2020 House Overview: The Bernie Factor

By Jacob Rubashkin & Nathan L. Gonzales

The House majority wasn’t regarded as in play, unless Democrats were to nominate Bernie Sanders for president. Now that the Vermont senator is a legitimate frontrunner, his impact from the top of the ticket on Democratic control of the House should be taken seriously. 

The conventional wisdom is that Sanders’ socialist policies will make re-election far more difficult for the 30 Democrats sitting in districts Donald Trump won in 2016. But a district by district analysis reveals a more complicated situation.

Sanders’ path to victory is to recreate the ‘Blue Wall’ that crumbled in 2016, winning back Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, where his strident economic populism could resonate. The senator is more of a threat to Trump’s re-election than Republicans want to admit.

With Sanders at the top of the ticket, Republicans may be hard-pressed to win back House seats they lost in the Rust Belt, especially given their candidate recruitment problems. Without winning handfuls of seats in those three states and Minnesota, the path to the House majority narrows toward improbability.

That’s not to say Sanders won’t be a liability for Democrats elsewhere. He might remind suburbanites who voted Democratic in 2018 why they voted Republican for a generation previously, or hurt candidates in Southern and rural districts. But the Democratic incumbents who feel squeezed the most by a Sanders nomination are the toughest to dislodge. While…

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