Midwest Resurgence Makes Democrats Clear Favorites To Take House


As part of our continued handicapping of the 2018 Midterm elections, we take a look at competitive house races in the Midwest. This is a region where Barack Obama secured election twice, but swung towards Donald Trump in 2016, handing him the presidency. With Trump’s approvals dropping nationally, and in the Midwest, more than 2 dozen Republican members of Congress face challenging re-election bids and Democrats are set to gain a good chunk of the seats they need to regain control of the House from this region.

Also in this series are our initial race ratings for Senate and Gubernatorial Races and part 1 of my House ratings covering the key house races in the West Coast, Mountain West, and Plains States.  This series wraps up with part 3 of the house race ratings, covering the South and Northeast. I’ll then provide supplementary race ranking updates for all House, Senate, and Gubernatorial races at the beginning of October, 2 weeks before election day, and the week before election day.

Midwest (MN, WI, MI, OH, IN, IL, PA)
Ratings for Highlighted Seats: 16 GOP, 8 Dem, 6 Toss-Up
Current Expectation: 6-11 seat gain for Democrats

MN-01 (Lean GOP): This Rochester based seat went heavily for Trump while also voting for Democrat Tim Walz for Congress in 2016 by a narrow margin. His 2014 and 2016 opponent, businessman Jim Hagedorn is back for a third crack at this seat, this time Democrat Dan Feehan, one of the many veterans running for Congress as a Dem this year, is leading the DFL ticket. While this race should be close, even in wave years there is normally at least one House seat going the other way, and this looks like one of the rare D to R flips this cycle in the House.

MN-02 (Lean Dem): South of Minneapolis, this is one of the most competitive districts in America, and it looks to be going in favor of Democrat Angie Craig, a healthcare executive, rather than Republican Congressman Jason Lewis, a former talk show host. Lewis has significant problems appealing to women in this marginal race and given Craig almost won in 16, I’m relatively confident she will put away Lewis this time, he’s too conservative for the district and hasn’t built up a ton of goodwill.

MN-03 (Likely Dem): Republican Erik Paulsen is in deep trouble against businessman Dean Phillips, the DFL nominee. This is seat is based in the west Minneapolis suburbs and split ticket in 2016, backing Clinton and Paulsen. Paulsen is a moderate but this is a Dem leaning district and given the current cycle his odds of getting re-elected barring a scandal for Phillips are almost nil.

MN-07 (Safe Dem): This western Minnesota seat is on paper a GOP pickup opportunity, which is partially why President Trump endorsed Republican Air Force veteran David Hughes against long time Democratic Incumbent Collin Peterson. The problem for the GOP is that Peterson is very popular on his own and in the current cycle Hughes is not a strong enough candidate to make this a race. The better funded and popular Peterson will cruise to re-election.

MN-08 (Toss-Up): This Duluth and Iron Range based house seat is being vacated by Democrat Rick Nolan and has a slight GOP lean on paper right now. Republican County Commissioner Pete Stauber is taking on Democratic former State Rep Joe Radinovich in a true barn burner. The Democratic strength is in Duluth, but rural areas have turned against the party in recent years. In addition a credible third party candidate (Skip Sandman) on the ballot could take a small % of votes away from the Democratic candidate. If I had to pick today I still think Dems hold the seat given the current climate in the state, but this is another rare GOP pickup opportunity, and that’s why Stauber is better funded than Radinovich.

WI-01 (Lean GOP): Paul Ryan quit Congress but the GOP is still trying to hold onto his southern Wisconsin district and they’ve turned to Ryan’s former aide Bryan Steil to take on the labor backed Randy Bryce, one of 2018’s “celebrity” house candidates. Bryce couldn’t get himself elected to the school board or the State Senate in past years (or raise legitimate money), but with a little bit of consultant magic he became a fundraising machine against what was supposed to be Paul Ryan. His money aside, Bryce is a deeply troubled candidate and in a district that still has GOP lean, it’s unlikely he can get this race within more than 4 points.

WI-06 (Lean GOP): Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman is trying to hold off a strong challenge from Kohl family member Dan Kohl in this R+8 seat based north of Milwaukee and Madison. Kohl has outraised Grothman which gives him a real shot, but he’s the type of candidate that is only likely to win in a large wave.

WI-08 (Likely GOP): Attorney Beau Liegeois is the Democratic nominee against one-term Republican Mike Gallagher in this Green Bay based house seat. In a different cycle this R+8 seat would be in play for Democrats but Liegeois has been massively outspent by Gallagher, a marine veteran who comes out of GOP central casting, drubbing a DCCC backed candidate in 2016.

MI-01 (Likely GOP): This UP house seat is held by Republican Jack Bergman who is taking on Democrat Matt Morgan. Morgan, a progressive veteran, made the general election ballot as a write-in the primary and his campaign hasn’t really taken off since the primary. This seat is a lost opportunity for Dems it looks like, though a Michigan wave could lift Morgan into Congress.

MI-06 (Lean GOP): Physician Matt Longjohn (D) is challenging Republican Congressman Fred Upton in this southern Michigan R+4 seat based in Kalamazoo. This looks like another seat where the GOP will escape with a narrow win as Upton leads even Dem leaning polls by credible margins and has significantly more money in the bank.

MI-07 (Toss-Up): Another Southern Michigan seat that swung towards the GOP and now looks to be coming back to the center. Congressman Tim Walberg is battling Democrat Gretchen Driskell in a 2016 heavyweight rematch. Driskell is a credible Dem candidate and although this is a tough district, I’m relatively bullish on Dems standing in Michigan, which means I’d make Driskell a slight favorite right now.

MI-08 (Toss-Up): This R+4 seat features Republican Mike Bishop battling former CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin in Lansing and surrounding areas. This is another seat that has a natural GOP lean but Dem chances in Michigan make it a toss-up. Slotkin has also been a strong fundraiser which means she’ll have plenty of resources to push Bishop until the end. Dems shouldn’t back off this seat where healthcare is unsurprisingly a top issue.

MI-11 (Lean Dem): An open GOP held seat west of Detroit. Ex treasury department official Haley Stevens is battling Businesswoman Lena Epstein in an R+4 district. This is the best pickup chance for Democrats in Michigan and Stevens should benefit from easy wins in the Governor and Senate races. Plus the fact it’s open means there is no incumbent advantage.

OH-01 (Toss-Up): Republican Congressman Steve Chabot is clinging by his fingernails to this GOP leaning seat outside of Cincinnati. Hamilton County elected official Aftab Pureval is a DCCC recruit in this highly competitive district. Pureval has some personal baggage but this is the bellweather race in Ohio and if I had to pick right now I’d having him knocking off Chabot.

OH-07 (Likely GOP): This Canton based seat is relatively Republican but Congressman Bob Gibbs is facing a surprisingly stiff challenge from Navy veteran Ken Harbaugh. This is another of the many reach seats for Dems they could pick up in a wave.

OH-10 (Likely GOP): Republican Congressman Mike Turner is taking on Businesswoman Theresa Gasper (D) in this mildly competitive Dayton based house seat. Gasper doesn’t have enough resources to knock Turner off unless their is a wave, but this seat really shouldn’t be on the board at all so it’s a testament to the cycle that it is.

OH-12 (Lean GOP): This seat near Columbus that is a mix of heavily Dem Franklin counties and a lot of heavily Republican rural counties saw Republican Troy Balderson win a narrow special election against Democrat Danny O’Connor last month. The GOP avoided disaster in that special election and all indications are that Balderson will beat the well-funded O’Connor by a narrow margin once again. O’Connor still has some youth vote to wring out of the district though so he definitely has a shot of flipping this seat still.

OH-14 (Likely GOP): This seat based east of Cleveland features Republican Dave Joyce taking on well-funded attorney Betsy Rader. This is another wave seat for the GOP, if they lose it they are in serious trouble nationally as Joyce should be winning by 5-8 points on paper despite the tough challenge. Joyce is working to distance himself from Trump and conservative elements in the GOP.

OH-15 (Likely GOP): Based south of Columbus, this seat features Congressman Steve Stivers (R) against Peace Corps veteran Rick Neal (D). Stivers looks pretty safe for now but Neal could still make this a more competitive race if he pushes in the final month.

IN-02 (Likely GOP): This South Bend seat features Jackie Walorski (R) defending her seat against Democratic executive Mel Hall. Hall needed more support from national and state party groups to make this a race but if Dems do better than expected in Indiana Walorski could be sweating on election night.

IN-09 (Lean GOP): Republican Congressman Trey Hollingsworth is a flawed carpetbagger and Democratic attorney Liz Watson has put this race on the map. However a lack of national Dem support in this Southern Indiana race will probably keep it in GOP hands this cycle, a major missed opportunity for Dems.

IL-06 (Lean Dem): Democrat Sean Casten, an engineer is poised to upset Republican Congressman Peter Roskam in this western Chicago suburbs based house seat that is highly competitive on paper. This is the kind of suburban seat I see slipping away from Republicans as the election draws closer as Casten still has room to grow against an incumbent.S

IL-12 (Toss-Up): This downstate southwestern Illinois seat is one of the most competitive in the country with Republican Mike Bost taking on State Attorney Brendan Kelly (D). Kelly is rising a bit on Bost and if the trend continues this will be another pickup for Democrats. Republicans aren’t going to give up on it yet though.

IL-13 (Lean GOP): Republican Rodney Davis is trying to hold onto this R+3 downstate (southeastern IL) district against businesswoman Betsy Londrigan (D). This is a tight as a tick district where Davis will win by 4 points or less, if he does win. With the outside spending supporting Londrigan right now the GOP probably still feels they have a slight edge but this seat could easily flip.

IL-14 (Toss-Up): An R+5 seat that is west of Chicago, nurse Lauren Underwood is one of the few black women Democrats have put up in swing house districts and I give her a better shot than the experts do against Republican Randy Hultgren. This is still a GOP leaning district but it should be one of the most likely to flip in the country because of Underwood’s profile.

PA-01 (Toss-Up): This seat is the definition of a pure toss-up it’s an R+1 seat on the New Jersey border that features relatively popular GOP moderate Brian Fitzpatrick against wealthy philanthropist Scott Wallace, who is part of the famous Wallace family that produced two agriculture secretaries and a Vice President (Henry Wallace and his father). The wealthy Wallace has some personal baggage and Fitzpatrick attracted significant support from labor unions, an odd coalition partner for a Republican in most parts of the country. Despite this seat seemingly poised to flip on paper I’ll give Fitzpatrick a slight edge right now.

PA-06 (Likely Dem): This Clinton voting GOP held house seat near Philly is pretty much a certain pickup for Democrats who are running non-profit exec Chrissy Houlahan, an early DCCC recruit, against underfunded GOP attorney Greg McCauley. Houlahan may have trouble holding it in the years to come but she can pretty much prepare to serve in the next Congress at this point.

PA-07 (Likely Dem): Another seat that is pretty much a certain Dem flip. Moderate Allentown Republican Charlie Dent quit when he read the tea leaves regarding re-election, leaving the GOP try to try to defend this seat with former Olympic Gold Medalist Marty Nothstein. Community activist Susan Wild is better funded and can also prepare to serve in Congress.

PA-08 (Likely Dem): Another of the rare Dem held seats where the GOP is competing. Democrat Matt Cartwright of Scranton would be in trouble for re-election in a different cycle but venture capitalist John Chrin (R) has run into trouble in a district that supported Trump by 9% in 2016. The GOP has tried to make Cartwright work for re-election but it’s going to be too little too late.


PA-10 (Likely GOP): A potential wave pickup for Dems, this Harrisburg based seat features Congressman Scott Perry against minister George Scott. There hasn’t been a ton of IE action in this district, suggesting Perry will be re-elected, but he can’t rest easy yet.

PA-16 (Likely GOP): This western PA rust belt seat should stay red for now as Republican George Kelly faces attorney Ronald Dinicola (D). Democrats have not pushed Kelly hard and DiNicola doesn’t have enough resources to do it alone with it’s R+8 lean.

PA-17 (Safe Dem): Democrat Conor Lamb is going to “pick up” this newly drawn seat and stay in Congress as a result after winning a special election in March for a district that no longer exists. Republican Keith Rothfus could lose by 15 points or more in a seat that went for Trump. Lamb fits the district and he’s popular in this seat in the Pittsburgh region.

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