Emmer

House Republicans Defy the Polls, Narrow Democrats' Majority

David Wasserman
November 4, 2020

District-level polling has rarely led us — or the parties and groups investing in House races — so astray. Prior to Tuesday, most Republican strategists were privately resigned to the prospect of a double-digit loss of seats. At this writing, Republicans may be on track to pick up between five and ten seats in the House, ironically about where our expectations started this cycle — but certainly not where they ended.

The suburban anti-Trump revolt that took 2018 by storm didn't extend to 2020. Most Republican incumbents in white-collar suburbs didn't just survive, they thrived — running well ahead of President Trump down-ballot. It may have helped that unlike 2018, when those voters' only opportunity to express displeasure with Trump was in congressional races, they were able to split their tickets this year.

Republicans appear to have swept at least 18 of the 27 races in our Toss Up column, with Democrats leading precariously in only three of those races and another six up in the air. Republicans also appear to have won at least four of the races in our Lean Democratic column (FL-26, SC-01, TX-23 and TX-24) and even one race in our Likely Democratic column, where Miami Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala (FL-27) went down to defeat.

Meanwhile, beyond two North Carolina seats that Democrats were guaranteed to pick up because of redrawn district lines, Democrats appear to have only picked up one other GOP seat with Carolyn Bourdeaux in GA-07. This Gwinnett County seat also performed strongly for Biden. There's also a chance Democrat Hiral Tipirneni will defeat GOP Rep. David Schweikert in AZ-06, but there are plenty of Arizona votes left to count.

There will be a lot for everyone to unpack in the days, weeks, and months ahead about what much of the survey data got wrong at multiple levels. But credit should be given to the NRCC, led by chair Tom Emmer and executive director Parker Hamilton Poling, as well as the Congressional Leadership Fund led by executive director Dan Conston, for continuing to invest on offense when other consultants wrote races off.

The day after the election is always a fog of war, but there are three lessons from the early House results:

1. Democrats suffered a catastrophic erosion in Hispanic support. 

The races where Republicans most vastly outperformed everyone's priors were heavily Hispanic districts that swung enormously to Trump. These include both GOP pickups in Miami (Carlos Gimenez in FL-26 and Maria Elvira Salazar in FL-27) as well as Republican Tony Gonzales's hold of Rep. Will Hurd's open TX-23. Amazingly, Republicans didn't lose a single seat in Texas.

2. It was a stellar night for Republican women. 

We already knew before the election five more GOP women were coming to the House from safe red seats: Kat Cammack (FL-03), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), Mary Miller (IL-15), Lisa McClain (MI-10) and Diana Harshbarger (TN-01). But after last night, Republicans are on track to more than double their current count of 13 women. 

Among last night's GOP winners were Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27), Victoria Spartz (IN-05), Ashley Hinson (IA-01), Michelle Fischbach (MN-07), Yvette Herrell (NM-02), Stephanie Bice (OK-05), Nancy Mace (SC-01) and Beth Van Duyne (TX-24). It's also possible they will be joined by Young Kim (CA-39), Michelle Park Steel (CA-48), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (MN-02), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11) and Claudia Tenney (NY-22).

3. Democrats' "national security freshmen" found ways to survive an otherwise poor night for their party in the House. 

Although Democrats' challengers mostly fizzled, the four Democratic women from Trump districts who signed a letter last September launching an impeachment inquiry built bipartisan brands that paid off: Reps. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Elaine Luria (VA-02) and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07).

We'll have much more to say soon, but for now it's clear that House Republicans' centerpiece of female recruitment was a success, while House Democrats' centerpiece of Texas was a bust. And, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will need to navigate a much narrower majority in January.

Photo: Tom Emmer, AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn