In the past 20 days, the Cook Political Report has done something quite remarkable with Amy Walter: he has pushed the ratings for eight house races in favor democrats.
“Democrats continue to vote two to three points better in most districts than they did earlier this year, giving incumbents in marginal blue districts some cushion and bringing a handful more GOP seats into play,” wrote David Wasserman, who monitored the house races for the campaign’s bipartisan tip sheet , on Wednesday.
(The three races moved this week toward Democrats are in Arizona’s 1st District, Arizona’s 2nd District, and Texas’ 28th District.)
Well, it’s worth noting here — as Wasserman does — that Republicans still need to win just six of the 31 races that Cook classifies as “toss-ups” to take control of the House, a perfectly feasible feat if given the history of the midterm elections, it strongly favors the party with no presidency.
So, no, the recent rating changes should not be taken as a sign that the Democrats will retain their majority. In fact, most forecasters’ odds are tipping heavily on Republicans at the moment. FiveThirtyEight gives Republicans a 72% chance of retaking the majority in 48 days.
But what Cook’s is changing do This suggests that the Republican wave that only seemed to be building this summer seems to have somehow dissipated.
Put simply, if there was still the possibility of a major Republican wave this November, you would see handicap sites move marginal Democratic seats to more vulnerable territory. All traffic would be one-way — Democratic counties once considered impenetrable would be seen as slipping away due to President Joe Biden’s low poll numbers and ongoing concerns about high inflation.
But that doesn’t happen. In fact, the opposite is true — the Democrats’ odds are increasing, at least in some races, as the election approaches.
This has several important implications (assuming the general trend continues for the next seven weeks – which anyone can suspect):
1) Even if Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in November, they could do so by a small margin, making it harder to pass their agenda.
2) This would strengthen groups like the House Freedom Caucus, which, as long as their members stick together, can wield considerable control over the Republican agenda.
3) Democrats would have an easier path back to the majority in 2024 if turnout in the presidential year should help them get their base to the ballot box.
The point: Changes in the ratings of some seats may not seem like much on the surface. But what those changes signal can be critical to what politics will look like over the next two years.