Top election forecaster moves eight Republican-held House seats toward Democrats

Eight different seats in six states show a pronounced shift toward the Democrats, says Cook Political Report

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published October 4, 2018 3:30PM (EDT)

Haley Stevens; Sharice Davids ( Riedel)
Haley Stevens; Sharice Davids ( Riedel)

The nonpartisan election forecaster Cook Political Report changed its ratings on eight Republican-held House seats less than five weeks before the midterm elections, in yet another indication that Democrats may be heading toward major gains.

Cook moved the close races in Kansas’ 3rd congressional district and Michigan’s 11th congressional district from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.”

In Kansas, four-term incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder has seen his race against rising Democratic star Sharice Davids slip away in polls released last month. Yoder won last election by double digits but was considered a key target for Democrats after Hillary Clinton carried his suburban Kansas City district in 2016.

Davids, a former mixed martial arts fighter who could become the first lesbian Native American in Congress, leads Yoder by 8 percent in a New York Times/Siena poll released late last month and by 6 percent in an Emerson poll published last week.

The National Republican Campaign Committee canceled a $1.2 million ad buy for Yoder last week as it focuses on seats the national party still considers in play.

The race for Michigan's 11th district had not seen much polling until this week but the Cook Political Report quickly shifted the race to the Democrats after a New York Times/Siena poll found former Obama administration official Haley Stevens leading businesswoman Lena Epstein by 16 points among likely voters for the vacant suburban Detroit seat. The seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Dave Trott, who is not running for re-election.

The Cook Political Report also moved a key race in Utah's 4th district from “lean R” to “toss-up.” Two-term Republican Rep. Mia Love has maintained a slight lead over former Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams in the district.

The report also shifted Florida's 26th district, a Miami-area seat previously considered safe for incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo, into the toss-up column after Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell surged to within three percent of the two-term Republican incumbent in the latest New York Times/Siena poll.

Other ratings changes included Michigan's 3rd district, where previously safe Republican Justin Amash will now have to spend money to stave off a challenge from Democrat Cathy Albro. In New York's 21st district, incumbent Republican Elise Stefanik's race was moved from “solid R” to “likely R” as she tries to win over voters who backed President Donald Trump in 2016 but voted for former President Barack Obama in 2012. In New York's 24th district, incumbent Republican John Katko had his race shifted from “likely R” to “lean R” as he tries to hold off Democrat Dana Balter in one of the 25 Republican-held House districts carried by Clinton in 2016.

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The final ratings change came in Pennsylvania's new 17th congressional district, where voters backed Trump after overwhelmingly supporting Obama in both of his election wins. The race features two incumbents: Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb, who narrowly defeated Republican Rick Saccone in a special election for what is currently the state's 18th district, and three-term 12th district Republican incumbent Keith Rothfus. The districts were merged into the 17th after court-ordered redistricting in the state.

Despite Trump's 11-point win in the district, the Cook Political Report shifted the race from “lean D” to “likely D.” The only poll in the race, which came in July, found Lamb leading by 13 points.

Republicans currently have a 23-seat majority in the House. The Cook Political Report currently rates 15 Republican-held seats as “lean” or “likely” Democratic.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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