Democrats are riding high after a recent spate of special election wins and improving polling results, but the House majority remains firmly up for grabs in November.
Republicans need to flip just five seats this year to recapture control of the lower chamber. And while both parties have staked out their respective offensive and defensive opportunities, there are a handful of races that could offer hints about how election night might shake out.
Here are seven races that could determine which party controls the House.
L: Marc Molinaro; R: Josh Riley. (Image credit: AP/ Josh Riley campaign).
Democrat Pat Ryan’s win in the special election for New York’s 19th District late last month gave the party a shot in the arm heading into the fall campaign season.
But Ryan is running for a full term in November in New York’s 18th District, and Republicans have a real shot at capturing the state’s new 19th District. Marc Molinaro, who lost to Ryan in the special election, will be on the ballot once again, only this time he’ll be facing off against Democrat Josh Riley.
The race for the new 19th District is a top priority for both parties. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) this week added Riley to its “Red to Blue” program, while Molinaro is seen as a top recruit for Republicans.
The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan handicapper, currently has the race ranked as a toss-up.
L: Matt Cartwright; R: Jim Bognet. (Image credit: AP/Matt Slocum/Mary Altaffer)
Pennsylvania’s 8th District, which includes Wilkes-Barre and President Biden’s hometown of Scranton, leans toward Republicans; former President Trump carried it twice.
But Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) has managed to pull off tough wins before, and if he can do so again this year in a political environment that’s expected to be difficult for Democrats, it could offer a sign of Democratic strength on election night.
Cartwright is facing Republican Jim Bognet for a second time after narrowly defeating him in 2020. But with Biden’s approval numbers still sagging, Bognet might have a better chance of ousting Cartwright this time. Internal polling from both campaigns suggests the race remains close.
The Cook Political Report currently rates the contest as a toss-up.
L: Steve Chabot; R: Greg Landsman. (Image credit: AP/ Cincinnati.gov).
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) is running for reelection to his Cincinnati-area House seat. But after redistricting redrew the contours of the district, he’s facing one of the toughest challenges of his 25-year career in Congress.
The district now leans slightly in Democrats’ favor, and the DCCC has named it one of their top targets. Under the new political lines, Biden would have won Chabot’s district in 2020 by about 9 percentage points.
The longtime congressman is set to face Cincinnati City Council member Greg Landsman in November. And while Democrats believe they have a good chance at flipping it in November, if Chabot pulls off a win, it would be seen as an indicator of Republican resilience in otherwise unfavorable territory.
The Cook Political Report has put the race in its toss-up column.
L: George Logan; Jahana Hayes. (Image credit: AP).
Connecticut isn’t where most political observers would typically look for a competitive House race. But Republicans have grown increasingly optimistic in their chances of ousting Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) this fall despite her district’s Democratic tilt.
Her GOP challenger is former state Sen. George Logan. And while Logan’s campaign is lacking in funding, Republican outside groups are actively spending in the race, with the House GOP leadership-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) dropping two new ads in the district this week alone.
Of course, the district is something of a reach for Republicans. President Biden would have carried it in 2020 by more than 10 points under the new lines. But if Logan can pull off a win, it could be an early signal of a coming red wave.
The Cook Political Report rates the race as leaning Democratic.
L: Jen Kiggans; R: Elaine Luria. (Image credit: AP).
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) first flipped this seat in 2018, propelling the blue wave that helped Democrats recapture control of the House that year.
But the district is a bit redder under the new congressional lines, increasing the likelihood of a Republican win this year.
Of course, Luria has a track record of winning tough elections. But with a national political environment that has worked against Democrats for much of the year, she’s in a more vulnerable spot than ever before.
If she pulls off a win, however, it could suggest that Democrats are poised to outperform expectations in districts where Republicans widened their advantage during the redistricting process.
Her Republican opponent this year is state Sen. Jen Kiggans. The Cook Political Report has the race in its toss-up column.
L: Angie Craig; R: Tyler Kistner. (Image credit: AP/ Kitsner for Congress).
Another 2018 blue wave Democrat, Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), is facing Republican Tyler Kistner for a second time after eking out a 2-point win two years ago.
Craig has outraised Kistner in the race and redistricting didn’t do much to reshape the partisan makeup of her suburban Minneapolis district. But again, Biden’s approval ratings are still underwater and while things may have improved somewhat for Democrats in recent months, it’s still a tough year for the party.
Both parties’ House campaign committees — the DCCC and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) — have put the district among their top electoral priorities for the year, and the major House-focused super PACs have already blocked off ad reservations in the area.
The Cook Political Report currently puts the contest in the toss-up column.
L: Kim Schrier; R: Matt Larkin. (Image credit: AP/ Larkin for Congress).
Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) flipped this seat in 2018, becoming the first Democrat in 35 years to represent the district on Capitol Hill.
She won a second term in 2020 by less than 4 points. And this year, she’s facing Republican Matt Larkin in a tougher political environment.
While Biden carried the district by a 7-point margin that same year and its partisan lean didn’t change after the redistricting process, the election could portend trouble for Democrats if Schrier ultimately falls to Larkin.
The Cook Political Report considers the race to be a toss-up.