Democrats Play Offense

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 1, 2017 — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), in a memo from Executive Director Dan Sena, on Tuesday released their first 2018 target list of who they believe are the vulnerable Republican US House members. A total of 59 districts occupy the list; some that make sense, while others are long shots to say the least.

Included are eight freshmen members: representatives Brian Mast (FL-18), Jason Lewis (MN-2), Ted Budd (NC-13), Don Bacon (NE-2), John Faso (NY-19), Claudia Tenney (NY-22), Lloyd Smucker (PA-16), and Scott Taylor (VA-2). The freshman targets’ win percentages span from a low of 43.7 percent (Tenney) to a high 61.3 percent (Taylor), with an average of 51.9 percent among the eight.

Within the entire group of 59 targets, only five failed to reach majority support in their districts: representatives Tenney (43.7 percent), Lewis (46.9 percent), Will Hurd (TX-23; 48.3 percent), Martha Roby (AL-2; 48.8 percent), and Bacon (48.9 percent).

In the 59 Republican CDs, Hillary Clinton’s performance was better than former President Obama’s 2012 showing in 23 of them, her best Republican district being Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s South Florida FL-27, where the 2016 Democratic nominee garnered 58.6 percent. Sophomore Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s neighboring 26th District was her second-best seat. Here, Clinton tallied 56.7 percent of the vote.

When comparing Clinton’s top 10 Republican districts to Mr. Obama’s 2012 top 10 only four CDs repeat. Those are the aforementioned FL-26 and 27, along with CA-21 (Rep. David Valadao; Clinton: 55.2 percent), and CO-6 (Rep. Mike Coffman; Clinton: 50.2 percent).

In addition to FL-27, FL-26, CA-21, and CO-6, Clinton broke the 50 percent barrier in the following GOP targeted districts: VA-10 (Rep. Barbara Comstock; 52.2 percent), CA-39 (Rep. Ed Royce; 51.5 percent), MN-3 (Rep. Erik Paulsen; 50.8 percent), CA-49 (Rep. Darrell Issa; 50.7 percent), CA-25 (Rep. Steve Knight; 50.3 percent), and IL-6 (Rep. Peter Roskam; 50.2 percent).

Interestingly, former President Obama’s top two Republican districts don’t even make the top 10 for Hillary Clinton. In 2012, Obama hit the 57 percent mark in Rep. John Katko’s NY-24, while IA-1 (Rep. Rod Blum) turned in a 56.2 percent tally.

The other top Obama Republican districts where Clinton dropped well below his benchmark were ME-2 (Rep. Bruce Poliquin; 52.9 percent Obama; 41.1 percent Clinton), NY-19 (Rep. John Faso; 52.1 percent Obama; 43.7 percent Clinton), NJ-3 (Rep. Tom MacArthur; 51.8 percent Obama, 45.2 percent Clinton), and NJ-2 (Rep. Frank LoBiondo; 53.5 percent Obama; 46.0 percent Clinton). Therefore, the trends in these districts suggest that the members here should be regarded as longer shot targets in 2018.

The Democrats’ reasoning for some of the choices pertain to the out-party routinely performing better in a new president’s first mid-term election. Their optimism may be somewhat tempered, however, when remembering how well Republicans have performed in the lower turnout mid-term election cycles. The poor mid-term showing, heretofore, may not be quite as bad for the GOP in 2018 because they successfully broke their recently poor presidential election turnout result.

Certainly, the most susceptible targets are the members who failed to reach the 50 percent plateau in their own races and won only in the five-point range or less. This latter group is comprised of just four representatives, however: Bacon (48.9 percent win percentage; 1.2 percent win margin), Hurd (48.3 percent; 1.3 percent win margin), Lewis (46.9 percent; 1.7 percent win margin), and Tenney (43.7% percent; 5.1 percent win margin).

Among the longest of shots are those who won by more than 20 points and topped 60 percent of the vote, including Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (TX-32; 71.1 percent; win margin 52.1 percent), though Hillary Clinton did carry the district.

Also comprising this group are representatives Bob Gibbs (OH-7; 64.0 percent win percentage; 35 percent win margin), Chris Collins (NY-27; 62.3 percent; 31.9 percent win margin), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25; 62.4 percent; 24.8 percent win margin), Jamie Herrera Beutler (WA-3; 61.7 percent; 23.5 percent win margin), Scott Taylor (VA-2; 61.3 percent; 22.8 percent win margin), Andy Barr (KY-6; 61.1 percent; 22.2 percent win margin), and Dave Reichert (WA-8; 60.2 percent; 20.4 percent win margin). Each of these members begins the next election cycle in very strong political position.

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