10 races Democrats must win to take the House

10 races Democrats must win to take the House
© Greg Nash

Democrats have renewed hope that they can put the House into play after a wave of groping allegations against GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge's order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE shook the political world over the last week.

Internal polling in the wake of the 2005 audio leak is slowly trickling in, but the party has its eyes on a handful of districts once seen far out of reach.


The odds are long to retake the chamber: To have any shot, Democrats must not only flip all of their top targets but also tap into a number of reach districts that span from Florida to California.

Complicating their quest, Democrats are struggling to lock up sure victories against vulnerable GOP incumbents offering the best pickup opportunities. A Democratic internal poll shows a dead heat for Rep. Rod Blum’s (R-Iowa.) seat, once thought an easy win. And Democrats’ main super-PAC is now running ads in key races like that in Rep. Will Hurd's (R) south Texas district, indicating that Trump's influence down-ballot has not been as harmful as Democrats had hoped.

Top nonpartisan election handicappers like Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Cook Political Report have yet to see substantial evidence of a huge wave forming, which underscores the near-impossible tas

k for Democrats to net the 30 seats needed to win back control of the lower chamber.

Here's a look at 10 races they have to take to win:

New Jersey’s 5th District: Democrats have eyed Rep. Scott GarrettErnest (Scott) Scott GarrettBiz groups take victory lap on Ex-Im Bank Export-Import Bank back to full strength after Senate confirmations Manufacturers support Reed to helm Ex-Im Bank MORE's seat since he came under fire last year for saying he wouldn't pay dues to House Republican's campaign arm because it supports gay candidates.

Mitt Romney carried the North Jersey district by 2 points in 2012, but Cook Political Reportupgraded the Congressional race to tossup earlier this month. Former Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonChanging the climate of presidential debates Davis: My advice to Joe Biden on eve of the debate — be Joe Biden Is Congress reasserting itself? MORE speechwriter Josh Gottheimer has been a stellar fundraiser and was recently endorsed by longtime Republican fundraiser Meg Whitman.

House Majority PAC has run ads opposing Garrett and touted a poll with Gottheimer up by 7 prior to the Trump tapes. Garrett, a House Freedom Caucus member, has served the district since 2003, but he faces one of his most challenging reelections to date in his suburban district that has become slightly less favorable for Republicans due to redistricting.

Florida’s 7th District: Court-ordered redistricting gave Democrats a level playing field for Rep. John Mica's seat. The first internal poll released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) since the Trump tapes has Mica trailing by 2 points, providing Democrats with evidence of Trump's down-ballot drag.

Democrats went months without a reputable challenger, but former Defense Department analyst Stephanie Murphy has given the party much better prospects in the Central Florida tossup seat. Cook Political Report upgraded Mica’s district to the tossup column late last month.

California’s 49th District: Democrats have their best chance to knock off longtime Rep. Darrell Issa.

Retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate (D) finished only 5 points behind Issa in the top-two primary, which suddenly put a spotlight on the San Diego area district. The DCCC has reserved $2.1 million in airtime and Cook Political Report upgraded the seat to tossup for the first time in Issa’s 16-year tenure.

Issa, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has a well-padded war chest in a district Romney carried by nearly 7 points, but his campaign appears to be taking his opponent seriously.

Conflicting internal polls released before the Trump tapes show the unpredictability of the race. A DCCC poll had Applegate ahead by 4 points, but Issa’s campaign touted its survey with the congressman up by 14 points.

Kansas’ 3rd District: Democrats have long signaled Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderBottom line Amanda Adkins wins GOP primary to challenge Rep. Sharice Davids Sharice Davids to vote for Trump impeachment articles: 'The facts are uncontested' MORE's seat as a district that Trump could put into play. After stepping up its recruiting efforts, Democrats landed businessman Jay Sidie who jumped into the race in May.

The DCCC touted a poll that was partially conducted right after the Trump audio leak, showing Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Government funding bill butts up against deadline | Pentagon reports eighth military COVID-19 death | Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Voters split on whether Trump, Biden will win first debate: poll New Monmouth poll finds Biden with 6-point lead MORE up by 10 and Sidie trailing by only 4 points behind Yoder. Following the poll results, the campaign arm will also start reserving airtime in the district.

Sidie still faces tough odds, however; President Obama carried the district in 2008, but redistricting has since made it more favorable for Republicans.

Colorado’s 3rd District: Rep. Mike Coffman’s district isn’t the only targeted House seat in Colorado this cycle. Democrats also hope to unseat GOP Rep. Scott Tipton as the party tries to flip a Republican district with a sizable Hispanic population.

Former Democratic state Sen. Gail Schwartz has posted strong fundraising numbers and gotten a financial boost from House Majority PAC in a district that has been carried by Republicans in the last few presidential cycles.

Republicans appear to be worried about Tipton’s fate. GOP super-PAC Congressional Leadership Fund is pouring in $1.3 million to help Tipton starting next week.

Utah’s 4th District: Rep. Mia Love, a rising GOP star and first black female Republican in Congress, has been on Democrats’ radar since the moment she narrowly defeated Democrat Doug Owens in 2014.

Love faces a rematch with Owens and early signs showed her in trouble in her deep red district. But an August poll showed her with a double-digit lead that mirrored numbers from her campaign’s polling.

But the wave of groping allegations against Trump and his unpopularity in Utah puts Love in a precarious situation. She’s one of dozens of Republicans who said they cannot vote for Trump in the hopes that distancing themselves from the top of the ticket can shield their down-ballot races.

Virginia’s 10th District: Trump also complicates the equation for Rep. Barbara Comstock in her Beltway suburban district that Obama narrowly carried in 2008 and that Romney won in 2012 by an even smaller margin. The freshman Republican has called for Trump to withdraw from the race and called on his running mate Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTrump announces plan to distribute 100M rapid COVID-19 tests to states Fears grow of chaotic election Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office MORE to replace him.

But Democrat LuAnn Bennett, the ex-wife of former Rep. Jim MoranJames (Jim) Patrick MoranLawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Star-studded cast to perform play based on Mueller report DC theatre to host 11-hour reading of the Mueller report MORE (D-Va.), is arguing that Comstock’s condemnation of Trump is too late and chalked it up to salvaging her political career. Her campaign is trumpeting an internal poll -- conducted after both the Trump tapes and new groping allegations -- with Bennett leading by 4 points.

Maine’s 2nd District: The battle for northern Maine pits GOP Rep. Bruce Poliquin against former state legislator Emily Cain (D), who lost to him in 2014. The rural district, hit hard by the Great Recession, has seen an exodus of manufacturing jobs, making Trump and his anti-trade  message an attractive prospect in the eyes of voters wary of international trade deals, including those championed by Clinton in the past.

The GOP’s campaign arm has sought to make Clinton a down-ballot liability, running ads suggesting Cain is too liberal for the district by linking her directly to the Democratic nominee. A University of New Hampshire poll conducted last month found Poliquin enjoying a comfortable 10-point lead, but internal surveys out of Cain's office show a much closer race. The latest, released last week, has Cain with a slim 46-45 percent lead.

As a sign of the stakes, money is pouring into the race, with Cain raising more than $1.1 million in the third quarter alone –– a record for the district –– though Poliquin is said to retain an overall fundraising edge.

Minnesota’s 3rd District: The question of Trump's down-ballot effect is being tried in the suburban Minneapolis district where Democrats hope to tie four-term Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) directly to Trump’s imploding campaign. His challenger, Democratic state Sen. Terri Bonoff, has said she entered the race largely due to Paulsen's reluctance to disavow Trump. And the DCCC blasted a new ad Friday highlighting the link. 

A Democratic poll conducted last month found Bonoff ahead by two points –– a result immediately dismissed by Paulsen's campaign, which has peddled its own surveys giving the incumbent the edge. Cook Political Report say the race currently "leans Republican."

Iowa’s 3rd District: Freshman Rep. David Young is another Republican incumbent wrestling with the Trump dilemma. While calling Trump's recent sex-charged comments "disgusting and indefensible," he hasn't disavowed the GOP nominee, and Democrats are attacking him for lacking "moral courage." Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer, a 30-year-old Iraq War veteran, is piling on, saying it's "too late for Young to distance himself" from the combative voice at the top of the ticket.

A Democratic poll released Friday puts the race in a dead heat. But the Cook analysts say the race "leans" in Young's favor –– an upgrade from the "toss-up" rating Young had earlier in the month.