Welcome to the third edition of Against The Trend, a new series devoted to regional analyses of the 2022 House election results. After covering New York and Texas, today’s publication examines how Split Ticket’s ratings held up in New England — one of the country’s crossover voting havens. There’s also plenty of analytical content scheduled for publication after Tuesday’s Georgia runoff, including a breakdown of the national environment, a new WAR model, and Against The Trend analyses of California and the Plains States.
As we’ve discussed before, Split Ticket’s House ratings were pretty accurate this cycle. Of the 99 competitive districts — those rated at least LIKELY — we picked 80% of them correctly, yielding an overall accuracy rate of roughly 95%. For a chamber as large as the House, that’s not a bad record for a new forecaster to have after its first election.
Of the six New England races that we had “on the board,” four were called right. Our biggest misreads came in two double-digit Biden seats that were among the nation’s top swing seats: Rhode Island’s 2nd and Connecticut’s 5th. While we wrongly picked Republicans to win both, we did presciently note in our final preview that CT-05 was a better GOP pickup opportunity.
Our most accurate call came in Maine’s 2nd, where moderate Democrat Jared Golden once again outran the top of the ticket to secure reelection in a Trump seat. We also picked Democratic winners in Connecticut’s 2nd, New Hampshire’s 1st, and New Hampshire’s 2nd, all of which Republicans ended up losing by much more than expected.
Breaking Down The Key Results
In CT-05, a Biden +11 seat in the Nutmeg State’s northwestern corner, incumbent Democrat Jahana Hayes found herself in hot water at the end of the cycle against moderate Republican George Logan, who was publicly pro-choice. Election day proved late-breaking polling right, with Hayes beating Logan by just 1,969 votes despite Governor Ned Lamont’s comfortable statewide victory. Had all of Republican-leaning Torrington remained in the 5th post-redistricting, Logan might have won. Ultimately, his ability to come so close is a testament to the seat’s being more Republican down ballot.
To the east, in RI-02, a Biden +14 district running along the Connecticut border, Democrat Seth Magaziner defeated Republican Allan Fung, one of the GOP’s top congressional recruits. Fung, a two time gubernatorial candidate who outran fundamentals in his home town of Cranston, seemed to have an excellent shot at winning given poor Democratic internal polls and misreadings of the national environment.
Ultimately, as we preemptively predicted in our preview, fundamentals pushed Magaziner over the line. Fung, also moderate, did outperform partisan baselines across the district, but could not attract enough suburban white Democrats or Providence Hispanics to win. His 47% share nevertheless mirrored his past performances in the district in statewide elections.
In CT-02, home to veteran Democrat Joe Courtney, we issued a LIKELY DEMOCRATIC rating. The incumbent ended up winning by 18 points, an almost identical margin to that of his colleague Bill Keating in Massachusetts’s 9th, which was rated SAFE DEMOCRATIC. Courtney is no stranger to outrunning the top of the ticket despite favorable trends for the GOP along the Rhode Island border during the Trump-era.
New Hampshire proved vexing in the final weeks of the 2022 cycle thanks to polling that overestimated Republicans in the Senate and House races. Split Ticket wisely stuck with a more fundamental interpretation of the Granite State, surmising that it would still lean Democratic even amid a Republican-leaning national environment. Since the 1st and 2nd districts backed Biden by 6 and 9 points, respectively, we figured that would offer Democrats Chris Pappas and Ann Kuster enough padding to win reelection.
Both members ended up avoiding close races altogether, even outrunning their 2020 margins of victory. Kuster outran Biden despite a redder national environment. While mainstream Republicans like Matt Mowers (NH-01) and George Hansel (NH-02) almost certainly would have come closer than their primary opponents Karoline Leavitt and Bob Burns, the evidence suggests Democrats would have held both districts anyway — a good sign for both incumbents in 2024.
In Maine’s 2nd, Jared Golden once again benefitted from the votes of Independent Tiffany Bond to comfortably win a ranked choice instant-runoff against former Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin, whom Golden beat in 2018. While we shouldn’t make any overriding conclusions about his crossover potential after just one presidential cycle, Golden’s 2022 performance suggests that his moderate brand does indeed resonate. Northern Maine’s physical and cultural isolation from the rest of New England and the country provides a haven for independent-minded politicians to defy national trends. In other words, Golden could be in Congress for the foreseeable future.
Ticket Splitting – A New England Tradition
New England is a historical bastion of ticket-splitting, but those patterns mostly affect state and local races today. When it comes to this year’s federal results, ME-02 was the only district where the result contradicted presidential partisanship. That anomaly can largely be chalked up to the seats hyperlocal political dynamics that aren’t as pronounced elsewhere.
The hope for New England Republicans in districts like RI-02, NH-01, and CT-05 rested on anemic Democratic enthusiasm coupled with a crimson-red political environment. It is true that Democratic interest among minorities was stagnant in these races, but outside of CT-05, the overwhelming swing demographic is independent white voters.
Whether due to the power of incumbency (see: Connecticut and New Hampshire), substandard Republican candidate quality (New Hampshire), or just sheer partisanship (Rhode Island), Democrats held all competitive New England House seats.
What We Learned
The process of revisiting our House ratings decisions offers a very important accountability check. In the final Split Ticket preview, we clearly laid out how the “underdog” party in each Tossup race could still win, which is part of the reason why we don’t feel too upset about our mistakes. That said, there are still a few clear takeaways from this cycle that stand to help us make better decisions with the House in 2024. The most prominent among these addresses a theme we’ll discuss more in our piece on the national environment: the influence of historical narratives and confirmation bias. Both of these, in addition to inaccurate partisan polling, biased our House projection toward the Republicans. Next cycle, we will aim to check our priors to an even greater degree.