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Comeback: The Democratic Party Can Hold the House

AOC screenshot from 2020 Democratic National Convention in 2020.
AOC screenshot from 2020 Democratic National Convention in 2020.

The Democrats were expected to hemorrhage House seats this November – that was the common understanding as recently as early summer. But midterm election orthodoxy, based on historical precedent and contemporary trends, is becoming increasingly contested. The Democrats are making headway.

As Nate Cohn, chief political correspondent for the New York Times wrote: “Republican control of the House is not a foregone conclusion.”

“No, I’m not saying Democrats are favored,” Cohn wrote. “The likeliest scenario is still that Republicans will find the five seats they need to take control. And no one should be surprised if Republicans flip a lot more than that – especially with early signs that the political winds may be starting to shift in ways that might yield some Republican gains in key races. But the idea that Democrats can hold the House is not as ridiculous, implausible or far-fetched as it seemed before the Dobbs ruling overturned Roe v. Wade. It is a real possibility – not some abstraction in the sense that anything can happen.”

Indeed, the Dobbs ruling seems to have energized the Democratic base. And conservatives, many of whom are in favor of preserving abortion rights, are not entirely thrilled with the Dobbs ruling. Case in point: Kansas, an overwhelmingly conservative state, voted to preserve their abortion rights. And Senator Lindsay Graham’s announcement that he favored a total abortion ban after 15-weeks was considered a political liability; GOP politicians called Graham “out of touch.”

According to the most recent polls, control for the House will be closely fought, perhaps district-by-district – a scenario that could break in either party’s favor, including the Democrats.

“How could this be?” Cohn asked. “It’s more straightforward than you might think. Democrats hold a narrow lead on the generic congressional ballot, a poll question asking whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans for Congress. If Republicans don’t have a robust structural advantage…then why wouldn’t the Democrats at least be competitive in the race for Congress?”

Although, while nonpartisan polling closely follows Senate races – giving the public better insight into the likely outcomes – no such nonpartisan polling apparatus exists for House races. Accordingly, the public is much more dependent on speculation and punditry to forecast outcomes in the House. But we can make some educated assumptions based on public sentiment, based on Senate polling, that can be used, with a grain of salt, to sense receptiveness to one party or the other – a sense that has minor value in the gauging House races.

“If Democrats can do what they appear to be doing in the Senate, there’s no reason to assume they couldn’t be doing something similar in the House,” Cohn wrote. “If we had as many House polls as we do in the Senate, perhaps Democrats would appear to be ahead in the race for the House as well.”

One House race demonstrates the potential for Senate-House similarities. In Ohio’s Ninth District, which voted for President Trump, Republicans nominated J.R. Majewski, a “stop-the-steal-candidate.” Majewski, it appears, has embellished his military service for the sake of political benefit, prompting Republicans to pull roughly $1 million in advertisement funding. Essentially, Majewski is a weak candidate – and “this is exactly the sort of story we see playing out in the Senate,” Cohn wrote. “Weak Republican candidates failing to capitalize on their underlying advantages, with well-funded Democratic incumbents positioned to pounce.”

Still, Republicans remain the favored party. But the bloodbath, the Democratic bloodbath, that I and others spent the summer predicting, is seeming less likely. The House races should come down to the wire and have the emerging potential to break Democrats – a remarkable upgrade in Democratic prospects since the summer.

Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.

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Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.