VICE: The House Districts Where the Midterms Could Get Weird

By Robert Wheel
February 6, 2018


Presidential votes are a pretty good indicator of which House districts are going to be competitive, but there are exceptions to the rule: There are eight Republicans in Congress who sit in seats that Democrats haven’t won in the past three elections. So Democrats would be foolish to compete only in seats where they’ve won a presidential campaign in the past three cycles. They won’t win in many places carried by John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Donald Trump, but every seat helps—and Democrats could have real shots to take seats that are either held by freshman Republicans or are open due to retirements or resignations. So today we’ll look at contests in normally Republican seats that could still prove competitive because there’s no or little incumbency advantage.

South Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District (Metrolina)

2016: Clinton 39–Trump 57
2012: Obama 44–Romney 55
2008: Obama 44–McCain 55

Republicans will win most of the districts I’m listing today. They might win some by a lot. But one district we know a Democrat can win is the Fifth. That’s because in a special election earlier this year Archie Parnell lost very narrowly to Ralph Norman, 51-48. And Norman only won because he ran up good margins in the Charlotte suburbs, an area where Republican strength is eroding. So if Trump’s approval rating continues to dive, then it stands to reason that Parnell can actually win here in November.

The caveat is that Democrats are outperforming their historic baselines in every special election because their base is so much more motivated. It stands to reason that the midterm election will draw out reliable Republican voters who may not be engaged enough to vote in special elections but already have the regularly scheduled ones marked on their calendars. And it’s true special elections can have fluky results. But we’re at the point where we’re only listing districts where Democrats can win, not where they will win or are favored to win. And it’s hard to look at Parnell’s performance in the special and conclude that he can’t win.

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