Dems target small cluster of states in battle for House

Dems target small cluster of states in battle for House
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The Democratic Party’s chances of recapturing the House of Representatives are increasingly centered on a relatively small number of states where an outsized number of battleground districts will decide who wields the Speaker’s gavel for the next two years.
 
Three weeks before Election Day, both parties and their supportive outside groups are spending tens of millions of dollars on clusters of House districts in states like Pennsylvania, where eight districts are in play, and California, where at least seven districts are competitive.
 
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Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have four competitive races each.
 
Democrats need to reclaim 23 seats to win control of the House of Representatives. Republican strategists concede that as many as a dozen seats they hold in states like Iowa, Arizona and Colorado are already likely to fall to Democrats.
 
That means Democrats would have to win fewer than half the 34 Republican-held swing seats in those seven cluster states in order to win back control of the House.
 
 
Most of the cluster states have so many competitive districts in part because of the types of voters who see their ballots as a chance to put a check on President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE’s agenda.
 
That has been a common theme in recent midterm elections, strategists said.
 
“In 2018, people are showing up to vote against Trump and his brand. In 2006, they were showing up to vote against [George W.] Bush, and in 2010, they were voting against [Barack] Obama,” said Mark Nevins, a Pennsylvania-based Democratic strategist.
 
“That’s the root of these wave elections, is something for people to be against.”
 
The California seats in play are all districts that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck The Memo: All eyes on faltering Biden ahead of first debate Trump says he's not prepared to lose in 2020 MORE either won or came close to winning, in the Los Angeles area and the Central Valley.
 
Open seats being vacated by Reps. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaThe Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Darrell Issa eyes return to Congress Trump's 2020 campaign strategy is to be above the law MORE (R) and Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade MORE (R), as well as seats held by vulnerable incumbents Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-GOP Rep. Denham heads to lobbying firm Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections MORE (R), Mimi Walters (R) and Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz Former GOP Rep. Rohrabacher joins board of cannabis company MORE (R), are all near the top of Democratic target lists.
 
In Illinois, New Jersey and Virginia, the seats about which Democrats are most excited are all in suburban areas.
 
 
“There’s not a lot of connective tissue, until you get to the suburbs,” said Guy Harrison, a GOP strategist who ran the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2010.
 
Pennsylvania is a different story. The state Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that the congressional district lines were unconstitutional, and its newly drawn district lines have scrambled the Commonwealth’s political calculus, handing Democrats a chance to make big gains in the Philadelphia suburbs and exurbs.
 
Democrats will almost certainly give back a seat in exurban Pittsburgh, but the incumbent in that district, Rep. Conor Lamb (D), is favored over Rep. Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Trump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 Pennsylvania New Members 2019 MORE (R) in a neighboring district.
 
Several of those states also benefit Democrats because of top-of-the-ticket races that are uncompetitive. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) trails his Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker (D) by a wide margin.
 
 
“Some of these districts, we’re actually having a problem not because of Trump, but it’s because of these governor’s races,” Harrison said.
 
The top-of-the-ticket factor is a big concern for Republicans in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is sailing toward reelection against little-funded Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (R).
 
House Democrats are targeting four Republican incumbents in Upstate New York, all of whom would likely be safer if the Republican gubernatorial contender were more competitive.
 
The concentration of so many swing districts in so few states is different from the last two wave elections, when Democrats won back the House in 2006 and when Republicans reclaimed control in 2010.
 
Twelve years ago, Democrats stormed to a majority by winning seats in 18 states across the country. Their biggest gains came in Pennsylvania, where they gained four seats, and in Indiana and New York, where they netted three Republican-held seats.
 
In the first midterm of Obama’s presidency, Republicans picked up a whopping 63 House seats across a much broader swath of states than that which Democrats are competing for today.
 
The GOP’s biggest gains came in Florida, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all states in which the party won at least four seats.
 
The different maps where Democrats and Republicans found success in the past — and in which Democrats need to succeed this year — are a reflection of the political realignment taking place within the United States over the last several decades.
 
In 2006, Democrats captured a large number of suburban and exurban districts, as well as rural seats in the increasingly liberal Northeast. In 2010, a huge number of rural Democrats lost their districts to Republicans.
 
Now, the suburban seats in play reflect voters who didn’t cast ballots for President Trump considering taking out their anger on the rest of his party.
 
While Trump ran up vote tallies in rural areas that are largely not in play this year, he lagged behind even Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Democratic challenger leads Tillis by 1 point in North Carolina poll The Memo: Can Trump run as an outsider? MORE in suburban and urban areas that are now the heart of the House battleground.
 
“You’re looking at the states that tend to have a lot of congressional districts and larger populations, and therefore more opportunities to pick up seats,” Nevins said. “You fish where the fish are.”