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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, December 25, 2020

House Elections


In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional elections as well as the presidential race.   Our next book, title TBA, discusses the 2020 results.

David Wasserman at Cook Political Report:

In 2018, Democrats ran up the score by recruiting political outsiders, especially women with national security backgrounds, to challenge GOP "insiders." And, they won. Meanwhile, of the 29 House Republican freshmen from 2018, only one wasn't a man and only one wasn't white. But Republicans turned the tables in 2020, and it worked.

Of the 13 Republicans who flipped Democratic-held seats in 2020, all were women and/or minorities. Three are of Cuban ancestry, two were born in South Korea and one was born in Ukraine — allowing them to personalize an anti-socialism message. It helped that these candidates didn't look like Trump or GOP leaders, and many (though not all) sounded quite different from Trump too.

All cycle, the NRCC, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21) worked local trenches to clear fields for these recruits and, if necessary, help them get through tough primaries. In the end, women and minorities helped Republicans win six districts Trump failed to carry. 

Wasserman at Cook:

26. Democrats would likely have lost their House majority in 2020 had it not been for lawsuits that overturned GOP-drawn congressional maps prior to 2016 (Florida and Virginia), 2018 (Pennsylvania) and 2020 (North Carolina). The new, court-ordered maps gave Democrats approximately ten more seats than they would have won under the old lines — roughly double Democrats' new House edge.

27. According to FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich, there have only been three federal elections in the last century decided by less than 20 votes. This year alone, there may be two such races: Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was certified as the winner in Iowa's 2nd CD by six votes, and Republican Claudia Tenney currently holds a lead of 11 votes in New York's 22nd CD.

28. There will be at most 17 congressional districts that split their tickets between the presidential and congressional ballots, the fewest in the past century (there were 35 such districts in 2016 and 83 in 2008).

29. The biggest overperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Democrat was by Rep. Collin Peterson (MN-07), who lost by only 13.6 points despite Biden losing his district by 29.4 points. The biggest overperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Republican was by Rep. John Curtis (UT-03), who won by 41.9 points while Trump won his district by just 25.1 points.

30. The biggest underperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Democrat was by Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), who won by 38.5 points as Biden won the district by 55 points. The biggest underperformance of the top of the ticket by a House Republican was by Rep. Jim Hagedorn (MN-01), who won by 3.1 points as Trump carried the district by 10.1 points.

Greg Giroux at Bloomberg Government:

Kim and Steel will be the only Republican women in the California delegation and are two of the first three Korean-American women ever elected to Congress. They targeted their districts’ large Asian-American constituencies — mostly Chinese, Korean, and Filipino in the 39th, and largely Vietnamese in the 48th.

“Even in a polarized political climate, good candidates with a strong message can win anywhere,” said Sam Oh, vice president of the Republican digital firm Targeted Victory, who was general consultant to the Steel and Kim campaigns. “Michelle Steel and Young Kim are dynamic candidates with deep roots in their communities and with proven records of getting things done and being bipartisan.”