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KEEP AN EYE ON THE THE AT-LARGE HOUSE RACES

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The U.S. Constitution has no instructions regarding the size of the House of Representatives.  It was an act of Congress itself, the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, that set the size of the House at the 435 members we know today. Congress could change that number at any time.

The U.S. Constitution does require that “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers.” This means that, as the population grows and the number of Representatives stays the same, more and more people are squeezed into each Congressional district. The smallest states (according to population) are afforded just one Representative. In these states, the one congressional district encompasses the entire state. These districts are called “At-Large” districts. These states don’t have to tussle with the complications brought by gerrymandering and redistricting.  

There are currently seven states with At-Large districts. The map below (click here for an interactive version) shows these seven states — Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Dark red represents Safely Republican, dark blue represents Safely Democratic, and light red represents Likely Republican.1Ratings are from Sabato’s Crystal Ball Of the seven districts, three are Safely Republican, two are Safely Democratic, and two are Likely Republican.


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It’s not surprising that most of these seats are Republican, given that less densely populated areas are more conservative. It’s the two smallest (and therefore the densest) states — Vermont and Delaware — that are Democratic leaning. The only competitive districts are in Alaska and Montana, although even these are very likely to be won by a Republican barring a hugely Democratic year or a collapse of the Republican congressional candidate.

Don Young from Alaska, should be safely reelected, but did have a close-ish election last year. He only won by a 6.6% margin. But Trump won the district by over 15%, and in a non-blowout presidential year, Young should have no real trouble. 

Republicans have similar prospects in Montana — they are nearly certain to win barring a terrible Republican environment. The day before a special election in 2017, Republican incumbent Greg Gianforte allegedly attacked a reporter (he eventually pleaded guilty, paid a fine, was assigned community service and anger management training, donated 50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists) and still was reelected by about 5% the next day. In 2018 he again won reelection by 5%. Still, though, he only won his past two elections by mid-single digits. Gianforte is now running for governor, but Republicans will probably hold the seat that Trump carried by 21%. Democrats have, however, added the district to its target list, meaning that the party thinks they have some hope of flipping it.

The other seats are safely Democratic or Republican: All were won by at least 24% in 2018. It’s hard to imagine any wave being strong enough to flip these seats.

These representatives are still ones to watch, though! Because they are state-wide federal political figures, they have a unique shot at climbing up the ladder to becoming Senators. These states have an interesting dynamic where there are two seats for the more prestigious Congressional chamber (the Senate) and only one available for the ‘lower’ chamber (the House). Of the seven states with at-large House representation, six (DE, MT, SD, ND, VT, WY) have a current senator who was once their state’s at-large representative. One — Bernie Sanders from Vermont — has a chance at becoming the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee next year.

So even if the at-large elections aren’t always competitive, they are races and candidates to watch. The at-large seats give politicians a unique stepping stone to higher office and becoming national political figures. Keep an eye on these seven states and their Representatives, even if they’re going to win reelection by 20%-50%. Like Bernie Sanders, they may have a shot at becoming a presidential nominee 30 years down the road.  

2020’S CROSSOVER DISTRICTS

Today’s post is a bit shorter than usual, given that I’ve been preparing my move from Rwanda back to the U.S. Still, I wanted to get you some good House election reading, so enjoy. Sign up for ESY below! We won’t bother you except to let you know about fresh, new content. We promise!

The 2018 midterms were a huge success for House Democrats. They netted 40 seats (going from 195 to 235) and took control of the chamber.

But presidential candidates will be on the ticket next year. And because split ticket voting is so rare, Democratic representatives that Trump carries will be in danger. So too will Republicans in districts the democratic nominee wins. The crossover districts from 2016 provide a good starting point for speculating at which incumbents could be in danger in 2020.

Heading into the 2018 midterms, there were only 13 Trump-carried districts with a Democratic representative. After the elections, Democrats had 31. 2Democrats netted 18 Trump districts. They picked up 21, but lost three (MN-01, MN-08, PA-14) These districts will be prime targets for Republicans hoping to overcome, or at least chip away at, Democrats’ majority in the House.

Before the 2018 midterms, there were 25 Clinton districts with a republican representative. Democrats demolished Republicans in this territory, picking up 22 of the 25, leaving only NY-24, PA-01, and TX-23. In 2018, Republicans didn’t win any additional districts in Clinton land.

This table summarizes the Trump/Clinton Crossover Districts heading into 2020.

Below is a map with all of the crossover districts heading into 2020. Dark blue represents Democratic held Trump seats. Dark red represents Republican held Clinton seats. Light red and light blue indicate crossover districts where the incumbent is retiring. Go use the interactive map to see in more detail what will be ground zero for the 2020 House competition. 


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

I created the map at 270toWin, where in other news, I’ll be contributing elections and political analysis for the 2020 cycle. I’ll be back next week with a longer, more detailed post.