They must therefore think quickly: among the 435 congressional districts, they must choose one: the House seat that will tell all they need to know. Since the GOP is heavily favored to win a majority, the key is to pick the real metrics — not necessarily for which party will control the chamber, but whether Democrats or Republicans will have a good election night, relative to expectations. .
Here are five races that come up frequently as competitions the pros will watch. Two are open seats, the purest tests of the political environment. The other three involve incumbents at risk: a Democrat from Trump’s district, a Republican from Biden’s district and a two-term member who was forced, by redistricting, to run for a seat where most of his voters won’t. not live.
And all five are currently ranked as “Toss Ups” in POLITICO’s election predictions. Here are the races to watch on Tuesday night — and beyond — to get the best idea of what kind of election we’re having.
Illinois 17th District
Eric Sorensen (R) vs. Esther Joy King (R)
Index of partisan voters from Cook’s political report: D+2
Estimated presidential result of 2020: Biden +7.8
The top line: An open seat in blue territory in northwestern Illinois.
Legislative Democrats in the state sought to support the incumbent representative. Cheri Bustos‘ seat in the redistricting, transforming it from a then-President Donald Trump won by 2 points to a President Joe Biden would have won by 8 points.
But that still might not be enough for Democrats to hold it. The race between former TV weatherman Eric Sorensen and 2020 GOP nominee Esther Joy King is tight, and both sides are fully engaged in the publicity battle to win it. The district encompasses swathes of rural Illinois, in addition to the Quad Cities on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River — places where Republicans have recently made gains.
County to watch: Rock Island. In 2020, Bustos beat King 57% to 43% at Rock Island, which includes Moline. That was down from Bustos’ 65% in 2018 – and Sorensen can’t afford much more slippage than that.
Nebraska’s 2nd District
Representative DON BACON (R) against Tony Vargas (D)
Index of partisan voters from Cook’s political report: Same
Estimated presidential result of 2020: Biden +6.4
The top line: What matters more – the mandate or our increasingly nationalized politics?
Rep. Don Bacon survived the last election even as his Omaha-based district drifted left. Although Trump won the seat in 2016, Biden comfortably won his electoral vote two years ago.
For his part, Bacon struggled to navigate Trump’s role as party leader. He voted against both impeachments, but he also crossed the aisle to support a commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. He also supported the Infrastructure Act of 2021 – prompting Trump to later ask his supporters, “Does anyone want to run for Congress against Don Bacon in Nebraska?
But Trump found no takers. Bacon won the GOP primary without breaking a sweat, though he now faces his toughest test in years. The Democratic candidate, State Senator Tony Vargas, has outspent the incumbent president and is seeking to cut taxes for the middle class.
Bacon’s campaign was mostly positive, though Republicans called Vargas a liberal and sought to tie him to the Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi.
County to watch: Douglas. Most of the district’s voters reside in Omaha-centric Douglas County, where Bacon nearly ran even with his 2020 Democratic opponent Kara Eastman, despite Trump losing the county by more than 11 points.
Oregon’s 6th District
Andrea Salinas (R) vs. Mike Erickson (R)
Index of partisan voters from Cook’s political report: D+4
Estimated presidential result of 2020: Biden +13.7
The top line: The most Democratic district on this list, the race for Oregon’s new House seat is emblematic of many of the party’s blue state woes.
Even though Biden would have won the seat by 14 points, Democrat Andrea Salinas is locked in a close race with Republican Mike Erickson.
The tighter-than-expected race for governor of Oregon — a seat Republicans haven’t won in 40 years — helped close the House contest. The GOP’s focus on crime appears to be paying off, especially in the Pacific Northwest, according to strategists from both parties.
If Tuesday is a good night for Republicans, they will choose districts like this and two others in Oregon. There is also a similar district in California’s Central Valley and two in western Long Island.
What they all have in common are open seats in blue states. Both sides agree that these neighborhoods are ripe for Republican takeovers this year.
County to watch: Yamhill. Yamhill is a Republican county, but Trump’s margin over Biden in 2020 (4 points) has shown signs of slipping from 2016, when he beat Hillary Clinton by 8 points.
Pennsylvania 8th District
Rep. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D) vs. Jim Bognet (R)
Index of partisan voters from Cook’s political report: R+4
Estimated presidential result of 2020: Asset +2.9
The top line: Yes, 2022 is shaping up to be a tough year for Democrats — but that doesn’t mean they’re going to lose all of their incumbents in the seats Trump held two years ago.
Rep. democrat. Matt Cartwright was a survivor in northeast Pennsylvania, winning by 4 points in 2020, even as Trump won the seat by a similar margin.
He faces a rematch against Republican Jim Bognet this year — and while the new district lines have turned slightly more favorable for Cartwright, public and private polls still show a close race.
In this polarized era, voters who split the tickets are increasingly rare. And a strong Republican year could wipe out Democrats in Trump’s district like Cartwright, Rep. Jared Golden in Maine (Trump +6.3), and Tom O’Halleran in Arizona (Trump +8.4).
County to watch: Lucerne. In 2020, Cartwright edged Bognet in Luzerne County, home to Scranton, 51% to 49% — even as Trump won Luzerne by 14 points. Toppling some of those Trump-Cartwright voters is imperative for Bognet this year.
Virginia 7th District
Rep. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (R) against Yesli Vega (R)
Index of partisan voters from Cook’s political report: D+1
Estimated presidential result of 2020: Biden +6.3
The top line: The seeds of Republican mid-term optimism were sown a year ago in Virginia.
That’s when the GOP’s Glenn Youngkin won the governorship, shattering eight years of Democratic rule and toppling a state that voted for Biden by 10 points last November.
Now Youngkin is storming the Commonwealth – and outside of it too, as he seeks a national profile – to capitalize on the momentum of the Congressional elections, largely focused on ousting the Rep. democrat. Abigail Spanberger.
Republicans named Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega. On paper, the neighborhood is a good barometer. It is partly suburban, extending south from the outer suburbs and outskirts of Washington, D.C. into more rural areas.
Although Spanberger is an incumbent who has raised a lot of money, she is also running in a redesigned neighborhood that is quite different from her current neighborhood, which is based further south in suburban Richmond. More than three-quarters of voters in the new district are currently unrepresented by Spanberger, though his television ads have been running in the Washington media market for nearly five years now.
Biden lifted the neighborhood by 6 points in 2020 under the new lines, making it friendlier territory than Spanberger’s former neighborhood (Biden +1.3).
And Spanberger has been a strong candidate in the past: She was the only Democratic candidate in a race that POLITICO’s election forecast called “Toss Up” in 2020 to win. Republicans swept every other “Toss Up” seat as they beat expectations, especially further down the ballot.
Another bonus for election watchers: Unlike some other states, Virginia is expected to complete nearly all of its vote count Tuesday night. This means that even in relatively close races, we should know who won before the night is over.
County to watch: Stafford. About 1 in 5 district voters live in suburban Stafford County in southern Washington. This is new for Spanberger – and it’s generally competitive territory. Youngkin edged Democrat Terry McAuliffe by 11 points in 2021, but Biden narrowly beat Trump there in 2020, 51% to 47%.