost in a wave amid high Black turnout two years after Democrats took back House control. Today, he's at risk of history repeating.
OH-12: Troy Balderson (R) - Central: Columbus north suburbs, Mansfield
Likely Republican. Democrat Danny O'Connor came within a point of winning this suburban Columbus seat in an August 2018 special election and chose not to run again in 2020. But this is the most highly college-educated district in the state, and even second-tier Democrat Alaina Shearer ($199,000 on hand), who founded a digital marketing firm, is worth watching at a time President Trump is underwater in affluent suburbs.
PA-08: Matt Cartwright (D) - Northeast: Scranton, Wilkes-Barre
Lean Democrat. In January, this Scranton district looked like a terrific GOP opportunity: Cartwright had just voted for impeachment (the 8th CD voted for President Trump by ten points), and Republicans had a promising candidate in wounded warrior and adaptive athlete Earl Granville. But Granville failed to raise money and didn't make it past the primary. And now, Trump trails Scranton native Joe Biden in Pennsylvania.
Former Trump Export/Import Bank official Jim Bognet won the primary with big margins in Trump-friendly Luzerne County, but will need to break through in Democratic Lackawanna County, where Granville ran strongest (read our full evaluation here). Republicans still hope they can "buy" the seat because the Scranton market is so cheap, but Cartwright led Bognet $2.3 million to $278,000 in cash on hand at the end of June.
TX-03: Van Taylor (R) - Dallas north suburbs: Plano
Likely Republican. This Collin County seat voted for President Trump by 14 points in 2016 (down from Mitt Romney's 30 point margin in 2012) and is the most college-educated district still held by a House Republican. Trump's collapse among college-educated whites merits keeping an eye on Democratic attorney Lulu Seikaly, a daughter of Lebanese immigrants who just won the runoff with 61 percent.
TX-06: Ron Wright (R) - Dallas suburbs: Arlington, Waxahachie
Likely Republican. Wright, a freshman and former Tarrant County tax collector, has never been accused of aggressive collecting campaign checks: he had just $105,000 on hand at the end of June. Now, Democratic attorney Stephen Daniel is running Facebook ads about opinion columns Wright wrote in the 1990s musing about bringing back public hangings. It's a long-shot, but Wright only won this suburban seat by eight points in 2018.
TX-21: Chip Roy (R) - South central: San Antonio and Austin suburbs
Toss Up. Welcome to the most expensive, polarizing brawl in Texas: Democrats view Roy, Sen. Ted Cruz's former chief of staff, as a right-wing ideologue who voted to block $19 billion in federal disaster aid in 2019 and against the first COVID emergency relief package in 2020. Meanwhile, Republicans once labeled Democrat Wendy Davis "abortion barbie" for her 2013 filibuster of pro-life legislation in the state senate.
This is a rare case where the challenger is probably better-known than the incumbent. Republicans hope voters recall Davis from her disastrous 2014 run for governor, when she ran an unabashed liberal campaign and lost by 20 points. But Davis, a former Fort Worth area state senator who moved to Austin in 2016 to be near her new grandchild, has leveraged her notoriety into outraising Roy $4.4 million to $2.6 million.
The reason Roy is vulnerable isn't that Davis is a great fit for the district; it's demographics. This fast-growing I-35 corridor district voted for Trump by ten points in 2016, but sports the third highest share of college graduates of any GOP-held seat in the nation and is moving rapidly away from Republicans. Roy prevailed by just two points in 2018 and may need to rely on the Club for Growth to help keep pace with Davis.
TX-25: Roger Williams (R) - Central: Austin and Ft. Worth suburbs
Likely Republican. Williams, a wealthy auto dealer from the Fort Worth suburbs, has held this heavily gerrymandered seat since 2012. But in 2018, high turnout at UT-Austin allowed Democratic attorney Julie Oliver to hold Williams to 54 percent. Oliver is raising more this time and will attack Williams's car dealership taking $1 million in PPP loans. However, a dearth of student votes at UT-Austin could ultimately shield Williams.
VA-10: Jennifer Wexton (D) - DC exurbs: McLean, Leesburg, Winchester
Solid Democrat. Northern Virginia is poised to be a bloodbath for Republicans: President Trump lost this wealthy district by 10 points in 2016 and is on track to lose by more this fall. Wexton, a former prosecutor and state senator, ousted GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock 56 percent to 44 percent in 2018 and should cruise to a second term over Marine veteran Aliscia Andrews, who had $111,000 on hand at the end of June.
WA-03: Jaime Herrera Beutler (R) - Southwest: Vancouver, Longview, Centralia
Lean Republican. Herrera Beutler, the lone lower-48 Republican from a district touching the Pacific Ocean, edged out Democratic law professor Carolyn Long, 53 percent to 47 percent in 2018. It helped that Herrera Beutler broke against her party's healthcare bill in 2017 and was the subject of favorable national coverage after her daughter was born without kidneys and survived the typically fatal condition in 2013.
Now, Long is seeking a rematch and believes that without other pickup opportunities in the state this cycle, her race will be Democrats' top priority. The WSU-Vancouver academic ran as a political outsider and outraised the incumbent $3.8 million to $2.9 million in 2018, and could be on track to outspend her once again. President Trump carried this suburban Portland seat 50 percent to 43 percent in 2016 but may not carry it this time.