These 25 Congressional races to watch are some of the most competitive in the 2018 midterm elections

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  • Election Day for the hotly contested 2018 midterms is on Tuesday, November 6.
  • Midterm elections are traditionally a referendum on the party in power, and this year, Republicans in Congress are defending themselves against a wave of anti-Trump fervor.
  • These five congressional races have been identified by experts as „true coin flips“ and crucial battlegrounds for Democrats looking to take back the House.

The 2018 midterm elections are upon us.

While the Republican party is looking to hold onto their majorities in both houses of Congress (and control of all three branches of government), Democrats are looking to act on the torrent of anti-Trump anger and progressive energy to win back the House of Representatives in what they hope will be a „blue wave.“

While Democrats lead Republicans by 9 points on the generic ballot (a poll that simply asks what party people will vote for in a congressional race) and have raised record amounts of money from donors of all types, everything will come down to voter turnout on election day. Multiple states have seen record-breaking early turnout already. 

Midterm elections are traditionally a referendum on the party in power, and experts say this year is no exception. In all 25 of these districts, Republicans are fending off Democratic challengers.

While Democrats are generally seeking to associate Republicans with Trump, Republicans appear to be attempting to deflect attention away from Trump by aligning their Democratic opponents with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, taxes, and „open borders.“ 

While most election forecasts predict that Democrats will gain back the 23 seats they need to flip the House, neither party can afford to take any votes for granted. Out of all 435 seats up for re-election, the forecasters at the FiveThirtyEight have identified 34 highly competitive races. 

Their model, which uses a number of factors including polls, previous voting behavior, fundraising, and expert ratings, has classified 14 races as toss-ups, meaning both candidates have less than a 60% of chance of winning, 10 „lean Democratic“ and 10 „lean Republican“. 

Here’s an in-depth look at 25 congressional districts that are too close to call:

Maine’s 2nd congressional district

The incumbent: Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin is serving his 2nd term representing the district. While not as much of staunch Trump ally as other vulnerable incumbents, Poliquin faced backlash over his votes on healthcare and the GOP tax bill, and his reported inaccessibility to his constituents.  

The challenger: The Democratic nominee is Maine state representative and majority whip Jared Golden. He’s a Marine Corps veteran who’s served in Iraq and Afghanistan and former staffer for Sen. Susan Collins, who touts his record of passing bills to help union workers in the legislature. 

An Oct. 15-18th New York Times/Siena College poll shows Poliquin and Golden neck-and-neck, with 41% of those polled indicating support for Poliquin and 41% for Golden. 

The lay of the land: The largest congressional district east of the Mississippi River, Maine’s 2nd district encompasses 80% of the state. It’s largely rural and working-class, with a tradition of strong organized labor.

One Bangor Daily News article describes it as a „fiercely libertarian district historically willing to throw its weight behind individual candidates rather than political parties.“

Partisan dynamics: The 2nd district’s Cook Political Voting Index (PVI) is R+2, meaning it’s two points more Republican than the rest of the country, on average. While Democrats have a very slim registration advantage, the district voted for Trump in 2016 by a margin of seven percentage points, 51% to 44%. 

Ratings and predictions:  FiveThirtyEight’s forecast rates the race as a toss-up, giving Golden a 3 in 5 chance of winning.

What the local experts say: Michael Sherman, a politics reporter who has been covering the race for the Bangor Daily News, told Business Insider in an email that Golden’s success will likely be reliant on how much he’s able to tack Poliquin to Trump.

„For me, the environment is the key thing to watch. The polling that I’ve seen seems to consistently suggest that Trump is more popular there than he is in the US and Maine overall,“ wrote Sherman.

„Poliquin has contorted himself to avoid talking about Trump in the past and that may continue, but I don’t think Trump is a drag for him here like he is for other Republicans in suburban areas,“ said Sherman. „I’d be cautious in thinking that even a ‚blue wave‘ would necessarily oust Poliquin.“

Sherman noted, however, that the presence of two liberal unaffiliated candidates in the race could marginally benefit Golden by siphoning votes away from Poliquin in Maine’s recently-introduced ranked-choice voting system.

Florida’s 26th district

The incumbent: Rep. Carlos Curbelo, currently serving his 2nd term, is a rare moderate Republican in the House.

He’s notably crossed the aisle on issues including abortion, climate change, and government spending, but he also voted to repeal to the ACA and to approve the Trump tax bill. 

The challenger: Democratic nominee Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is a native of South Florida who has spent most of her career working in local nonprofits. Like Curbelo, she hails from a first-generation immigrant background. 

The lay of the land: The 26th district is comprised of the southernmost tip of Florida, and includes the popular vacation destinations of the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park. It’s almost 80% Hispanic, with a sizeable population of Cuban immigrants. 

Partisan dynamics: The 26th’s district’s Cook political rating is D+6, making it the most Democratic district to be represented by a Republican in the country. The district went for Hillary Clinton by a 16-point margin over Donald Trump in 2016.

Ratings and predictions  FiveThirtyEight rates the race as a pure tossup, giving each a 1 in 2 chance of winning. An October 19-24 Siena College/New York Times poll shows Mucrasel-Powell leading Curbelo by just one point. 

What the local experts say: Ryan Nicol, who covers South Florida for, told Business Insider that given Curbelo’s bipartisan record, he’s not so sure that Democrats can successfully paint him as a Trump surrogate.

„A big sticking point in this race is whether the Democrats can make [Curbelo] seem not-so-moderate,“ he said.

But Nicol wasn’t positive that the Democrats‘ best efforts would be necessarily enough to unseat Curbelo — even if they win back the House.

„If the Democrats are struggling to win the House, I could see Curbelo getting upset, it’s possible,“ he said. „But even if the Democrats do moderately well, I could still see Curbelo hanging on.“ 

Iowa’s 3rd congressional district

The incumbent: Rep. David Young, a former staffer for Sen. Chuck Grassley, is serving his 2nd term in office. He had an unusual path to Congress, in which a Republican convention selected him to be the nominee in 2014 after he received only 35% of the vote in a crowded primary. 

Young has been playing defense by distancing himself from the Trump administration’s controversial agricultural tariffs that have adversely affected Iowa corn and soybean farmers. 

The challenger: The democratic nominee is Cindy Axne, a small-business owner and former Iowa state official who led a successful effort to make all-day kindergarten available to every student in the West Des Moines public school system. 

The lay of the land: The 3rd district covers a chunk of Southwestern Iowa, including the capital city of Des Moines. It’s over 90% white.

Partisan dynamic: The 3rd district’s Cook partisan lean is R+1. Trump carried the district by just 4 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

Ratings and predictions: FiveThirtyEight rates the race as ‚lean Democratic‘, giving Axne a 5 in 8 chance of winning. An October 25-27 poll from Siena College/The New York Times has Axne leading Young by 2 points.

What the local experts say: Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University, told Business Insider that the registration dynamics give neither political party a clear majority, meaning that both sides will need to court unaffiliated voters. 

„Neither party has enough voters without getting a good chunk of the independent voters and also ‚poaching‘ some members of the other party,“ he said.

„Democrats and Axne will need a big turnout by Democrats in the Third, a few old school, moderate Republicans, and then enough independents to cross the finish line.“

Dennis Goldford, a professor of political science at Drake University, told Business Insider in a phone call that even though Trump looms large, Axne and other democrats in Iowa should stick with the issues that hit close to home.  

Goldford said Axne and other will be more successful in courting the voters they need by focusing on the „bread-and-butter issues“ such as jobs and infrastructure, as opposed to running the risk of alienating voters by making the race revolve around a „polarizing“ figure such as Trump.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Source: Business insider

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