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UNITED STATES - JULY 4: Jennifer Wexton shakes hands with the crowd in Leesburg, Va., as she participates in the Leesburg Independence Day Parade on July 4, 2018. Wexton is challenging incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock for Virginia's 10th Congressional district seat. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Why 2018 is looking like a wave election for House Democrats

With last week’s primaries in Arizona and Florida in the rearview mirror, the 2018 primaries are almost over. Only five states still have primaries left; New York is holding the country’s final primaries of the cycle on Sept. 13.

So, how are these midterms shaping up historically? Based on past predictions and results, the battle for the House of Representatives in particular looks more and more like it will be a wave election. Democrats could make major gains.

  • Right now: The Cook Political Report currently lists 30 House races as “toss-ups.” Add in races leaning slightly toward one party or another, and a total of 66 House races are competitive.
  • In the summer of 2014, by comparison, just 16 races were toss-ups, with 50 competitive seats overall. Result: Republicans picked up 13 seats.
  • In 2010, however, there were 71 competitive House seats in late June. Result: Republicans picked up a historic 63 seats.
  • The 2006 midterms were less competitive. That summer, Cook rated just 10 races as toss-ups, with 45 as competitive overall. And even in that environment, Democrats picked up 30 seats.
  • What about the role of the president? In both 2006 and 2010, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama faced relatively low approval ratings. The impact of President Donald Trump’s approval ratings on these midterms is harder to forecast. While his approval rating is lower than that of Obama at this point in 2010, Trump’s approval is generally on the rise after reaching a low point — 36 percent — in December.
  • What this all means: We have the essential ingredients in place for a wave election in the House: nearly 70 competitive races, with more joining the list each week, and an unpopular president. But we also have a president whose approval ratings don’t necessarily correlate with election results. The question now is how Trump will affect everyone else in his party.

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