Last week’s special election in New York’s 19th district was one of multiple data points that forced Split Ticket to reevaluate its perception of Republican momentum going into November. To read a detailed analysis regarding signs of a possible Democratic rebound along with some prescient caveats for the fall, check out our previous piece.
Split Ticket is shifting 45 House ratings toward the Democrats in an effort to issue a better forecast based on recently-adjusted priors. Although the sheer number of changes might seem large to certain readers, no single shift is earth-shattering. In fact, none of our new ratings give Democrats the edge in races that the Republicans had previously been favored to win, or vice versa.
Almost all of these alterations, for example, fall into two categories: LEANS to LIKELY D and LIKELY to SAFE D. Both groupings describe districts that Democrats were already favored to win under assumptions of a strongly-Republican environment that the party would expect to carry by even larger margins under more neutral conditions.
Take GA-02 (LEANS to LIKELY D) and CA-26 (LIKELY to SAFE D) as examples of these two classifications.
The first, Georgia’s 2nd, is a plurality-black seat (Biden +10) located in the Peach State’s southwestern corner. This territory has long been represented by Sanford Bishop, a moderate Democrat who has generated enough white crossover support to survive tough races in the past.
If the national environment ends up being less Republican than was previously thought, Bishop should have an easier time posting a comfortable victory in the fall. Another factor that could work in the incumbent’s favor is the NRCC’s lack of interest in the seat after its Young Gun, Jeremy Hunt, lost his primary runoff to Chris West in June.
The second, California’s 26th, is a coastal seat (Biden +20) encompassing Ventura County communities like Oxnard and the Simi Valley. Back when Republican fortunes looked rosier, Split Ticket actually considered this district, along with Virginia’s 10th, a potential reach seat for the GOP.
Republicans still perform better down ballot in both districts, but it is difficult to see either being competitive in the fall when they were barely on the board in the first place. That said, attorney Matt Jacobs has proven to be an A-tier recruit against Democratic incumbent Julia Brownley in the 26th. Had this district existed in 2014, he could very have won.
Minor shifts also fell into the SAFE to LIKLEY R and LIKELY to LEANS R columns. Essentially inversions of the discussed Democratic categories, these groups include contests in which Republicans remain favored to win, albeit by smaller margins than previously expected.
A cogent addition to this bloc is New Jersey’s 7th (Biden +3.6), a marginal seat that encompasses some of the Garden State’s most affluent and well-educated suburbs. While the redrawn seat is much redder than the one that GOP nominee Tom Kean Jr. nearly won in 2020, it lost much of its down ballot Republican lean by exchanging blue towns like Montgomery and Millburn for portions of Warren and Sussex counties out west.
Kean is still favored to win in the fall, and is expected to engender some traditional ticket splitting, but he is highly-unlikely to carry the new 7th by double-digits (>10 points) as 2021 gubernatorial nominee Jack Ciattarelli did in a non-federal race that occurred amid a much more Republican national environment. Put simply, Malinowski is not even close to being dead on arrival even though he is still considered an underdog.
The most beneficial changes for Democrats, at least on paper, occurred in races which moved from LEANS R to TOSSUP and TOSSUP to LEANS D. Only cautious, single-category alterations were made here to ensure that races can be reasonably shuffled in the future should environmental benchmarks improve for Republicans, a fair expectation in every sense.
Both categories are summed up well by NY-19 (LEANS R to TOSSUP) and NY-18 (TOSSUP to LEANS D).
In the first case, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro is the GOP nominee for New York’s redrawn 19th district (Biden +4.6). The modified seat is bluer than the 2012 version of the seat that he lost last Tuesday, exchanging his home county for Tompkins (Ithaca). While Molinaro could still win the new seat in November, it seems unreasonable to consider him an outright favorite after last week’s results.
On the flip side, Democrat Pat Ryan now enters his race in New York’s 18th district (Biden +8.3) as an incumbent. That should be a reason enough to consider him a favorite against Assemblyman Colin Schmitt given the seat’s partisan lean, though the erstwhile Ulster County Executive should not at all be considered insurmountable against a credible challenger.
Ultimately, Republicans remain comfortable favorites to take a House majority of some kind in November, even after the aforementioned modifications. On our updated board, the GOP has a 217 to 200 advantage over the Democrats with no Tossups picked – down from 219 to 187 in July. Split Ticket does not rate whole chambers, but if pressed to do so it would probably move the House from SAFE to LIKELY R.
*Observers should also remember that Split Ticket, like Sabato’s Crystal Ball, tends to place more emphasis on margin than on probability when making House predictions.*
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My name is Harrison Lavelle and I am a political analyst studying political science and international studies at the College of New Jersey. As a co-founder and partner at Split Ticket, I coordinate our House coverage. I write about a variety of electoral topics and produce political maps. Besides elections, my hobbies include music, history, language, aviation, and fitness.
Contact me at @HWLavelleMaps or firstname.lastname@example.org