House Races: Polling Shows Swing Districts Close

Workers prepare ballots from a drop box for the mail sorting machine during the presidential primary at King County Elections ballot processing center in Renton, Wash., March 10, 2020. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

We just don’t get a lot of public polling of U.S. House races, which is a shame, because that’s usually the aspect of most election cycles that could use the most illumination. Part of this is an expense and public-interest issue, and part of this is that because of the way House district lines are drawn, it’s tougher for the pollster to ensure that the sample resides entirely within the House district.

We have a few recent polls here and there that are telling us that in the swing districts . . . surprise, surprise, the races are pretty close.

  • In New Mexico’s 2nd district, the most recent survey put Democratic Representative Xochitl Torres Small ahead of Republican Yvette Herrell, 47 percent to 45 percent.
  • In Pennsylvania’s tenth district, a late-August-early September GBAO survey finds Democrat Eugene DePasquale enjoying a 50 percent to 46 percent lead over Representative Scott Perry.
  • The University of New Hampshire is surveying both districts in the Granite State, and finds Democratic incumbents Chris Pappas and Ann Kuster enjoying comfortable leads in hypothetical matchups. (New Hampshire Republicans are having their congressional primaries today!) Not that many cycles ago, Republicans thought they had a good shot in these districts — in 2014, Frank Guinta won the first district seat narrowly, 51.7 percent to 48 percent, and Charles Bass won the second district seat in 2010.
  • In California’s 25th district, Katie Hill’s old seat, an internal Democratic poll puts Democratic State Assemblywoman Christy Smith behind incumbent Republican Mike Garcia, 45 percent to Garcia’s 46 percent. Hill won by about 9 points in 2018.
  • In Texas’ 17th district, former Representative Pete Sessions — who used to represent Texas’ 32nd U.S. House district — has a 45 percent to 42 percent lead over Rick Kennedy in the Lincoln Park Strategies survey conducted in late August. Incumbent Republican Bill Flores is retiring.
  • A DCCC poll of Oklahoma’s fifth district in mid-August showed Representative Kendra Horn — arguably the most unexpected Democratic victory of 2018 — ahead by 5 points. Take as many grains of salt as you feel necessary.

There are a bunch of districts that represent really low-hanging fruit for the GOP with no recent polling. The last public poll in South Carolina’s first district was in May, showing Republican challenger Nancy Mace ahead by one point over Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham. A late July–early August survey in Utah’s fourth district showed incumbent Ben McAdams, and Republican challenger Burgess Owens tied, with 35 percent each. A Monmouth University poll of Iowa’s second district conducted around the same time showed Republican Mariannette Miller Meeks with 47 percent and Democrat Rita Hart with 44 percent, in a seat where Democratic incumbent Dave Loebsack is retiring.

The only good news about losing a House majority in a landslide is that the winning party usually picks up some seats where the district demographics make it easy to win back the seat, and the Republicans have a good shot to chip away at the Democrats’ current 34-seat majority. But winning the majority back outright is an extremely steep climb.

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