2020 US Election Preview: Democrats Set to Expand House Majority

Joe Cunningham 2020

In 2018 the battle for control of the US House was a titanic contest, with Democrats gaining over 40 seats to take control of the chamber for the first time since the 2010 cycle. Republicans began this new cycle in a Presidential year expressing optimism about their chances, they recruited a credible slate of candidates and began pushing back against the new Democratic House agenda, using the unpopular Nancy Pelosi, and the left wing “squad” as their main targets. The problem is Pelosi hasn’t proved to be as unpopular as Donald Trump in key house battlegrounds across the country, and as the President’s chances of re-election have faded, along with his standing in suburban and diverse districts, Republican fortunes have taken a turn for the worse, and now Democrats are set to either break even or make modest gains in the House with a focus on healthcare and COVID-19 response. The generic Congressional ballot continues to favor the Democrats, and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is set to face a serious challenge of his leadership after the election. Though the house isn’t as high profile this year, both parties still have plenty at stake in districts across the country. Here’s your preview region by region and seat by seat. Seats projected to flip in terms of party control are bolded and italicized.

The overall picture is that Democrats are set to gain even more seats. In 2018 the House finished 235-199, Democrats should gain 8 seats and finish 243-192 in a quiet year, R’s efforts to gain ground didn’t materialize.

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West Coast (AK, CA, OR, WA)

AK-AL (Lean R)

Republican Congressman Don Young is an institution, in order to return to Congress he’ll need to defeat Democrat Alyse Galvin for the second time in a row. Young remains popular enough to win the state’s lone congressional seat in all likelihood, with Democrats holding faint hope for a sweep of the State’s Senate and House Seat. Galvin has better name ID this time around, but Biden would need to overperform for this seat (and state) to flip from red to blue.

CA-01 and 04 (Likely R)

Republican Doug LaMalfa will be re-elected, but with Trump sinking in California, the margin will be interesting. Same story as above for Republican Tom McClintock in a geographically large district in northern CA.

CA-21 (Tilt D)

Democrats flipped this seat in 2018 with T.J. Cox, Republican David Valadao is back for a rematch trying to win his old seat back. This was one of the closest races in the nation in 2018, Trump is not particularly popular here, but Republicans have made modest improvements with Latino voters and Cox has had some personal scandal issues. If Trump wasn’t on the ballot, Valadao would almost certainly flip this seat back, but as it stands Cox should hold on while trailing Biden’s lead.

CA-22 (Likely R)

Trump defender, Republican Devin Nunes was a top target for Democrats in 2018, the seat hasn’t seen near as much action this time around, but Nunes margin was half of Trump’s 2016 margin two years ago, Democrat Phil Arballo holds out hope if Biden can win the state of California by a massive margin. With all that said, Nunes probably hangs on, if he doesn’t the election has been a catastrophe for the GOP.

CA-25 (Tilt R)

A district Joe Biden is set to win but Republicans may still survive in, Democrat Christy Smith has been a disappointing nominee for the party in a seat they flipped in 2018, but lost in a special election after Rep. Katie Hill had to resign and Republican Mike Garcia is a star for the party. If they had dozens of candidates like Garcia, they would have a real chance to retake the house. The military veteran Garcia looks to be one of the few Republicans to survive the fact Trump is headed for a massive suburban defeat nationwide. This is still a tough race to call however.

CA-39 (Likely D)

Gil Cisneros (D) takes on Young Kim (R) in a 2018 rematch, Cisneros won by a small margin based on late counted mail ballots, and Kim never really stopped campaigning. She’s a credible candidate for Republicans, but “The OC” is going to back Biden by a large margin, and the lottery winner Cisneros should edge out a win again.

CA-48 (Lean D)

Republicans recruited a credible candidate in Michelle Steele, but Democrat Harley Rouda likely improves on his narrow 2018 margin of victory with Biden’s numbers leading the way in this Clinton 2016 district. Steele is also proving to be too socially conservative for the district.

CA-50 (Likely R)

Republican Darrell Issa is back, while Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar is running once again after coming up just short in 2018. The formerly progressive Campa-Najjar is running as a conservative Democrat this time around but this district is still probably too Republican to vote for anyone but Issa.

OR-04 (Likely D)

Democrat Peter DeFazio is facing a surprisingly credible challenge against Republican Alek Skarlatos, Skarlatos helped stop a terror attack on a French train and has pivoted his hero status into a political campaign in southwestern Oregon. Trump almost won this district in 2016, and Skarlatos is a strong candidate, but Trump’s numbers are going to decline from 2016, and Skarlatos should come up just short, even if he can cut the margin for DeFazio to single digits.

WA-03 (Lean R)

A great night for D’s would see Carolyn Long upsetting Jamie Herrera Beutler in southwest Washington, Long has been pushing her viability, but Beutler remains the favorite after winning by 5 in 2018.

WA-08 (Likely D)

Democrat Kim Schrier is a comfortable favorite against Republican Jesse Jensen after winning by 5 in 2018.

Mountain West (NV, UT, AZ, MT, CO, NM)

NV-03 and 04 (Likely D)

With Biden winning Nevada, Democrats Susie Lee and Steven Horsford will be comfortably re-elected.

UT-04 (Tilt D)

Democrat Ben McAdams narrowly won this seat in 2018 and now former NFL player Burgess Owens is working to win it back for Republicans. McAdams has maintained a moderate voting profile that fits this Salt Lake City based district and Trump’s weakness with LDS voters is not a help for Owens. Owens has proven to be a bit too conservative for the district.

AZ-01 (Likely D)

Democrat Tom O’Halleran has exceeded the party line for a while in a rural district that Trump won in 2016. Though he’s been targeted by Republicans this year, Democrats improving fortunes in Arizona make him the clear favorite to stay in office.

AZ-06 (Tilt D)

Going bold with the prediction here, Republican David Schweikert has had ethics issues, and Democrats have invested big in physician Hiral Tipirneni (who ran a credible race in 2018). This is a suburban Phoenix seat that has seen action at all levels from President now to local races, and Democrats are clearly the party with momentum here. With Mark Kelly and Biden set to win Arizona, Tipirneni should be able to pull an upset.

MT-AL (Tilt R)

In Montana’s revolving door of statewide seats, Republican Matt Rosendale (who lost the 2018 Senate race to Jon Tester) takes on Democrat Kathleen Williams,who lost this seat in 2018. Williams is a good candidate, but with this state set to narrowly back Republicans including Trump, Rosendale has the narrow advantage.

CO-03 (Tilt D)

Republicans had a self-inflicted error in this Western Colorado seat, nominating Q Anon supporter and extreme right winger Lauren Boebert over incumbent Congressman Scott Tipton. Democrat Diane Bush is back again after losing to Tipton in 2018, and she’s gotten plenty of national backup as Dems sense a real opportunity here. Boebert, a restaurant owner, faced allegations of food poisoning, and bad press like that lingers, especially if Trump and Cory Gardner are sinking in Colorado.

NM-02 (Tilt R)

A bright spot for Republicans, Xochitl Torres Small pulled an upset flipping this seat to Democrats in 2018, she’s pursued a moderate record but Yvette Herrell has received a ton of national support from Republicans, and their modest improvements in New Mexico and with Latino voters should help. Compared to some states, Trump has not declined by much (if at all) in New Mexico, and for now I’ll predict R’s narrowly move this seat back into their column after hammering Torres Small for being “too far left”.

Midwest (NE, KS, IA, MO)

NE-02 (Tilt R)

Republican Don Bacon narrowly won in 2018, and this long competitive seat in Omaha is competitive again, including at the top of the ticket where an electoral vote is up for grabs. While Joe Biden is a slight favorite here, Bacon has pursued a moderate image, including receiving endorsements from a handful of local Democrats (including former Congressman Brad Ashford), while Democrat Kara Eastman, who lost in 2018, identifies as being from the progressive wing of the party, something that many pundits view as a disadvantage. This seat is a key test for “the left”, including the Medicare for All Movement, given Bacon won in 2018, I still have him as a slight favorite with crossover voting.

KS-02 (Likely R)

Republican Jake LaTurner beat scandal plagued Republican incumbent Steve Watkins in the primary, and now he’s the favorite against Michelle De La Isla. A big night for Kansas Democrats including Senate candidate Barbara Bollier could push De La Isla over the line, but LaTurner should be a normal enough Republican to get the win.

IA-01, 02, 03 (Lean D)

Iowa’s three congressional seats are likely to retain Democratic members of Congress unless Trump can win the state by a decent margin. In Iowa-03 Cindy Axne looks set to defeat former Congressman David Young, Rita Hart should replace Democrat Dave Loebsack in IA-02, and young standout Abby Finkenauer is the favorite against former news anchor Ashley Hinson. Hinson was a top Republican recruit at the start of the cycle, but a plagiarism scandal damaged her campaign.

MO-02 (Tilt D)

Republicans margin fell 6 points from 2016 to 2018 in this seat, and now Congresswoman Ann Wagner is one of the most endangered Republican incumbents. Wagner faces a strong opponent in Democrat Jill Schupp and Biden is set to win this suburban St. Louis based seat. Wagner wasn’t expected to be in this much trouble, but it looks like she will be going down in defeat after losing the support of formerly Republican voters who are angry with Trump.

Great Lakes (MN, WI, IL, MI, IN, OH)

MN-01 (Tilt R)

This is a 2018 rematch that likely hinges on the Biden-Trump margin in a swing state, Democrat Dan Feehan is back against Republican Jim Hagedorn, Hagedorn barely won in 2018, and remains a narrow favorite.

MN-02 (Likely D)

Democrat Angie Craig flipped this suburban seat in 2018 and looks set to expand her margin 2 years later.

MN-07 (Tilt R)

Is this the end of the line for legendary Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson? Republican Michelle Fischbach is a tier 1 recruit for the party in a seat that Trump won big in 2016 and will almost certainly win again. The Blue Dog Peterson has defied gravity before and will still get a lot of crossover voting this time around, but Fischbach has the clearer path to victory now and it looks like the end of the era for another Blue Dog.

MN-08 (Likely R)

Republican Pete Stauber flipped this seat in 2018 and Trump is set to win it by enough to keep him in office for another term.

WI-03 (Likely D)

Democrat Ron Kind is a top target for Republicans given Trump won this district in 2016, but Democratic margins have improved markedly in Wisconsin and Biden is set to win Kind’s district (and the state). That should lock out any chance for R’s to flip this seat right now, especially given Kind should run ahead of Biden.

IL-06 and 14 (Likely D)

Two seat flippers in 2018, Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood are set to secure a second term against middling competition. Casten faces Jeanne Ives who is too conservative for her district and Underwood takes on perennial candidate and dairy magnate Jim Oberweis in a Chicagoland seat where dems have made major gains.

IL-13 (Tilt R)

If the floor falls out for Trump, Republican Rodney Davis will be in trouble once again after a close win in 2018 against Betsy Londrigan but he retains a narrow advantage right now.

IL-17 (Lean D)

Republicans have made a late push to try to upset DCCC leader Cheri Bustos in this downstate Illinois seat that was Trump curious in 2016. Bustos normally has high crossover support but some recent polling has suggested Esther King is within striking distance. If Biden wins the election, Bustos will retain her position, but she would still rather not be under pressure.

MI-03 (Tilt D)

Democrat Hillary Scholten has surged against Republican Peter Meijer of the Meijer retail fortune in a seat that is being vacated by Republican turned Libertarian Trump critic Justin Amash. This district will lose national visibility no matter the winner, but declining fortunes for Republicans in Michigan have put Dems in the position to pick up this seat, which was not a tier 1 target early on in the cycle.

MI-06 (Lean R)

Republican Fred Upton clings to a modest lead against Democrat Jon Hoadley, Hoadley is viable, but Democrats would need to run up the score in Michigan to flip this seat even if it’s trending left.

MI-08 and 11 (Likely D)

Both Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens are set to be returned to Congress despite significant Republican efforts to prevent that. These were Trump->Democrat seats in 2018 and Michigan looks good for the party right now.

IN-05 (Tilt D)

Republican Susan Brooks retired when facing a tough re-election in this suburban Indianapolis seat. In her place Republicans are running Eastern European immigrant Victoria Spartz, while Democrats nominated Christina Hale, a popular local state Rep. Trump and Brooks were comfortably winning this district the past couple of cycles, but it has the formula that Democrats like in terms of growth opportunity with high education and a suburban mindset. Spartz lacks the relationships and visibility of Brooks, and Hale looks to be a strong enough candidate to get over the line.

OH-01 (Tilt R)

If Trump loses Ohio, he’s probably going to take Congressman Steve Chabot with him, Democrat Kate Schroder has had late momentum in this suburban seat but I’ll still go with Chabot by narrow margins.

OH-10 (Likely R)

Desiree Tims was a top recruit for Democrats but this seat was R+14 in 2018 in favor of Michael Turner and it would take a catastrophe for Republicans for him to lose.

OH-12 (Lean R)

This district was close in a recent special election and then then regular midterm contest, Troy Balderson won it twice though and still has an advantage once more.

South (TX, OK, AR, KY, GA, FL, SC, NC, VA)

TX-02 (Likely R)

Republican Dan Crenshaw is one of the most well known members of Congress, what isn’t so well known is that he’s facing a serious challenge from Sima Ladjevardian. A blue wave in Texas would endanger his seat but for now he should be able to hang on.

TX-03 (Tilt R)

Republican Van Taylor is hanging on to one of the most well educated districts in America against Lulu Seikaly, this seat was safe pretty recently, but Democrats put it on the target list because of Trump’s significant decline in this part of Texas, Taylor should barely hang on, but an upset wouldn’t be a surprise.

TX-06 (Lean R)

One of many seats that comes into play if there’s a “blue Texas”, Republican Ron Wright is still the favorite for now after winning by 8 in 2018.

TX-07 (Likely D)

Wesley Hunt is a great Republican candidate running in the wrong year, Lizzie Fletcher will be re-elected in a seat that flipped in 2018.

TX-10 (Lean R)

Democrat Mike Siegel is back after a close loss in 2018, Republican Mike McCall should be able to survive again though.

TX-21 (Tilt R)

A heavyweight matchup, Democratic celebrity Wendy Davis is taking on frontline Republican Chip Roy after Roy saw his margin sink to a narrow win in 2018. Biden has a great shot at winning this district, perhaps he’s even the favorite, Roy will need some degree of crossover vote to hang on.

TX-22 (Tilt R)

Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni is back against Republican Sheriff Troy Nehls in what will once again be a close race. I expect Kulkarni to gain ground but still come up just short as Nehl’s seems to be a popular lawman in the community.

TX-23 (Tilt D)

Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones lost a nailbiting race in 2018, incumbent Will Hurd retired, and though the new Republican Tony Gonzalez is a credible candidate, this South Texas seat is advantage Biden, and advantage Democrats for now.

TX-24 (Tilt D)

An open seat, Candance Valenzuela, the Democrat, is a compelling candidate for the party, and in a seat that’s shifting away from Trump. it looks like Republican Beth Duyne is getting the short end of the stick.

TX-25 (Lean R)

A blue wave would see Democrat Julie Oliver upset Roger Williams, but for now that is out of frame.

TX-31 (Likely R)

John Carter faced a shockingly close race in 2018, but the Republican has the same or better odds of winning again in 2020.

TX-32 (Likely D)

Democrat Colin Allred will be returning for his second term.

OK-05 (Tilt R)

Kendra Horn wasn’t supposed to win in 2018, she was the biggest surprise packet for Democrats in the last election, and accordingly a top target for Republicans this year. Biden will do well in Oklahoma City, but Republican Stephanie Bice is a strong enough candidate to just edge the moderate Horn, though it really could go either way.

AR-02 (Tilt R)

Democrats have repeatedly tried to oust Republican French Hill in this Little Rock based seat and come up short, Democrat Joyce Elliot is a great candidate who has every chance, but Trump should narrowly hold on to a district he won by 11 points 4 years ago, Hill is in the same position.

KY-06 (Tilt D)

Going with an upset here, Democrat Josh Hicks has not had as much party support as many of the other frontline Democrats have, but he’s a much better candidate than Amy McGrath, and Andy Barr won by just 4 points in a district that Andy Beshear won big in 2019. Kentucky doesn’t like voting for federal Democrats, but Trump has eroded some in the Bluegrass state, and Barr is entirely dependent on the moderate Hicks being seen as “too liberal” to win. Though there are better targets for Democrats objectively, this seems like one of those rare races we get every cycle where there’s an upset from the collective opinion.

GA-06 (Likely D)

Karen Handel is running again, Karen Handel will be losing again as this formerly safe Republican district is going to return Democrat Lucy McBath to Congress by a healthy margin.

GA-07 (Lean D)

This was the closest race in the nation in 2018, it won’t be that close again. Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux came back, and this time she’s facing medical doctor and veteran Rich McCormick. McCormick is a conservative Trump supporter in a diverse suburban district where Trump’s standing has fallen like a rock. The swing to the left should continue in the Atlanta suburbs, Democrats will win this seat without a sweat.

FL-15 (Lean R)

A bad night for Trump in Florida would see this seat flip from red to blue, however Republicans replaced the scandal plagued Ross Spano with Scott Franklin, and Democrat Alan Cohn is a b list nominee. This seat’s Republican lean should be enough to keep it red for the second cycle in a row.

FL-16 (Likely R)

Democrat Margaret Good had a strong political track record of moderation and crossover support when she announced a run against experienced Republican lawmaker Vern Buchanan, Buchanan has a solid base of support though, and Democrats never fully believed Good could pull off a huge swing and flip this seat. One of the oldest districts in the nation (by age demographic), Buchanan should earn another term, fending off his second straight credible challenge.

FL-18 (Likely R)

Both Republican Brian Mast and Democrat Pam Keith should spend less time on the internet, their history of colorful online comments haven’t helped, but this is a Republican leaning seat and Keith is not a tier 1 candidate. Mast’s profile hasn’t improved but he should hang on.

FL-26 (Leans D)

Republican Carlos Gimenez was a good recruit for Republicans, but unless Republicans can truly make big gains among the state’s Latin American population in South Florida, Democrat Debbie Murcasel-Powell is a slight favorite to stay in office. This district is not particularly favorable to Trump.

FL-27 (Likely D)

This is a 2018 rematch, with Biden in a good position in Florida, underwhelming Democrat Donna Shalala should beat Republican Maria Salazar again in South Florida.

SC-01 (Lean D)

Joe Cunningham won a tight contest to flip this Charleston based seat in 2018, the moderate Democrat is facing a strong challenge from Republican Nancy Mace, but Trump’s declining fortunes in the suburbs have damaged her chances of returning this seat to Republican representation. Cunningham has done enough to get re-elected and should ride the wave here.

SC-02 (Likely R)

If Jamie Harrison wins the South Carolina Senate race, he’ll need to perform well in Republican Joe Wilson’s South Carolina 2, Wilson, the “you lie” Congressman is facing Democrat Adair Boroughs in a very speculative race. Given this was a double digit win for Republicans in 2018, it would be a shock to see anything but a reduced margin of victory.

NC-08 (Tilt R)

In a seat Trump won by 9 in the last election, Republican Richard Hudson is facing a spirited challenge from Patricia Timmons-Goodson, Hudson should hang on, only because Trump and Republicans seem to have closed the gap a little statewide in North Carolina.

NC-09 (Lean R)

Republican Dan Bishop narrowly won a special election in a district that was forced to hold a new election because of absentee ballot fraud. Bishop is still vulnerable, even if this race is lower profile now, but I still have him as the favorite against Democrat Cynthia Wallace.

NC-11 (Lean R)

Both of the candidates for Mark Meadows open seat are terrible, Republican Madison Cawthorn was briefly a rising star for the party before he faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Democrat Moe Davis is an internet troll. Somehow this Republican seat is competitive, Cawthorn has the edge because of party loyalties.

VA-01 (Likely R)

Republican Robert Wittman won this coastal VA district by 10 in 2018, unless the floor collapses on Trump he should be re-elected.

VA-02 (Likely D)

Republican Scott Taylor came back for a rematch against the Democrat who defeated him in 2018, Elaine Luria. Luria is in an even better position than that election though and should keep this seat blue because of Trump’s unpopularity.

VA-05 (Tilt R)

Democrats are hopeful about the chances of physician Cameron Webb to upset the very conservative Bob Good in a huge district in Virginia. Good is an awful candidate, and that’s why this seat is in play, but if Trump can carry it, he should take Good with him despite Webb’s efforts at crossover appeal.

VA-07 (Lean D)

Republicans thought Democrat Abigail Spanberger would be a one termer after she upset Dave Brat by 2% in 2018, Nick Freitas is a credible Republican candidate, but this district has only gotten worse for Trump and R chances have faded.

Northeast (PA, NJ, NY, NH, ME)

PA-01 (Lean R)

Republican Brian Fitzpatrick is both one of the last moderate R’s left in Congress, and to hold a Clinton district. Christina Finello was not a top recruit for Democrats but she’s seen a surge of support late as the state has become critical in the Presidential contest. Fitzpatrick should have enough crossover support to hang on, even if Biden wins this seat.

PA-07 and 17 (Likely D)

Both Susan Wild and Conor Lamb should be returning to Congress after flipping seats in 2018. They have strong personal brands, and Trump’s personal hatred of Lamb is probably helping his re-election chances.

PA-08 (Likely D)

Republicans were hopeful that Matt Cartwright, a Democrat in a 2016 Trump seat, could be picked off this cycle, but Biden has made gains from 2016 in this state and Cartwright is in good shape personally, he should secure another term.

PA-10 (Tilt D)

Republican Scott Perry is in a newly moderate district but he’s a proud member of the Tea Party and the conservative movement. That setups Eugene Depasquale, the state auditor, to edge out Perry as a moderate Democrat for a moderate district that Biden has made gains in.

PA-16 (Likely R)

Republican Mike Kelly will return to congress unless Republicans collapse in the Keystone state.

NJ-02 (Tilt D)

Jeff Van Drew flipped this seat for Democrats in 2018, and then switched parties, despite a relatively liberal voting record he decided to ally himself with Trump, thinking it would help his re-election. As Trump has sunk in terms of support, he’s found himself locked in a difficult battle with Democrat Amy Kennedy. Democrats will be eager to get their revenge for Van Drew’s double dealing ways and they should get it.

NJ-03 (Likely D)

Andy Kim had a tough fight to flip this seat in 2018 but the Democrat is a heavy favorite for re-election now.

NJ-07 (Lean D)

Republican Tom Kean was a great recruit for the party but it’s just not looking like a good year for R’s, Tom Malinowski should retain his seat.

NY-01 (Lean R)

Republican Lee Zeldin saw his margin cut in half from 16->18, but losing this seat would still be quite the embarrassment for R’s. Democrat Nancy Goroff should come up just short.

NY-02 (Lean D)

With Republican stalwart Peter King retiring, Republicans were forced to find a new candidate (Andrew Garbarino), while Democrats nominated Jackie Gordon, a veteran. Trump did reasonably well in this district in 2016 but King’s not on the ballot and his fortunes have declined, setting up Gordon to flip the seat.

NY-11 (Tilt R)

Democrat Max Rose is loud and proud about being a New Yorker, he’s gained a big national profile and rejects the party orthodoxy on a number of issues. This centrist approach is necessary in a district that Trump seems resilient in, Republican Nicole Malliotakis has run a quieter campaign than Rose, but Republicans are confident that will be one of the few bright spots on their Congressional map, as Rose national profile arguably isn’t helping him.

NY-19 (Likely D)

Republicans thought they could beat freshman Democrat Antonio Delgado early in the cycle, but Delgado has proven to be a strong incumbent and they seem to have given up hopes of beating Delgado long ago.

NY-22 (Lean D)

Anthony Brindisi is sitting in a district that should be favorable to Trump, but this upstate area appears to be swinging hard back to Democrats, making Brindisi the favorite against Claudia Tenney.

NY-24 (Tilt R)

John Katko’s strong personal brand is probably just enough to get him past Democrat Dana Balter in what will be a close race.

NH-01 (Likely D)

Republican Matt Mowers is an interesting candidate, but other than the Governor’s race, Democrats are doing well in New Hampshire and Chris Pappas should keep his job.

ME-02 (Likely D)

Democrat Jared Golden is going to get a ton of crossover vote and should exceed Joe Biden’s support in this rural working class district. Republican Dale Crafts has turned out to be a disappointing candidate for R’s.

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