Republicans need a net gain of just five seats to take control of the House of Representatives, putting them on enviable terrain given that in the 22 midterm elections from 1934 to 2018, the president’s party has averaged a loss of 28 House seats.
Few prognosticators give Democrats a chance to hold on to their current razor-thin 220-212 advantage, much less expand on it.
But how big any Republican majority might be is still uncertain. Estimates suggest they could gain a majority ranging from a handful of seats over the threshold for control to more than 30.
The harbingers of Democratic doom.
Virginia might be the canary in the coal mine with its early results. Representative Elaine Luria, a Democrat, saw her district redrawn to favor Republicans. If she loses, it will not be much of a signal. If she wins, Democrats can feel confident.
But Representative Abigail Spanberger’s district became more Democratic through redistricting, and yet she is in a brutal fight for re-election. If she loses, Republican gains might exceed 20 seats.
The real bellwether is one that was not on anyone’s list until recently, the seat of Representative Jennifer Wexton, a Democrat representing the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. If she loses, the red wave is real.
Looking beyond the Old Dominion, watch New England. In New Hampshire, Karoline Leavitt, a 25-year-old former press aide in the White House of Donald J. Trump, has run an unapologetically Trumpian campaign. If she defeats Representative Chris Pappas, she would represent a Gen Z nightmare for the Democrats.
In Connecticut, Representative Jahana Hayes could be toppled by a Black Republican, Georgia Logan, signaling a remarkable wave of Republican House members of color. And in Rhode Island, polling suggests that Allan Fung, an Asian American, could well plant a Republican flag in a deep blue state.
But could Democrats stand their ground?
The signs that the vaunted red wave will be more of a ripple could come on the early side. But if Democratic incumbents in Republican districts, such as Jared Golden of Maine, Tom Malinowski of New Jersey and Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, survive, they will show the staying power of the president’s party. In Northeast Ohio, if Emilia Sykes can hold on to a redrawn district, it would further ease Democratic concerns.
Better yet for Democrats, if the veteran Republican Steve Chabot loses his redrawn Cincinnati district to a Democratic city councilman, Greg Landsman, Democrats will have actually drawn blood.
A far-right problem for Republican leadership?
Democrats have warned over and over that the far right of the G.O.P. presents a clear and present danger to American democracy. But in their quest to maintain control of the House, Democrats cheered on — and in some cases financed — outlandish candidates, convinced they could defeat them in November.
November is here, and that risky bet is looking riskier than ever. In North Carolina, watch the open seat in the state’s northeast, where Sandy Smith, who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is hoping to take the seat of the retiring Democratic representative G.K. Butterfield.
In Western Michigan, the House Democrats’ official campaign arm helped a former Trump administration official who has peddled conspiracy theories, John Gibbs, defeat Representative Peter Meijer in the Republican primary. Democrats still think they can take the seat around Grand Rapids, but polling suggests it will be close.
And in Northwest Ohio, the Democratic representative Marcy Kaptur is hoping to become the longest-serving female member of Congress, breaking Barbara Mikulski’s combined House and Senate record. But to do it, she will have to defeat J.R. Majewski, who has dabbled in QAnon conspiracies, was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, and has made violent imagery a mainstay of his campaign.
The final results will take a long time.
It is likely, even probable, that control of Congress will be determined on election night, possibly at a reasonable hour. But learning how big the majority will be will have to wait for West Coast returns, which come in slowly and late. A nonpartisan redistricting commission in California, coupled with the shifting winds of the national political environment, has put nine seats on the battlefield, five of them pure tossups. Four of those contested California seats are held by Republicans, offering Democrats the rare chance to recoup some early-evening losses.
Those are the bright spots for the party. In Nevada, all three of the Democrats’ seats are at risk. Democrats could lose two seats in Arizona. And in once bright-blue Oregon, three Democratic seats are teetering, with yet another tossup in the suburbs of Seattle in adjacent Washington State.