The 116th Congress hasn't even been sworn in yet, and there's still no resolution in sight to one North Carolina race tainted by election fraud. But already, the 2020 battle for the House is shaping up to be highly competitive.
The race for the White House is set to overshadow the House for the next two years, but Democrats enter the new election cycle with plenty of exposure. Depending on the outcome of a possible new election in North Carolina's 9th CD, Republicans will need to net either 18 or 19 seats to reclaim the majority, and there will be either 31 or 32 Democrats in districts President Trump carried in 2016.
However, recent history is on the Democrats' side. The last two presidents who lost the House during their first terms were Bill Clinton in 1994 and Barack Obama in 2010. Both went on to win reelection two years later, but with short coattails. In 1996, Democrats needed 12 seats to take the House back, but gained just two. In 2012, Democrats needed 25 seats for a majority, but picked up just eight.
Our initial ratings show Democrats with a head start in 219 races, Republicans with an advantage in 196 seats and 20 Toss Ups. Of the 20 Toss Ups, 16 will be held by Democrats in January and four by Republicans.
Generally, the most vulnerable Democrats are those whose 2018 margins of victory were smaller than Trump's 2016 margin in the district. For example, incoming Democrat Kendra Horn (OK-05) pulled off a huge upset by one point in a district Trump carried by 14 points and will be a top target. But Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) won by 15 points in a district Trump carried by just one and begins on higher ground.
But Republicans will need to play defense too. GOP Reps. Rob Woodall (GA-07), Pete Olson (TX-22) and Kenny Marchant (TX-24), for example, all won by unimpressive margins in majority non-white suburban seats that are ticking time bombs for the GOP. And incoming Republican Ross Spano (FL-15)'s acknowledgment that he may have taken illegal campaign loans could complicate his reelection bid.
For now, we're keeping North Carolina's 9th CD in Toss Up until there's more clarity about a do-over election. Under current law, if the state Board of Elections orders one, the damaged Mark Harris would remain on the ballot as the certified GOP primary winner, likely making Democrat Dan McCready the favorite. But state Republicans are currently proposing legislation that would prompt a new primary as well.
View our complete 2020 House ratings here.
Our subscribers have first access to individual race pages for each House, Senate and Governors race, which will include race ratings (each race is rated on a seven-point scale) and a narrative analysis pertaining to that race.