It’s still ten months before Election Day but, now that we’ve entered “that year,” Democrats are convinced and Republicans are publicly concerned (and privately hysterical) that 2018 will not simply be a wave, but cause for Noah to build a second arc. I use the arc example because it implies that some could be shielded from large-scale waves but, for Republicans in many large delegations, that might not be the case. Allow me to explain.
Donald Trumps thirtysomething percent popularity has made him anathema to voters in many parts of the country and no more is that the case than in suburbia. If that holds through November, Republican Congressmen in many of those seats are threatened with extinction. It also means that delegations which today have moderate or healthy Republican representation may see that turned into skeletal crews.
Let’s look at past history. In wave years, it’s not uncommon for states to opt for almost one-sided representation even in states that traditionally favor the other side of the aisle. Iowa following the post-Watergate election of 1974 went from sending five Republican Congressmen to Washington to a mere one (Chuck Grassley who still serves to Washington today). Indiana, which had seven Republican Congressman at the start of ’74, was relegated to just two post-election.
Washington State in 1994 is an example of the shoe being on the other foot as an 8-1 delegation in favor of the Democrats prior to the election ended with a 7-2 Republican edge after. So profound was the anti-Democratic tide even in a state that Bill Clinton had handsomely carried two years earlier that a very big fish, House Speaker Tom Foley, was washed up ashore. More recently New York State’s Republican delegation was nearly annihilated over a three-year period. Prior to the 2006 election, nine Republicans held seats in the lower chamber. But in the elections of 2006 and ’08, Republicans lost three each, followed by another after a special election in 2009. That left only two of a 29 member delegation remaining one of whom (Pete King) could actually be at risk of losing this year. Over those two cycles, neighboring Connecticut also voted out its three GOP Representatives and has elected five Democrats ever since.
With no one disputing that Republican representation in suburbia will diminish this November (Republicans should only hope against hope that the verb doesn’t go far deeper), let’s look at which states they might find themselves wiped out.
For starters, it’s not inconceivable that New Jersey’s 7-5 Democratic edge could balloon to 11 to 1, with only Chris Smith likely to hold on in a very heavily GOP seat (the true measure of how poorly Republicans are doing nationwide might be how tepid Smith’s reelection margin be, as he could easily hang on with a mere 53% of the vote). Democrats already seem to have a certain pickup in the Atlantic-Cape May County district that Frank LoBiondo is vacating and are the most energized they’ve been since ???? about beating veteran Republicans Rodney Frelinghuysen and Leonard Lance, which tells the last time Democrats had even a snowball’s chance in areas such as that.
Not everyone in the party is sold on the competitiveness of the third district but, the Burlington-Ocean County CD is not that Republican and incumbent Tom MacArthur sent heads scratching when he not only voted for the ACA repeal but was the only New Jersey representative to back the tax package which few contend will have anything other than a deleterious impact on Garden State taxpayers. The question is how deleterious an impact it will have on MacArthur’s tenure.
Some see California Democrats as having the capability of building from their already intimidating 39-14 Democratic lead to as high as 47 to just six Republicans. That may seem like a stretch but the fact is, it does seem borderline easy to imagine Democrats reaching 45 which is indicative of how bad it it is shaping up to be. But members who sat in what even five years ago was turf laughable for Democrats to be talking about inroads – Darrell Issa, Ed Royce, Mimi Walters , Dana Rohrabacher have swung hard to the left and may be ripe for the taking. Jeff Denham and Steve Knight sit in more genuinely competitive districts. Another district worth watching is Tom McClintock in the heavily Republican Sierra but only a decade ago, the GOP victory margin was three percent and less than one percent respectively. Ironically it’s the most Democratic seat held by Republican, David Valadao which might be easiest for the GOP to hold given low turnout particularly in the midterm year.
In the Empire State, very optimistic Democrats are thinking that every one of the state’s nine Republican members are in danger of falling. That may be wishful thinking to some degree but what is hardly debatable is that every single one of the nine will have a tough race (including the once invincible King). With that in mind, the GOP membership in New York could easily be cut by 2/3. Chris Collins has the best shot at coming back but he has been making some eye-popping statements regarding his support of the president that have Democrats at least hopeful of making him fight for it. The odds of beating Staten Island’s Dan Donovan might come down to recruitment though that might take a double-tsunami. Expect races against Elise Stefanik and Tom Reed to break late. John Katko has worked hard in only two terms to solidify Democratic leaning territory but that might not be enough to blunt a Republican obliteration mood by voters. Freshman John Faso has a district with a Republican edge but it doesn’t take much for an energized Democratic base to put the party over the top with the right candidate.
Additionally, a remarkably effective Democratic gerrymander has left Illinois with an 11-7 Democratic delegation but, it is possible that three or even four seats might fall this November. Peter Roskam, who was ironically drawn a GOP “vote sink” to protect other members, may ironically be the member Democrats are most salivating at beating.
Minnesota is known as the Land of Ten-Thousand Lakes but after Election Day, it could easily go down as the land of a single Republican Congressman. Democrats currently hold a 5-3 edge in the House delegation and have been looking for just the right opportunity to sneak through in two other suburban districts – the 2nd and 3rd. They have always proven frustrating elusive. This year, however, Jason Lewis and Eric Paulsen have fights galore and both could lose (Lewis in fact barely won an open seat last year). Now Minnesota does have a rare Democratic incumbent, Rick Nolan who is prepared for a hard go but, given the fact that he survived twice in the past two cycles that were not friendly to his party (albeit by the skin of his teeth), , to quote Johnny Mathis, chances are his chances are awfully good to return when the gavel slams in January 2019. And that would make the delegation 7-1 Democratic.
The partisan make-up of the Washington State delegation is 6-4 in favor of the Democrats and the party has long sought to win the third and eighth districts, held by Jaime Herrera-Beautler and Dave Reichert respectively. Reichert has opted not to run again and the likely new GOP nominee, Dino Rossi won’t be a pushover. But neither is he a lock. Neither is a guarantee and some see the third in particular as trending away. But a more enlightening thought is beating Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers in a Spokane area district (the one Foley used to represent) that is Republican, but less so than Kansas-4 or South Carolina-5 where an energized Democratic base came relatively close to pulling upsets. The partisan lay of the land is what it is but if Democrats succeeded in wresting away all three seats, the delegation would balloon to 9-1.
Other delegations aren’t at risk of seing their GOP officeholders wither on the vine but do face the possibility of seeing their partisan representation almost reversed. Michigan now sends nine Republicans and five Democrats to Washington but there’s a chance it could completely reverse or stay at 8-6. Then there’s Pennsylvania where redistricting may loom prior to the 2018 elections. The one bright spot for Republicans as far as big state delegations go may be Ohio where one of the most aggressive gerrymanders in the nation – one that produced a 12-4 Republican edge, is not expected to change much regardless of the national mood, though there are one, two or even three seats that are not inoculated from the climate (Dave Joyce, Steve Chabot and the open Sixteenth District where they have a strong candidate).
In closing, there will be republicans remaining in Congress following 2018 but, for certain delegations, it would not surprise me to see total apocalypse.