The Top 10 Most Likely House Flips

Earlier this week, we unveiled our top ten most likely party flips in the nation's Senate and gubernatorial races.

Here's our take on the seats in the United States House that are most likely to change parties in 2018, starting from the most likely at No. 1. 

1. PA-5 (R): With the state’s redrawn congressional map, this new district — already being vacated by retiring (and scandal-plagued) Republican Rep. Pat Meehan — is the closest Democrats will come to a guaranteed pickup, with the seat transforming into one Clinton won by almost 30 points.   

2. FL-27 (R): Retiring Rep.Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban American as well as the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress, may have been the only Republican who could have held on to this majority-Latino Miami district, where Hillary Clinton bested Donald Trump by nearly 20 points.

3. NJ-2 (R): The departure of retiring Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a moderate with strong ties to labor in the state, leaves what looks like a good opening for Jeff Van Drew, a popular state senator whom Democrats had long tried to recruit.   

4. MN-1 (D): Democratic Rep. Tim Walz barely escaped defeat in 2016 in this largely rural Rochester-area district. His gubernatorial run leaves the seat open, giving Republicans a good shot at a district that broke for Trump 53 percent to Clinton's 38 percent. 

5. VA-10 (R): Strategists in both parties agree that incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock is probably the country’s most vulnerable incumbent; her suburban Washington D.C. district is rapidly becoming more diverse, affluent and highly educated — a tough match for a Republican in the age of Trump.

6. AZ-2 (R): Republicans are hopeful that Hispanic Chamber of Commerce chief Lea Marquez-Peterson will prove to be a strong candidate here, but Democrats — led by frontrunner Democratic candidate former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick — would be well-positioned in a district that chose Clinton over Trump by a five point margin.

7. MN-2: (R) Freshman Republican Jason Lewis barely won this race in 2016 against former medical device executive Angie Craig, who’s gunning for a rematch in this mostly suburban/exurban area near the Twin Cities.

8. PA-6 (R): After Pennsylvania’s redistricting, the seat held by Republican Ryan Costello is now one that Hillary Clinton carried by a 10 point margin. Democrats like the chances for top recruit Chrissy Houlahan, a former U.S. Air Force captain and businesswoman. 

9. IA-1 (R): Democrats have made GOP Rep. Rod Blum a top target — and Blum’s ethics woes over his failure to disclose his role with an internet company aren’t exactly helping his chances. State Rep. Abby Finkenauer and former U.S. Department of Labor official Thomas Heckroth are among the candidates on the Dem side.

10. NJ-11 (R): After the retirement of House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Freylinghuysen (who likely would have had a difficult reelection race even if he’d chosen to run again), Democrats have a strong candidate in this affluent northern New Jersey area in frontrunner Mikie Sherill, a onetime U.S. Navy helicopter pilot and prosecutor. 

Honorable mention: Other races we're watching

* CA-39 (R):  — The demographics in Orange County just aren’t trending the GOP’s way. Republicans think they have a good candidate in Young Kim, retiring Republican Ed Royce’s pick to be his successor, but if Democrats don’t step on themselves in the top-two primary (see below), they should be well positioned to take on the GOP nominee.

* CA-49 (R): If Darrell Issa had stayed in his seat, he’d be very close to the top of this list, but his decision to resign gave Republicans a little bit of breathing room. Their hope (and a real possibility) is that Democrats fail to clear their crowded primary field, leaving a gaggle of candidates to split the Democratic vote and shut the party out of the top-two primary contest in June.

* Others receiving votes: CA-25 (Knight), FL-26 (Curbelo), MN-8 (OPEN/Nolan), NY-19 (Faso), PA-15 (OPEN/Dent)

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Andrew Rafferty

Romney taunts NBA star while cheering on Utah Jazz

Utah Senate candidate and noted "sport" enthusiast Mitt Romney was spotted gleefully taunting Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook during Monday's playoff game in Salt Lake. 

The 2012 GOP presidential nominee, sporting a custom Utah Jazz jersey with his name on the back over a collared shirt, jeered Westbrook from his near court-side seats as the All-Star guard made his way to the bench after picking up his fourth foul in the first half. 

Romney had a lot to cheer for as the Jazz won to take a 3-1 lead in the series. Westbrook, however, did not end up fouling out of the game. 

The former Massachusetts governor wasn't cheering quite over the weekend when he failed to capture the Utah GOP's Senate nomination at a convention. He will compete in a June primary against Utah state representative Mike Kennedy in the race to fill the seat of outgoing Sen. Orrin Hatch. Romney is still a heavy favorite to win the seat. 

A bipartisan ticket in FL-GOV?

Here's something that could shake up the field in Florida’s governor’s race and show us if voters are really so dissatisfied with partisanship that they’re willing to go for a bipartisan option: 

From the Tampa Bay Times--

Former Congressmen Patrick Murphy and David Jolly are exploring a bipartisan run for governor, a surprise move that hinges on polling Democrat Murphy has commissioned this week.

Murphy would run for the Democratic nomination as Jolly, a moderate Republican and prominent anti-Trump voice on cable news, would have no chance of winning a GOP primary.

The men have become friends over the past year as they've gone across the country on a town-hall style tour about gridlock and dysfunction in Washington.

Murphy, 35, lost a Senate race to Marco Rubio in 2016. Jolly, 45, lost his re-election bid the same year against Charlie Crist.

Democratic hopeful Andrew Gillum’s campaign responded to the “trial balloon” Tuesday morning: "We welcome anyone who wants to talk about Florida’s future. The contrast in vision and background between the three millionaires running against Andrew Gillum couldn’t be more clear.”

Andrew Rafferty

Red state Dems breaking for Pompeo

Red state Democrats are breaking for President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, each up for re-election this November in states won by Trump, are the first three Democrats to announce support for CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination. Their yes votes seemingly clear the path for his confirmation. 

Ten Democratic senators will be on the ballot this fall in red states. The other seven have yet to announce where they come down on what is a political dilemma for these senators. As First Read wrote last week: “Do they vote FOR his vote confirmation, risking alienating base Democrats they’ll need even in these red states? Or do they vote AGAINST him, and risk seeming like a partisan engaging in obstruction when they’re trying to tout their bipartisan credentials?”

Heitkamp was the first Democrat to announce her support for Pompeo last week, with Manchin and Donnelly pledging support on Monday.


Teacher pay mixes things up in AZ-GOV

It's a tricky time to be Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. 

Ducey, a Republican who is up for reelection, has drawn a primary challenger over his handling of teacher pay as educators in the state are planning a massive walkout protest. 

Former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett announced over the weekend that he will challenge Ducey after his "panic and flip-flopping" over the teacher pay issue. 

Ducey announced a plan last week to give teachers a 20 percent pay raise by 2020, a proposal that has been met with resistance from GOP lawmakers who are skeptical that the state will have the money to pay for the plan. 

Here's more on Bennett's challenge, from the Arizona Republic. 

Carrie Dann

Paul Ryan's former driver is running for his congressional seat

The new frontrunner in the GOP primary to replace Paul Ryan is back in the driver's seat. 

Bryan Steil, who announced his run over the weekend, is an attorney and a member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents who has been active in GOP politics in the district. But he's also got a connection to the departing speaker of the House; he was his personal driver from 2003-2004. 

Democrats are enthusiastic about their leading candidate, ironworker and Army vet Randy Bryce (often referred to by his twitter moniker @Ironstache.) Bryce, who's posted impressive fundraising hauls, outraised Ryan in the last quarter. Schoolteacher Cathy Myers is also running. 

The district has been a competitive battleground. In 2008, Obama won it, 51 percent to 48 percent. In 2012, with Ryan on the ticket, Mitt Romney won it by just five points, 52 percent to Obama’s 47 percent.

In 2016, the margin for Trump was 10 points; 52 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent. 

The primary is August 14. 

Kailani Koenig

DNC head Tom Perez defends lawsuit against Trump and Russia

WASHINGTON – DNC Chairman Tom Perez on Sunday defended his committee’s lawsuit against President Donald Trump's campaign, the Russian government and WikiLeaks as worth whatever the cost it might take to pursue.

“I don't know the amount of money that it will take, but I will tell you, it's hard to put a price tag on preserving democracy,” Perez said on Sunday’s “Meet The Press.” “That’s why I concluded that it would be irresponsible of me not to do this.” 

The lawsuit, filed on Friday, alleges that the Trump campaign, the Russian government, and Wikileaks engaged in a conspiracy to damage Democrats during the 2016 presidential race.  

But some Democrats have expressed concern about whether the financial investment involved could take away from needed resources for the 2018 midterms. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill reportedly called it a “silly distraction,” while Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier called the lawsuit “not in the interest of the American people." 

Perez responded Sunday by saying, “I love those two Democrats. They're great people. We're working to help re-elect them and I disagree with them for the simple reason that preserving our democracy is priceless.”

Michael Flynn to campaign for MT-SEN candidate

Troy Downing, one of four Republicans vying for a chance to face off against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in Montana, announced Friday that Michael Flynn will campaign for him.

Flynn also recently campaigned for Omar Navarro, a Republican running against Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who has been pushing for Trump’s impeachment. (Navarro isn't a threat to Waters, whose district is very heavily Democratic and majority-minority.) 

Carrie Dann

Race to replace Issa is getting pricey already

Not a whole lot in southern California comes cheap, and that includes TV air time.

So it's no surprise that the race to replace Rep. Darrell Issa in California's 49th congressional district is expensive. But the competitiveness of the race — and its crowded contest in an unusual top-two nonpartisan primary — is making it particularly pricey, perhaps even setting it up to be the most expensive House race in the country. 

According to ad buying group Advertising Analytics, $1.4 million has already been spent on the airwaves, with another $1.5 million booked through the primary on June 5. 

Backers of Democrat Sara Jacobs, the granddaughter of the billionaire founder of Qualcomm, account for nearly half the spending so far. Her campaign has spent about $900,000 on TV ads so far, while advocacy group Women Vote!has spent an additional $670,000 on her behalf. 

Another rival Democrat, Paul Kerr, has spent just over $1 million.

Other Democrats in the race include businessman Doug Applegate and Mike Levin. 

Republican spending hasn't ramped up so much yet. Candidates Kristin Gaspar and Brian Maryott are each spending a bit less than $250,000. GOP Assemblyman Rocky Chavez is viewed as a frontrunner in the race, but has spent little on his campaign so far. 

Carrie Dann

Trump backs Blackburn: 'I will be there to campaign with her!'

As departing Republican Sen. Bob Corker has continued to praise the Democrat running to replace him, President Donald Trump is making clear that he's firmly in Republican Marsha Blackburn's corner. 

"@MarshaBlackburn is a wonderful woman who has always been there when we have needed her," he tweeted. "Great on the Military, Border Security and Crime. Loves and works hard for the people of Tennessee. She has my full endorsement and I will be there to campaign with her!"

Trump won Tennessee by 26 points in 2016, winning 92 of 95 counties. But Democratic candidate and former governor Phil Bredesen is still well-regarded in the state, and one early poll has shown him with the lead. 

Corker, who has at times been an ally and a thorn in the side of the president, has donated to Blackburn's campaign but has also said he will not campaign against Bredesen. 

"I worked very closely with him for years, and he was a very good mayor, very good governor, very good businessperson and look, I'm not going to campaign against someone who, you know, I've been a friend with and worked with," he said Wednesday. 

Andrew Rafferty

Republicans blitz 'High Five Heidi' Heitkamp on day marking iconic celebratory gesture

Only in politics can National High Five Day be seen as a chance to go after a top 2018 target.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee used the occasion Thursday to blast incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for greeting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer during a failed vote to advance legislation that would ban nearly all abortions after 20 weeks.

“While today is National High Five Day, Senator Heidi Heitkamp celebrated back in March when she gave a big high five to her DC boss, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, after voting against North Dakotans,” the NRSC claims.  (The vote and high five in question actually took place in January, not March.)

But a thorough fact check from Politifact of the interaction — that takes into account the definition of a high five — ruled the pair engaged in “an awkward hand waving-turned-holding” and not a celebratory hand slap.  And the greeting, which staffers for both Democrats said was NOT a high five, happened before the final vote count.

The North Dakotan is one of ten Democratic senators up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016. She is a top target for the NRSC, which in March dubbed her "High Five Heidi" in an ad slamming her for the abortion vote, support for Obamacare, and vote against tax cuts.