2018 House Overview: Early Warning Signs?

by Nathan L. Gonzales November 10, 2017 · 2:30 PM EST

Democrats haven’t struggled to recruit candidates, but this week’s results in Virginia should encourage any wavering House challengers to get off the sidelines. Even so, it remains unclear whether Tuesday’s sweeping victories portend a national electoral wave next year. 

Two gubernatorial wins and unexpected gains in the House of Delegates gave Democrats some high-profile wins, but didn’t prove that the party is poised to capture Trump country. Hillary Clinton carried both Virginia and New Jersey, as well as nearly all the seats captured in the Virginia House. 

Virginia showed that partisan maps are not immune to external political factors, and Democrats clearly boosted turnout in the suburbs. Still, to gain the 24 seats they need for a majority, Democrats need to expand their list of House takeovers beyond Clinton districts. 

Inspired by President Donald Trump, Democrats already had a bumper crop of candidates. A record number of Democratic challengers (145) have raised more than $100,000 at this point in the cycle, according to Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute. Because some of these candidates are in primaries in the same district, 73 GOP incumbents face at least one Democratic challenger who has raised that much.

Fundraising is important for challengers not only to introduce themselves and explain why voters should fire their Member of Congress, but also because there is so little overlap with the Senate battleground. More than 70 percent of the competitive House races will take place in a state without a competitive Senate race, putting more burden on the candidates and the DCCC to fund a get-out-the-vote program. 

President Trump’s job approval rating nationally is mediocre and Democrats are showing considerable strength on the national generic ballot. But it is a district-by-district fight for the House, and the President is not uniformly loved or hated around the country. 

Democrats are poised to gain seats, but the most likely outcome ranges from a modest gain in the teens to a more dramatic political wave.