Republicans face challenges in their battle to retake the House of Representatives, but new data suggests they have a fighting chance. In this week’s Political Edge, we take a look at new data that should give House Republicans hope and breakdown a new analysis of how much money candidates raised in 2018 from donors outside the district in which they ran.
The Republican Path To Retaking The House
Late last week, Henry Olson from The Washington Post wrote an article analyzing new data compiled by J. Miles Coleman that looked at gubernatorial and senatorial results for each congressional district that changed hands in 2018. Olson’s takeaway: Republican hopes of taking back the House in 2020 might be better than most think.
Looking at the data, Olson noted that voters in many flipped districts ended up picking “Republicans for the statewide office while giving the U.S. House seat to the Democrat.” For example, in California “Democrats picked up seven House seats there, including five in districts that Republican nominee Mitt Romney had carried in 2012.” However, the data shows that “the Republican candidate for governor in California, John Cox, won four of the districts Democrats picked up including three in Orange County. Cox was not a competitive candidate, losing by nearly 24 percentage points statewide. The fact that he carried those four districts, therefore, means that there is a latent pro-GOP tilt to these seats even in the Age of Trump.”
Olson goes on to highlight a number of other flipped districts with similar trends including IL-06, NY-19 and NY-22. He points out:
“[E]xcluding wins by incumbents without serious Democratic challengers, Republican statewide candidates won in 17 of the 42 lost districts between 2016 and 2018. Adding in those incumbent victories and Trump’s own wins, Republicans have won at least one statewide race in 32 of the 42 lost seats since Trump’s 2016 nomination.”
Republicans will need to gain 18-20 House seats in 2020 to retake the chamber (depending on the outcome of the NC-03 and NC-09 special elections). While they still face headwinds, the data compiled by Coleman should give the GOP hope that they have a fighting chance.
Raising Money From Outside The District
Fundraising is a necessary part of running for office, and candidates go to great lengths to make sure they have enough money to remain competitive – even if that means they have to find sources outside the district in which they are running. In recent years, it has become common to see political candidates criticize their opponents for the amount of money they raise from outside their respective districts/states, leading The Washington Post’s Phillip Bump to wonder, “Exactly how often do House candidates take in a substantial portion of their fundraising from outside the district?” Looking at all reported contributions over $200 in 2018 (and excluding “organizational contributions and fundraising committees that were used in party primaries or that weren’t a candidate’s primary committee”), Bump crunched the numbers and found the following:
“About 73 percent of winning congressional campaigns took in a majority of their individual contributions from outside the district. About 62 percent of losing campaigns did.”
“On average, winning campaigns took in about 24 percent of their individual contributions from within the district (or about 37 percent from within or ZIP codes adjacent to the district). About 63 percent came from outside the district. Among losing campaigns, the numbers were generally similar.”
“Incumbent winners took in less money from outside the district than non-incumbent winners. Non-incumbent losers took in less outside money than incumbent losers.”
In toss-up races, “candidates received an average of more than 70 percent of individual contributions from outside the district…An average of nearly 8 out of every 10 dollars that came in to winning candidates in toss-up seats came from outside the district. Overall, 81 percent of money raised across all of these contests came from outside the respective districts.”