A Republican wave in the House is still quite possible


The race for control of the US Senate has dominated news coverage of the midterms. That is not surprising. The polls are plentiful, the personalities are plentiful, and we know pretty well which party wins the majority of the races.

However, it is the race for the US House that may be the most interesting. Our CNN/SSRS poll showed a 3-point increase for Democrats in the overall vote in Congress last week, within the margin of error and close to the average of recent polls, which have shown the parties evenly matched. For reference, Republicans were ahead in the general vote in the last two terms of a Democratic president (2010 and 2014).

If the current tie in the generic vote holds in the House vote, control of the chamber would be a toss-up. In fact, several people, including myself, have highlighted the possibility of House Democrats retaining their majority.

But few nonpartisan analysts think that’s likely. Most recognize that Republicans are in a good position to take back the House in this election.

However, I would argue that we are understating the potential for a big Republican night. And the potential for a GOP implosion is everywhere we look at the week that was in politics.

Six months ago, a landslide GOP victory in the House seemed the most likely possibility. Republicans were doing better in the general vote in Congress than at any time in non-election history. Since then, a combination of events, including the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. The repeal against Wade is said to have tipped the balance in favor of the Democrats.

A look at some non-polling data and fundamentals, however, suggests that we shouldn’t lose sight of the possibility of a big Republican victory next month.

Let’s start with the House race ratings. Places like The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections assign district races based on a variety of factors, including how those districts have voted in the past and internal polling data.

I collected all the latest House ratings data I could from Cook since 2000, specifically the number of races that were rated as “throw” or “leaning” in favor of one party before the election. These ratings have generally done an accurate job of telling the story of the House elections.

When a party has more races in these two nominations, it tends to do poorly. Right now, Democrats hold 23 more seats in the toss or lean category than Republicans, per Cook. Additionally, there are four Democratic seats that are “likely” to flip to the GOP.

Given the small but fairly consistent trend of Republicans slightly overshooting the race’s ratings since 2000, next month would be a net GOP gain of 26 seats. That would put the Republicans at about 239 seats in total.

Even without accounting for past Republican overperformance, ratings for the current race would have Republicans netting a net gain of 17 seats, for a total of 230.

This is consistent with what Amy Walter, publisher of The Cook Political Report, pointed out in a recent analysis: One side tends to pick up the majority of down-ballot races. And that side has been the side that is not in the White House, in the mandates up to 2006.

Given the relatively high base going into the election, it would not be a “wave” for the Republicans to gain 230 House seats, 230 seats would be the same number that the Republicans won after the historic 1994 election. It ended 50 years of uninterrupted Democratic control of the House.

Speaking of that 1994 election, President Joe Biden’s average approval rating (43%) heading into this midterm is lower than Bill Clinton’s (45%) heading into his 1994 term. In fact, Biden’s approval rating is largely consistent (43% average) with that of recent presidents.

Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump averaged between 43% and 45% approval ratings at this point in their first term. Their parties had net losses of between 40 and 63 seats in the House. The opposition party won between 230 and 242 seats.

That’s what race ratings suggest is the most likely slate of House seats Republicans will hold after this election. (Of recent presidents, only George W. Bush had a higher average approval rating, at 62%, as his party picked up seats in the House in 2002.)

Yes, other factors, most notably the overall vote, indicate that House Democrats will do better.

But as I pointed out last week, the overall vote is far from a perfect predictor. If the generic vote results hold up in the election and House Republicans carry as much as they did in 2020, it’s very likely that the House will end up somewhere between 230 and 242 seats.

Electoral models from FiveThirtyEight and Jack Kersting, based on a host of variables, give Republicans a one-third chance of finishing with at least 230 seats. That’s still better than a model’s chance of Democrats holding the House.

Speaking of Democrats in trouble, one of the last places you’d expect them to be in trouble would be Oregon. It’s a state Biden won by 16 points in 2020.

So why was the president in state on Friday and Saturday? Because it’s a rare blue state where Republicans have a good chance of winning the governorship, as well as some US House seats.

There are many reasons why Christine Drazan is the first Republican elected governor of Oregon in 40 years.

In particular, independent-turned-Democrat Betsy Johnson appears to be chipping away at Democratic candidate Tina Kotek’s votes. While Johnson doesn’t draw from Kotek alone, his voters identify more as Democrats than Republicans.

Johnson’s presence means Drazan only needs 40% of the vote to win, nowhere near a majority.

But Oregon’s tight gubernatorial race isn’t just about Johnson. Kote is seeking to replace Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who is term-limited. Brown is one of the few governors in the nation to be affected by homelessness and the rising cost of living.

Kote, himself, has been painted as too liberal.

Drazan, on the other hand, has managed to avoid one of the biggest charges imposed on other Republicans running for governor in blue states this year. He is firmly in the field of believing that Biden legitimately won the 2020 election.

This makes it difficult to paint Drazan too extreme.

Republicans are also looking for success in the Oregon vote. Pollsters agree that the 5th Congressional District race is pretty competitive. Biden would have won the seat by 9 points under the post-redistricting lines, but the GOP’s chances increased significantly after Kurt Schrader was defeated by a more liberal challenger in the Democratic primary.

Analysts are more divided on Oregon’s 4th District and the newly created 6th District. But almost everyone agrees that the former is at least in play and that the latter can easily be won by the Republicans.

If Republicans, as expected, hold on to the rural 2nd District and win one of the three competitive districts, it would be the first time in nearly 30 years that two House seats have been filled in Oregon. If they win two of those seats and the 2nd District, it would be the first time in nearly 50 years that they hold at least half of Oregon’s House seats.

The bottom line: Republicans nationally are only five seats away from regaining the House majority, and more than half of those seats could be won in Oregon.

Monday (the weekday closest to October 16) is Principal’s Day. I know the stereotype is that people hate their bosses. They even made a pretty funny movie about it.

The data shows something different, however. Gallup has been polling people’s opinions of leaders since 1999, and most people give bosses an A-OK.

In 2021, for example, 63% of Americans said they were completely satisfied with their current boss. That was tied (with 2020) for the highest percentage since 1999. This was significantly higher than the 47% who said they were completely satisfied in 1999.

Add in Americans who were somewhat satisfied with their boss (25%), and nearly 90% of Americans were satisfied. Only 2% of Americans were completely satisfied with their boss.

The thing is, I like my bosses. (Yes, I’m that disgusting.)

The use of solar energy is increasing: The percentage of Americans who say they have installed solar energy panels at home is up to 8%. That’s more than doubled from 4% in 2016 and 6% in 2019, according to the Pew Research Center.

Covid-19 vaccination rates stabilize in nursing homes: An analysis of government data by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the percentage of nursing home residents and staff who received the vaccine or received a booster has remained essentially the same for several months. 87% of residents and 88% of staff have received a primary series, and 74% of residents and 51% of staff have received at least one boost.

Layoffs in the news drop: Only 11% of major newspapers had layoffs in 2021. Pew estimates that this was down from 33% in 2020 and 24% in 2019. Among native digital outlets, 3% had layoffs in 2021. In 2020 it dropped from 18% and in 2019.