Chabot

One Week Out, Six Rating Changes

Wasserman Photo
October 30, 2018

Polls are flying across social media, ads are saturating airwaves and it's hard to keep up with a large battlefield of races. But one week out, the overall House outlook is fairly stable: Democrats are the clear favorites for the majority and appear poised to gain between 25 and 40 seats. Today, we're shifting a half-dozen race ratings, four towards Democrats and two towards the GOP.

Download a presentation-ready PDF of our new House ratings here.

Rating Changes:

AR-02: Hill - Lean R to Likely R
CA-01: LaMalfa - Solid R to Likely R
CA-22: Nunes - Solid R to Likely R
FL-18: Mast - Likely R to Lean R
IA-04: King - Likely R to Lean R
OH-01: Chabot - Toss Up to Lean R

Updated Bottom Lines:

AR-02: French Hill (R) - Central: Little Rock
Likely Republican. Democrats began the cycle with high hopes for 37-yearold attorney and state Rep. Clarke Tucker, who overcame cancer last year and has criticized Hill's vote to repeal the ACA. But the race for this Little Rock seat just hasn't lived up to the initial hype. A late October Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College survey showed Hill leading Tucker 51 percent to 39 percent.

Unlike many of his challenger peers, Tucker didn't raise the money necessary to define the race early and has been at a spending disadvantage to Hill, a wealthy banker ($2.9 million to $1.7 million). The most national attention this race has received was for a racially inflammatory radio ad by a PAC called Black Americans for the President's Agenda, which Hill promptly disavowed.

CA-01: Doug LaMalfa (R) - Northeast: Chico, Redding
Likely Republican. LaMalfa, a rancher, has never been seriously challenged before in this expansive North State district that voted for President Trump 55 percent to 36 percent. But 34-year-old Democrat Audrey Denney holds some rural appeal as a farmer who taught agriculture at CSU, Chico, and she's garnered a grassroots following that's helped her outraise LaMalfa, $1 million to $928,000 this cycle.

Denney is airing cable ads touting her refusal to take corporate PAC checks and alleging LaMalfa wants to gut Medicare, and also received some attention when she had emergency surgery in August to remove a benign tumor. LaMalfa felt compelled to hit back with a photoshopped image of Denney signing a pledge to support Nancy Pelosi. It's still very much a long shot for Democrats.

CA-22: Devin Nunes (R) - Central Valley: Tulare, Visalia, Clovis
Likely Republican. This Central Valley race has attracted more dollars than any other in the country, yet is still one of the least competitive. Nunes's controversial handling of the House Intelligence Committee's Russia probe has helped Democratic prosecutor Andrew Janz raise $8.3 million and helped Nunes raise $11.8 million. As a result, voters in the cheap Fresno market are drowning in negative ads.

Nunes topped Janz by a massive 58 percent to 32 percent in the June primary. But a new Change Research survey conducted for the pro-Democratic group Fight Back CA found Nunes leading by just 51 percent to 46 percent, and Democrats argue Latino voters are awakening in the closing weeks. Nunes, who is running against the Fresno Bee as much as against Janz, remains the heavy favorite.

FL-18: Brian Mast (R) - Treasure Coast: Port St. Lucie, Jupiter
Lean Republican. Republicans were convinced Mast was pulling away from Democrat Lauren Baer in September, but the political environment in Florida has deteriorated for the GOP as Democrat Andrew Gillum has taken a lead in the race for governor. There's a sizable African-American community in St. Lucie County, and the NRCC is concerned enough that it parachuted in with ads last week.

Mast, an Afghan War veteran who lost both legs in an IED blast, has struck a moderate tone by writing an op-ed in favor of an assault weapons ban after the Parkland massacre and talking about fighting toxic algae. And Baer's elite degrees and role at the Clinton-run State Department aren't ideal for a district President Trump carried by nine points. But both parties now view the race as competitive.

IA-04: Steve King (R) - Northwest: Sioux City, Ames
Lean Republican. King's tweets that “we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies" and his travels to meet with far-right European figures have made him a pariah in the House and enraged Democrats. It's less clear his views have damaged his political standing back home in northwest Iowa, where King has routinely won easily and President Trump took 60 percent in 2016.

However, a poll this week by Democratic firm Change Research found King leading by just 45 percent to 44 percent against his first credible challenger in six years, former minor league baseball pitcher J.D. Scholten. Even in an R+11 seat, the poll makes some sense because Scholten and an anti-King group, American Values PAC, have been on the airwaves totally unanswered the past two weeks.

Scholten has outraised King $1.7 million to $741,000 this cycle in large part thanks to disgusted national donors who view King as a racist. But in his ads, Scholten attacks King as AWOL from the district rather than criticizing the incumbent's views on western civilization. Instead, it's American Values PAC that's savaging King for "flying around Europe meeting with neo-Nazis."

Unlike in 2012, when King ran a vigorous campaign to beat former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, King isn't mounting a serious defense. Of the $782,000 King has spent this cycle, most has been spent on fundraising or salaries. With a week to go, he's yet to air an ad. And amid tariffs, the political environment in Iowa is much more challenging for the GOP than it was in 2016.

Scholten grew up in Sioux City (where his father coached the Morningside College baseball team), attended the University of Nebraska and pitched for the semi-pro Sioux City Explorers before playing in Europe. His recent time as a paralegal in Seattle and 2016 vote for Hillary Clinton are big liabilities, but it's unclear King has the resources to air them, and few seem willing to bail King out.

OH-01: Steve Chabot (R) - Southwest corner: Cincinnati, Warren County
Lean Republican. Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, a 35-year-old son of Tibetan and Indian immigrants, quickly emerged as one of this cycle's star Democratic challengers. He's a charismatic speaker, has raised $3.4 million and presents a stark contrast to the 65-year-old socially conservative incumbent. But the race in this heavily suburban Cincinnati seat hasn't lived up to Democrats' hopes.

In August, the GOP-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund pounced on a Cincinnati Enquirer investigation detailing Pureval's misuse of county campaign funds for his congressional bid. Normally, ads about "process stories" don't move numbers much, but in this case, the story appears to have reinforced a narrative that Pureval, who was just elected to his post in 2016, is a "young man in a hurry."

Two New York Times/Siena College surveys taken in late September and last week both showed Chabot leading 50 percent to 41 percent. At the end of the day, Pureval's biggest problem may be the gerrymandered nature of this district. Uniquely, the 1st CD's Democratic base isn't upscale suburban whites as much as it's urban African-Americans, who are usually less likely to turn out in a midterm.

 

Image: Steve Chabot with President Trump Credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo