Politics In The News: Midterm Elections Are 99 Days Away

Noel King talks to Dave Wasserman from the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, who discusses emerging trends in U.S. House races. He studies the ins and outs of all 435 congressional districts.


The midterm elections are just 99 days away. And if current polling holds true, Democrats could make serious gains in the House of Representatives. Now, winning seats in the Senate is likely to be harder for Democrats. But for months, Democratic activists and some nervous Republican officials have been talking of a blue wave that they think may hit.

Dave Wasserman studies the ins and outs of all 435 congressional districts. He’s a house editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, and he’s with me in studio. Good morning, Dave.

DAVID WASSERMAN: Good to be with you.

KING: OK, all 435 House seats are up for election in November. But you wrote last week that a key place to focus is 42 open seats currently held by Republicans. That’s less than a tenth of the seats. Why are those so crucial?

WASSERMAN: We talk a lot about the blue wave, but we don’t talk a lot about the red exodus in 2018.

KING: (Laughter).

WASSERMAN: And this is the record number of Republican open seats since at least 1930. There are 42 seats with no Republican incumbent on the ballot. That in our view tips the scales slightly in Democrats’ favor in the battle for the House.

KING: There are some very high-level Republicans retiring, including Speaker Paul Ryan, also a couple of very powerful committee chairs. Why retire when your party is in power?

WASSERMAN: Take the example of Rodney Frelinghuysen, the chair of the appropriations committee from northern New Jersey. He waited his whole career for the appropriations gavel. And yet when he got it, he found himself under siege from a Democratic candidate who gained traction in his district back home and also from the House Freedom Caucus on his right, who are opposed to more spending. So he decided, why put up with this? And he’s hanging it up.

We’re seeing a number of committee chairs, we’re seeing a number of moderate Republicans leaving. And I think one of the under-covered stories of 2018 is the extent to which the party will steadily become a more pro-Trump party loyal to the White House thanks not only to these retirements but also the losses of Republican moderates.

KING: Well, yeah, you wrote in a column last week that there is this emerging trend in Republican primaries which is that Republicans…

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