By Jim Ellis
May 9, 2017 — Much is being made about the vulnerability of certain Republican representatives after the healthcare legislation passed the House last Thursday. From Democratic members heckling various Republicans on the floor in serenading them with the “hey, hey, hey, goodbye” song, to liberal commentators predicting their political deaths, most of the Republican members sitting in what are viewed to be the most vulnerable districts still held the party position.
The main focus is the group of 23 GOP members representing districts that Hillary Clinton carried last November. In those seats, 14 of the 23 voted in favor of the leadership’s healthcare bill. Most of the controversy surrounds the pre-existing condition provisions and changes that would be made to Medicaid funding.
But, how truly vulnerable are these particular 14 individuals? It is important to remember that Democrats would have to retain all 194 of their current seats, and then convert another 24 Republican districts in order to gain a mere one-seat House majority in the 2018 election. Therefore, even if they were to convert all 14 of the seats currently in the political spotlight, the task would barely be half completed.
Seven of these 14 incumbents are serving at least their fifth term (Rep. Erik Paulsen-R-MN) all the way to 15 (Rep. Dana Rohrabacher-R-CA). In 2016, the group of healthcare “yes” votes averaged a cumulative 56.4 percent re-election percentage even though Clinton carried each of their districts. Finally, based upon the district characteristics, including the Clinton percentage, and the quality of opponents currently assembling as challengers, it appears only one group member, California Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), can even be considered as being in a toss-up situation. The remaining 13 are favored with either Likely or Lean Republican forecasts right now.
Additionally, as we have seen in several other situations, Democratic activists are rushing into congressional contests, thus overloading the candidate field. The effect for these races will be to push the eventual winner far to the left in order to claim the nomination, and then be in an extremists’ position to begin a general election against what is an entrenched incumbent in most of these cases.
In half of the 14 budding campaigns, Democrats already have between three and seven candidates announcing and attempting to build campaign organizations. Assuming some of the candidates are capable of commanding enough resources and support to compete, the leftward lunge will be present, and that should help the Republican incumbent gravitate toward, and dominate, the central ground.
On the other extreme, two of the projected vulnerable incumbents, Reps. David Valadao (R-CA) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), don’t even have an announced opponent.
It is highly unlikely the final healthcare bill, if even one does finally emerge, will look much like the bill the House passed last week, so the early hyping of these 14 members will likely matter little once the campaigns begin in earnest. Still, the 2018 campaigns will undoubtedly be fluid, so monitoring races such as these throughout the election cycle does have merit.
Below are the names of the 14 isolated members, along with their 2016 win percentage and their average vote data for the length of their congressional tenure:
AZ-2: Martha McSally (Tucson)
(57.0%; 53.5% over two terms; three announced opponents)
CA-10: Jeff Denham (Turlock/Modesto)
(51.7%; 53.5% over three terms; five announced opponents)
CA-21: David Valadao (Hanford/Bakersfield)
(56.7%; 57.0% over three terms; zero announced opponents)
CA-25: Steve Knight (Palmdale/Simi Valley)
(53.1%; 53.2% over two terms; two announced opponents)
CA-39: Ed Royce (Fullerton)
(57.2%; 63.6% over 13 terms; one announced opponent)
CA-45: Mimi Walters (Irvine)
(58.6%; 61.8% over two terms; five announced opponents)
CA-48: Dana Rohrabacher (Costa Mesa)
(58.3%; 60.1% over 15 terms; four announced opponents)
CA-49: Darrell Issa (Vista; Carlsbad; Del Mar)
(50.3%; 61.6% over nine terms; two announced opponents)
FL-26: Carlos Curbelo (Miami)
(52.9%; 52.2% over two terms; zero announced opponents)
IL-6: Peter Roskam (Wheaton; western Chicago suburbs)
(59.2%; 59.7% over six terms; six announced opponents)
KS-3: Kevin Yoder (Overland Park/Kansas City)
(51.3%; 59.5% over four terms; one announced opponent)
MN-3: Erik Paulsen (Eden Prairie; western Minneapolis suburbs)
(56.7%; 56.8% over five terms; one announced opponent)
TX-7: John Culberson (Houston)
(56.2%; 67.1% over nine terms; six announced opponents)
TX-32: Pete Sessions (Dallas)
(71.1%; 59.3% over 11 terms; seven announced opponents)