The Republicans are poised to recapture the House majority after just four years in the minority, with opportunities to flip Democrat-represented districts expanding in 2022 seemingly by the day as the midterm election year commences.
House Republicans need to net five seats in the 435-member chamber to take control when lawmakers are sworn into office in January 2023 for the 118th Congress. But as 2021 comes to a close, poll after poll suggests a red wave is building: President Joe Biden’s average job approval rating sits at 44%, and Republicans lead the generic ballot by nearly 3 percentage points.
Combined with the big GOP off-year victories this past fall in Virginia and elsewhere across the country, dozens and dozens of incumbent Democrats are now on notice that their congressional careers could be cut short in a rebuke of the Biden administration. Such an outcome would be similar to the backlash to former President Donald Trump that cost Republicans 40 House seats and the majority back in 2018.
Following is a list of seven House districts currently held by the Democrats, and three now in Republican hands, considered among the most likely to fall to the other political party in November 2022. Some of the seats on this list could undergo further alterations to existing boundaries due to the decennial redistricting process.
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- Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District: The 3rd was Iowa’s most competitive of the state’s four seats in 2020, with Trump edging Biden 49.1% to 49%. Rep. Cindy Axne, now in her second term, also won, becoming one of the few Democrats to hang on last cycle in a district won by the former president. That makes Axne a solid incumbent, and her decision to run for reelection was a boon for Democrats. But like Axne’s old seat, the redrawn 3rd District would have narrowly voted for Trump over Biden last cycle. In a midterm election with a red wave brewing, that might be too strong of a tide for Axne to withstand.
- Maine’s 2nd Congressional District: Trump won the 2nd handily in 2020, defeating Biden 52.3% to 44.8%. That metric alone, in a western Maine district dominated by rural communities and working-class voters, should make second-term Rep. Jared Golden as good as defeated in 2022. But Golden, a Marine veteran, has bucked Democratic leadership in the House on key votes, including on Biden’s “Build Back Better” social spending bill, and stylistically is a strong fit for his seat. He could face his toughest challenge yet next year.
- Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District: This seat, which stretches from Las Vegas to the state’s southern tip, is on track to be a major House battleground. Biden barely defeated Trump in the old 3rd last cycle, 49.1% to 48.9%, and the slightly redrawn seat is not expected to give incumbent Democratic Rep. Susie Lee much of a partisan cushion, although for now, at least, she appears likely to have one. However, any partisan lean Lee begins with is not expected to be large enough to discourage Republicans from investing considerable resources in a bid to unseat her.
- North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District: This is an open seat, with veteran Rep. G.K. Butterfield retiring. Redistricting in the Tar Heel State could have the practical effect of making it all but impossible for all but one district to elect a Democrat in 2022. Butterfield’s decision to retire, while surely based at least in part on his party’s dim prospects in the midterm elections, appears to be a consequence of North Carolina’s new congressional boundaries. “It takes thousands of Democratic voters out of my district and places those into another district, which means my district becomes less Democratic and less African American,” he complained to Spectrum News earlier this year.
- Ohio’s 9th Congressional District: Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s nearly 40-year congressional career could be another victim of redistricting. Kaptur for years has represented a safe Democratic seat. In 2020, Biden trounced Trump in the 9th District. But Ohio has essentially functioned as a red state in the Trump era, and Republicans, who control the levers of redistricting in the Buckeye State, appear to have redrawn Kaptur’s seat into a red bastion. The GOP is now eyeing a fresh and, at least initially, unexpected opportunity.
- Oregon’s 4th Congressional District: At first glance, this western Oregon seat belongs nowhere near this list. The 4th’s new boundaries were drawn to elect a Democrat — and even under the old lines, the best Trump could do against Biden was 46.7% of the vote. But with longtime Rep. Peter DeFazio retiring and Republican Alek Skarlatos mounting his second bid for Congress in this seat, the Republicans could pull an upset if all of the stars align for the GOP.
- Texas’s 15th Congressional District: This battleground seat runs from San Antonio to the Mexican border. After it was reconstituted from a district drawn to elect Democrats to one considered a pure toss-up, the incumbent Democrat who represents the current 15th, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, announced that he would run for reelection in the new 34th Congressional District. That has effectively created an open seat for Republicans to target in a region of Texas dominated by Hispanic voters that has seen the GOP make some major gains over the past few years.
- Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District: Incumbent Republican Rep. Don Bacon managed to survive the Democratic wave in 2018 and 2020, when Biden bested Trump in the Omaha-area 2nd, 52.2% to 45.7%, netting himself one vote in the Electoral College. That might suggest that Bacon is too strong for Democrats to bother with considering how many districts they will be defending in 2022. But the new 2nd District only gives Bacon a marginal partisan advantage, and that might be an offensive opportunity that is too good for Democrats to pass up next year, especially if they have very few of them.
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- Ohio’s 1st Congressional District: Trump defeated Biden in this seat in 2020 by a relatively close margin of 50.9% to 47.7%. And that was when the partisan strength of the 1st was classified as Republican +8. With this redrawn southwest Ohio seat now considered an R+3, incumbent GOP Rep. Steve Chabot could have a fight on his hands, although he could be spared by a political atmosphere that by all accounts is likely to favor his party.
- Ohio’s 13th Congressional District: This Cleveland-area seat, which is essentially a newly constituted 16th Congressional District, opened when Trump chased incumbent Rep. Anthony Gonzalez into retirement (Gonzalez voted to impeach the former president in the waning days of his administration.) The partisan lean of the new 13th is R+4, enough to put the eventual Republican nominee here in the driver’s but slim enough that the GOP will likely be forced to work for it. If Democrats are looking for offensive opportunities, this seat could be attractive, especially if controversial Republican contender Max Miller is the GOP nominee, as is likely.