2024 House of Representatives Rankings: Democrats Are Firm Favorites
Strong incumbents and favorable maps have set the House minority well on track to win back the chamber.
One day, at some point in the future, there will be a time when people will look at a poll that shows Democrats leading only by a narrow margin and see it as a good sign for them.
It won’t be for a while, though, because I don’t think anyone alive today will forget the 2016 election. How could we? Something as monumental as the Trump presidency occurring even though he won fewer votes than his opponent? And then 2020: Trump losing by even more, but his structural advantage only widening, taking the race down to the wire? That’s the sort of thing that sticks with you forever. It had a tremendous psychological impact. This impact was so tremendous, in fact, that Democrats could see an election where this advantage reverses—with them standing to win while losing the national vote—and still be afraid that the opposite is true.
How do I know this with such certainty? Because this exact thing happened in 2022, and nobody seemed to notice.
There were a lot of fascinating results that year, but the one that was the most striking to me has received relatively little attention. Everyone knows how pathetic Kevin McCarthy’s effort to win back the majority ended up being. The single digit seat flip total speaks for itself. But I don’t think people realize just how close he came to complete disaster. If you look at the national results without adjusting for uncontested races, Republicans actually won by a decent, if small, margin of roughly 3%. It was their best showing at the national level since 2014. But if you look at the actual house races that decided the majority, the margins get much, much closer. Democrats only needed five additional seats to keep the chamber, and Republicans won seven by a margin of less than one point.
That’s right: if Democrats just did a single, solitary point better last year, they would have kept the U.S. House of Representatives with room to spare while losing nationally by almost as much as Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton six years prior.
(This also would have been enough for Mandela Barnes to knock out Ron Johnson in the Wisconsin Senate race, granting the party a trifecta with enough seats to ignore Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema entirely. Just an interesting fact that I have thought about quite a bit for no reason in particular.)
You’d think that this would be all anybody talks about when they discuss the outlook for the House next year. For as long as I can remember, the GOP having a nigh-impenetrable structural advantage in the chamber was simply accepted as a fact of life. It wasn’t all that long ago that the conventional wisdom was that Democrats would need to be winning by six or more points nationally just to have a chance at winning the chamber. But now, the tables have completely turned! It’s now Republicans who must run up the score nationally in order to take control of this part of the federal government.
Are they capable of this? I don’t think so, and not many people seem very interested in discussing it. So far, the professional handicappers have been content to pass off a mix of bar trivia and outright farce—like lists that have George Santos favored to win re-election—as proof that the chamber is set to remain about the same next year. Well, it’s not. Between the GOP’s lack of any meaningful incumbency advantage, incoming changes to district maps, a lack of truly vulnerable Democrats and an almost certainly more left-leaning national environment, the question at hand isn’t which party is favored to win. That’s clearly the Democrats.
It’s if Republicans even have a path at all.
Official U.S. House Prediction Map, September 2023. No Tossups.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Ettingermentum Newsletter to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.