Democrats have been girding themselves for a tough November, knowing full well that the president’s party traditionally loses seats in Congress in midterm elections.
But lately Democrats have started to feel more optimistic. With stumbles by far-right candidates on the Republican side, backlash to the U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion decision that’s energizing Democrats, a series of legislative wins and improvements in President Joe Biden’s approval ratings, Democrats are cautiously hoping that it might not be as bad as expected.
That improved outlook was all over Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) on Thursday. The No. 2 Democrat in the House is known for his deliberation and public cautiousness, so it was somewhat telling that he decided to name exactly which Democrats he thought would prevail in November, predicting wins in a number of tough races.
“I think we’re going to hold almost every front-liner,” Hoyer told reporters in the Capitol, referring to candidates in close races that are priorities for both parties.
“It always happens. You have people who you think are going to win who don’t, and people you think don’t have a chance who win,” he said. “I’ll give you some specific names of who I think is going to win.”
In races lower in profile than the front-liners but in districts that are fairly evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, he predicted:
- Rudy Salas to beat Republican incumbent David Valadao in California
- Nikki Budzinski to win an open seat in Illinois
- Donald Davis to hold a seat in North Carolina after Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s retirement
- Hillary Scholten to flip a Republican seat in Michigan
- Emilia Sykes to hold Senate candidate Tim Ryan’s Democratic congressional seat in Ohio
- Chris Deluzio to hold unsuccessful Democratic Senate candidate Conor Lamb’s seat in Pennsylvania
- Seth Magaziner to hold retiring Rep. Jim Langevin’s seat in Rhode Island
- Tony Vargas to beat Republican incumbent Don Bacon in Nebraska
- Greg Landsman to beat Republican incumbent Steve Chabot in Ohio
These races are tight. Most were ranked as either outright toss-ups or “lean Democratic” by the three leading political analysis organizations.
Hoyer also predicted Democrats Mary Peltola (Alaska) and Pat Ryan (N.Y.) would win full terms after their surprise wins in recent special elections.
The National Republican Campaign Committee did not return a request for comment about the races Hoyer cited.
“We’ve wanted the American people to know what the Republican Party is becoming, and is: an extremist party. So, yes, we told people.”
While the outlook for House Democrats has brightened since mid-July, history still remains on Republicans’ side. They need only to add six more seats to their current 212 to take control of the chamber.
And most observers still give Republicans a substantial edge, with political site Fivethirtyeight.com putting the odds at almost 7 in 10 for a Republican takeover.
Hoyer said he was confident, though, Democrats could buck the historical trend.
“I think we’re going to hold and pick up additional seats in the House,” he said.
Hoyer also defended a Democratic tactic in primary elections of creating ads highlighting far-right or extreme Trump-supporting primary candidates, with the idea that if they won the Republican nomination in those contests, they would be easier to beat in the general election. The ploy has been seen by some as undermining the Democrats’ argument that democracy is endangered by potentially enabling anti-democratic candidates to get into office.
“We’ve wanted the American people to know what the Republican Party is becoming, and is: an extremist party. So, yes, we told people,” Hoyer said.
“Now the result of that was that the people in the Republican Party who liked extremists voted for them. And now the Republicans are claiming, ‘Aha — you told them who we were! And they’re voting for us!’ That’s their own problem. They ought to clean house.”
“You know, the voters are pretty smart.”
Asked if Democrats may be in danger of peaking too early ahead of the midterms, with enough time for worries over inflation and the economy to reassert themselves with voters, Hoyer said he believed many voters had made up their minds.
“You know, the voters are pretty smart,” he said.
“You ask them about the specifics, they don’t know the specifics because they don’t spend the time that we spend. But their gut reaction is they know where the parties are. They’ve seen what Republicans are doing.”