2020 shouldn’t be a good year for the Republicans in the house. The polls indicated a democratically oriented electoral environment. Democratic candidates outperformed Republicans in the most competitive seats, and the GOP had to defend a multitude of open seats that Republican incumbents had given up.
Contrary to expectations including their ownRepublicans have managed to win seats, even if that Democrats held onto their majority. Votes are still counted but are based on competitions projected by ABC NewsThe Republicans have given six seats so far, and they could flip a few more.
But top-line numbers on seats won and lost can only tell us so much. Let’s look at some of the key takeaways from the 2020 house elections.
- 1 The Republicans exceeded expectations
- 2 GOP women made big profits
- 3 It’s not all bad news for Democrats
- 4 Republicans are well positioned to take over the house in 2022
Where the rest of the 2020 races stand | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast
The Republicans exceeded expectations
In the 2020 election, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast gave Republicans only a 1 in 6 attempt to get six or more seats, and if the GOP gets more unused seats in the coming days, the party’s move could be even less likely will .
However, it’s not just the upturned seats that impress. Not a single Republican incumbent has lost in the races where we know the results so far. Among the outstanding competitions was only California MP Mike Garcia, who won a special election in May, seems to be in danger of losing.
Open seat races have been friendly to Republicans too, despite the large number of GOP incumbents who have retired or left office ahead of the 2020 election. The GOP had to hold 35 open seats compared to the 13 Democrats, but of the 33 Republican open seats projected so far, only three have gone for the Democrats. And two of those Democratic victories were in North Carolina, which the GOP wrote off after a court-ordered redistribution made the districts highly democratic.
GOP women made big profits
While the majority of the Republican caucus will still be men in 2021, there will be far more Republican women in Congress than there was this year. So far it looks like that 26 GOP women will be in the house next yearsurpass the record of 25 from the 109th Congress. This is partly thanks to this Record number of non-incumbent Republican women – 15 – who have won house competitions. And that’s also because of how well Republican women have done in tight races. The table below shows the Republican women who have run in Democratic House districts that FiveThirtyEight forecast were at least potentially competitive. At the time of this writing, seven of them have won.
|circle||candidate||Current margin||Projected||GOP flip|
|MN-07||Michelle Fischbach||R + 13.2||✓||✓|
|NM-02||Yvette Herrell||R + 7.8||✓||✓|
|OK-05||Stephanie Bice||R + 4.1||✓||✓|
|FL-27||Maria Elvira Salazar||R + 2.7||✓||✓|
|IA-01||Ashley Hinson||R + 2.6||✓||✓|
|CA-48||Michelle Steel||R + 2.0||✓||✓|
|SC-01||Nancy Mace||R + 1.3||✓||✓|
|NY-11||Nicole Malliotakis||R + 15.8|
|NY-22||Claudia Tenney||R + 11.0|
|CA-39||The young Kim||R + 1.3|
|NY-18||Chele Farley||D + 3.0|
|TX-15||Monica De La Cruz-Hernandez||D + 2.9||✓|
|AZ-01||Tiffany Shedd||D + 3.4||✓|
|PA-07||Lisa Scheller||D + 3.7||✓|
|IL-17||Esther Joy King||D + 3.8||✓|
|TX-32||Genevieve Collins||D + 6.0||✓|
|FL-13||Anna Paulina Luna||D + 6.1||✓|
|IL-06||Jeanne Ives||D + 6.6||✓|
|OR-05||Amy Ryan Courser||D + 6.7||✓|
|OH-13||Christina Hagan||D + 7.5||✓|
|NC-01||Sandy Smith||D + 8.3||✓|
|GA-06||Karen Handel||D + 9.2||✓|
|KS-03||Amanda Adkins||D + 9.7||✓|
|NJ-11||Becchi rosemary||D + 9.8||✓|
|CA-03||Tamika Hamilton||D + 10.9||✓|
|PA-04||Kathy Barnette||D + 18.8||✓|
|CA-36||Erin Cruz||D + 22.1||✓|
It’s not all bad news for Democrats
While it was undoubtedly a good night for Republicans, the Democrats still held onto most of the seats they won in 2018 and will continue to be the majority party in the House. This is partly because they kept most of the suburban boroughs they added in 2018.
Of the 233 seats the Democrats held in the elections, 186 were in boroughs that were mostly or partially suburban in nature. according to density categorizations from Bloomberg’s CityLab. (That figure excludes North Carolina because CityLab hasn’t updated its density data to account for the court-ordered North Carolina redistribution in 2019.) So far, Democrats have lost seven of those seats, but have lost a GOP-held suburban seat nearby captured by Atlanta. And thanks to the reallocation, they have also won two former Republican seats around Greensboro and Raleigh in North Carolinareflecting the strength of the party in more populous areas. (ABC News has yet to forecast a winner in eleven suburban races – eight Democratic-owned and three Republican-owned counties.)
Due to their relative success in the suburbs, the Democrats retained many seats in places that President Trump won in 2016. In the election, the Democrats had 30 seats in the districts Trump carried in 2016, and they would have lost their majority if they lost more than half of them (assuming they didn’t make the losses by gaining seats elsewhere balanced). But they have won 18 of them so far and received one from the GOP (Georgia’s 7th Congressional District). In fact, more than half of Republicans’ profits fell on seats representing places Trump won by a sizable margin in 2016. We’ll have to wait a bit for the data to tell us how the Congressional districts voted in 2020, but for now it seems that a lot of Republican gains have been made by picking the lowest hanging fruit.
Republicans are well positioned to take over the house in 2022
While we don’t yet know the winners of some house races, we can already look to halftime 2022 and see a pretty easy path for the GOP to take on the house. Midterm elections are historically good for the party that is not in the White House, and the party without power is particularly likely to do well in the House as every seat is up for election (the Senate is a more complicated story).
It has been the presidential party since the end of World War II lost an average of 27 house seats in the case of mid-term elections, as the following graphic shows. Regardless of how many seats Democrats have after the 2020 election – by which point they will likely end up somewhere in the low 220s – a loss of that magnitude would easily be enough for Republicans to retake the House.
The recent history of the halfway point in the first term of a Democratic President seems particularly promising for the GOP as well. After the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, the Democrats lost more than 50 seats in 1994, and after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, the Democrats lost more than 60 seats.
If the Democrats had added five to ten seats this year, they could have survived a loss of 20 seats in the medium term. Instead, Republicans will likely have to win fewer than 10 seats to reach a slim majority in 2022.
In addition, Republicans could very well benefit from the new borough lines that will be drawn before the 2022 midterm elections. The GOP is set fully control Reallocation for about two-fifths of all seats in the House of Representatives, while Democrats will only rule over a tenth of them, while the remaining seats are in states with divided governments or where the reallocation is done through a commission system. The benefit of Republican line drawing should help the party draw cheap cards that could help the GOP win more seats than it did we might expect otherwise.