Two years after President Donald Trump’s stunning upset win (despite receiving nearly three million fewer votes than his opponent), Democrats have a long-awaited chance to regain control of one (or both) chambers of the legislature. This would mean an opportunity for Congress to finally offer meaningful checks and balances on Trump’s administration after the midterm elections, this Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Democrats need to flip 24 seats to win the House. Twenty-five GOP-controlled districts went to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) in the 2016 presidential election. But gerrymandering has given the GOP considerable statistical advantages in 2016, 2014, and 2012, and was in large part the result of Republicans capturing key state legislatures in 2010. Democrats face an uphill battle to flip the House — and staunch Senate losses — on Election Day.
In the Senate, the 2018 map is much more favorable to the GOP, as multiple Democrats elected alongside incumbent President Barack Obama in 2012 now find themselves in tough re-election battles in states Trump won in 2016. Republicans are expected to maintain control of the Senate and possibly even expand their 51-49 majority. However, there’s some hope for Democrats: many of the races that would determine control of the Senate are still close, and if Democratic over-performance from special elections during the Trump presidency carries over to the midterms, they could pick up seats.
Here are the top congressional races to follow for signs of a “blue wave” on Tuesday.
Sen. Ted Cruz‘s (R) first Senate reelection fight has received a lot of attention, as the popularity of rock star and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) has clearly made Texas Republicans nervous. Though Cruz’s Democratic challenger remains an underdog in the state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver has warned that O’Rourke could over-perform polling and “really has a chance” since early vote numbers exceeded the total amount of ballots cast here in the 2014 midterms.
A number of incumbent House Republicans — especially in suburban districts — are scrambling to keep their jobs in a state that Trump won by nine percentage points in 2016. In the 7th district near Houston, Rep. John Culberson (R), who back in August blamed a possible campaign violation on climate change, is forecasted as a slight underdog against attorney Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D).
Rep. Pete Sessions (R), one of the many vulnerable Republicans who voted against the Affordable Care Act’s protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, has trailed former NFL player and Obama official Colin Allred (D) in some recent polls. They’re running in the 32nd congressional district, which lies outside Dallas and is rated as a toss-up by the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics.
Rep. Will Hurd (R) is favored in the 23rd district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, but U.S. Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones (D) is the type of candidate who could potentially ride a “blue wave” to an upset win on Tuesday. U.S. Air Force veteran MJ Hegar (D), who has released some of the best ads of this election cycle, is a longshot to unseat Rep. John Carter (R) in the 31st district outside of Austin.
Like the Lone Star State, House Republicans in suburban districts are the likeliest pickup opportunities for Democrats here. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R), whose former senior aide recently participated in a Proud Boys rally, is forecasted as a slight underdog against nonprofit advocate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D) in the 26th district outside of Miami. In the 15th district that encompasses Tampa’s suburbs, where Rep. Dennis Ross (R) is one among a record-breaking number of Republican retirements, state representative Ross Spano (R) and former prosecutor Kristen Carlson (D) are in a toss-up race.
In the 27th district in Miami, the retirement of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) has provided a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats (the district went by almost 20 points to Secretary Clinton in 2016), but former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala (D) has struggled to earn momentum against former Telemundo reporter Maria Salazar (R), and the race is likely a toss-up.
The 6th district, which remains vacant following former Rep. Ron DeSantis‘ (R) resignation to run for governor, is expected to remain in Republican control as former Fox News contributor Michael Waltz (R) leads in polling, but former National Security Council member Nancy Soderberg (D) is close enough that a strong “blue wave” could push her over the top.
One of Republicans’ most coveted Senate pickup opportunities is in the Sunshine State, where Gov. Rick Scott (R) is trying to prevent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) from a fourth term as the state’s senior senator. Though the race remains close and within the margin of error in several recent polls, Scott’s campaign has struggled to sustain momentum since the “red tide” algae crisis rocked the state, and the incumbent Democrat is forecasted as a slight favorite.
Even though this is a deeply blue state, California’s congressional delegation includes 14 Republicans, many of whom find themselves in tight races amid widespread disapproval of Trump. Russian spies’ favorite member of congress, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) — a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan who has been in the House since 1989 — is projected as a slight underdog against businessman Harley Rouda (D) in Orange County’s 48th district.
In the neighboring 49th district being vacated by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Benghazi), attorney Mike Levin (D) is expected to defeat former state assembly member Diane Harkey (R). The retirement of Rep. Ed Royce (R) has created a toss-up race between former state assembly member Young Kim (R) and U.S. Navy veteran-turned lottery winner-turned philanthropist Gil Cisneros (D) in the 39th district.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R), who was best-known as the vaping congressman before being indicted, then blaming his wife for his indictment, then running an outrageously Islamophobic campaign, is still favored against former Obama official Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) in the 50th district, but this is a seat that could also be surprised with a “blue wave.”
Rep. Mimi Walters (R) is projected as a slight underdog against consumer protection attorney Katie Porter (D) in the 45th district. In the 25th district outside of Los Angeles, Rep. Steve Knight (R), who recently featured an anti-Semite and Islamophobe in a campaign ad, is another endangered Republican incumbent who is seen as a slight underdog against nonprofit director Katie Hill (D). Recent polling also indicates Rep. Jeff Denham (R) is in trouble against businessman Josh Harder (D) in the Bay Area’s 10th district. Rep. Devin Nunes (R), perhaps the loyalest Trump stooge in Congress, is expected to hold off a challenge from former prosecutor Andrew Janz (D) in the 22nd district.
The former toss-up state that has become pretty blue in recent elections presents more prime opportunities for Democratic House pickups, particularly in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. After Democratic candidates scored sweeping victories across the commonwealth in last year’s state elections, several incumbent Republicans are feeling the heat from upstart challengers.
In the 10th district outside of D.C., it has basically been accepted that Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) will soon be out of a job, as state senator Jennifer Wexton (D) has pulled ahead in recent polling. Rep. Dave Brat (R) has his hands full in a toss-up race in the 7th against former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger (D). Brat’s campaign tried to link her with “terrorism” for teaching English at a Muslim school. Their district stretches from the D.C. suburbs to southern Virginia and hasn’t been won by a Democrat in 50 years, so it’s a prime “blue wave” target.
The retirement of the 5th district’s Rep. Tom Garrett (R) has created a toss-up race between U.S. Air Force veteran and “Bigfoot erotica” enthusiast Denver Riggleman (R) and former journalist Leslie Cockburn (D).
Like California, the Empire State has a sizable GOP congressional delegation despite being dark blue, and nine House Republicans are up for reelection on Tuesday.
In the upstate 22nd district, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) recently met with a racist politician and claimed further research on gun violence isn’t necessary because the NRA is handling it. She’s projected as a slight underdog against state assembly member Anthony Brindisi (D). Rep. John Faso (R) is also seen as a slight underdog to attorney Antonio Delgado (D), a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law graduate that Republicans have attacked for rapping over a decade ago, in the 19th district that stretches from the New York City suburbs to Albany.
Rep. Chris Collins (R), an early Trump supporter who was charged with securities fraud and lying to federal agents in August, somehow remains a favorite in the 27th district near Buffalo, but town supervisor Nate McMurray (D) is within “blue wave” striking distance. The 25th district remains vacant following the death of longtime progressive stalwart Louise Slaughter (D) in March, but state assembly member Joseph Morelle (D) is expected to defeat surgeon Jim Maxwell (R).
Rep. Daniel Donovan (R) holds a lead over U.S. Army veteran Max Rose (D) in recent polling, but Rose is close enough that a big night for Democrats could make things interesting in the conservative 11th district on Staten Island. Reps. Tom Reed (R) and John Katko (R) are also favorites in the 23rd and 24th districts in western New York, but former professor Tracy Mitrano (D) and community organizer Dana Balter (D) should not be counted out.
Rep. Peter King (R), who has been in his seat since 1993, is projected as safe in the 2nd district on Long Island, but women’s rights activist Liuba Grechen Shirley (D) has dominated the incumbent Republican in fundraising and is seen as having an outside shot at an upset. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) is expected to keep his job in Long Island’s 1st district — even after he was caught providing the wrong deadline for absentee balloting for his second-straight election.
Twenty-nine-year-old Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) will officially become the youngest member of Congress after stunning Rep. Joe Crowley (D) in June’s primary for the 14th district in the Bronx and Queens.
One of the Senate’s most closely-watched races is in the Silver State. Sen. Dean Heller (R), whose campaign was recently hurt by Energy Secretary Rick Perry “accidentally” telling the truth about Trump’s plan to dump nuclear waste in the state, is in a toss-up race with Rep. Jacky Rosen (D). The number of early ballots cast here surpassed the total amount of votes from the 2014 midterm elections.
The state that Democrats thought might be in play in 2016 presents some interesting pickup opportunities for progressives. Sen. Jeff Flake‘s (R) retirement has created a very close race between Rep. Martha McSally (R) and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D). Sinema, the first bisexual member of Congress, holds a slight lead in FiveThirtyEight’s projection.
In the 2nd district that includes most of Tucson, which McSally vacated to run for senator, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) is seen as a favorite over businesswoman Lea Marquez Peterson (R). Joe Arpaio–approved Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) is thought to be safe in the 8th district near Phoenix, but recent polling suggests physician Hiral Tipirneni (D) is within “blue wave” territory. This election is a rematch of April’s special election following the retirement of Rep. Trent Franks (R) amid an ethics investigation: Reports surfaced that he offered money to two female staffers to be his pregnancy surrogates.
It looks like Rep. Randy Hultgren (R) could be in trouble in the 14th district’s Chicago exurbs, as former Obama official Lauren Underwood (D) has opened a lead in projections. Rep. Peter Roskam (R) is also viewed as an underdog against businessman Sean Casten (D) in the 6th district’s Chicago suburbs. A couple other Republican incumbents in districts near St. Louis will be wary of a “blue wave” on Tuesday: Reps. Mike Bost (R) and Rodney Davis (R) are favored in the 12th and 13th districts, but state attorney Brendan Kelly (D) and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D), a former staffer for Sen. Dick Durbin (D), remain close enough to potentially pull off upsets.
Democrats are pursuing several potential House flips in the state that Trump unexpectedly captured in 2016, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to win the Wolverine State since 1988. In East Lansing’s 8th district, Rep. Mike Bishop (R) is projected as an underdog against Elissa Slotkin (D), who was part of President George W. Bush’s national security team and Obama’s Defense Department. The retirement of Rep. Dave Trott (R) has created another likely seat loss for Republicans, as former Obama official Haley Stevens (D) is favored over businesswoman and 2016 Trump campaign Michigan co-chairman Lena Epstein (R), who recently invited a “Christian Rabbi” to pray for victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, in the 11th district outside of Detroit. Reps. Fred Upton (R) and Tim Walberg (R) are probably safe in the 6th and 7th districts in the southern part of the state, but physician Matt Longjohn (D) and former state representative Gretchen Driskell (D) could make things interesting if a “blue wave” rolls across the country on Tuesday.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is a heavy favorite to secure a fourth term against former U.S. Army veteran John James (R), who Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani referred to as “Don James” in an endorsement tweet last week.
Another state that unexpectedly went Republican in the 2016 presidential election for the first time since 1988 could provide some key House flips for Democrats. The resignation of Rep. Pat Meehan (R) after he blamed Obamacare for his sexual harassment of a former aide has helped ensure that the 7th district in the eastern part of the state will likely be won by attorney Susan Wild (D) over county commissioner Marty Nothstein (R), who has also been accused of sexual misconduct. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) is viewed as a slight favorite against philanthropist Scott Wallace (D) despite pulling every race-baiting trick in the book in Philadelphia’s 1st district. Rep. Scott Perry (R), who touted a fake pro-Israel award from Sacha Baron Cohen on his website, is favored to keep his job in the 10th district in central Pennsylvania, but the incumbent congressman should be on “blue wave” watch against U.S. Army veteran and pastor George Scott (D).
A pair of retirements by longtime Republican incumbents have Democrats looking at House pickups in the Garden State. The departure of Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R), who has represented southern Jersey’s 2nd district since 1995, has made state senator Jeff Van Drew (D) a heavy favorite against attorney Seth Grossman (R). The GOP also looks likely to lose the seat of retiring Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R), the congressman in the 11th district’s New York City suburbs since 1995, as FiveThirtyEight projects U.S. Navy veteran and former assistant U.S. attorney Mikie Sherrill (D) to be heavily favored over state assemblyman Jay Webber (R). A couple of incumbent Republicans who are trying to keep their jobs could also be in trouble. Rep. Leonard Lance (R) is struggling in the NYC suburbs’ 7th district and projected as an underdog against former Obama State Department official Tom Malinowski (D). Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) is in a toss-up race with former Obama official Andy Kim (D), who has been targeted by racist mailers in the 3rd district’s Philadelphia suburbs.
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D), one of the endangered Democrats in a Trump state, is a favorite on FiveThirtyEight, but listed as a toss–up against former state representative Mike Braun (R) on the Cook Political Report and Real Clear Politics.
Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R) is unlikely to lose on Tuesday, but the 9th district in the suburbs of Indianapolis fits the profile of an area in which a “blue wave” could possibly push labor attorney Liz Watson (D) over the top.
Will the 4th district finally boot white supremacist and Rep. Steve King (R) out of Congress after 15 years? It’s unlikely, but he’s clearly not handling the pressure of the toughest re-election challenge of his career from former professional baseball player J.D. Scholten (D) too well. Things look more optimistic for Democrats elsewhere in the state. Rep. Rod Blum (R) is considered likely to lose his job in Cedar Rapids’ 1st district on Tuesday, as state representative Abby Finkenauer (D) enjoys a fairly large lead in recent polling. Rep. David Young (R) is also an underdog in his re-election campaign against businesswoman and community activist Cindy Axne (D) in the 3rd district that includes Des Moines.
Democrats are hoping to pick up a pair of House seats near the Twin Cities in the North Star State. Rep. Jason Lewis (R), whose history of racism and homophobia is well-documented, is seen as an underdog against businesswoman Angie Craig (D) in the 2nd district. In the neighboring 3rd district, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) is also projected to lose his job to entrepreneur Dean Phillips (D) on Tuesday. In one of Democrats’ rare defensive plays on the House map, Dan Feehan (D) is in a toss–up race with Jim Hagedorn (R), who has expressed his desire to remove President Abraham Lincoln from Mount Rushmore, to fill the 1st district seat in the southern part of the state after Rep. Tim Walz (D) vacated it to run for governor. Things are looking worse for Democrats in Duluth’s 8th district, as the retirement of Rep. Rick Nolan (D) to run for lieutenant governor has given the GOP a likely pickup opportunity with former police officer Pete Stauber (R) expected to defeat former state representative Joe Radinovich (D).
Minnesota’s Senate seats are up for grabs on Tuesday, but Democrats should keep both of them. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) has a huge lead against state representative Jim Newberger (R) in her bid for a third Senate term. Sen. Tina Smith (D), who was appointed to the seat vacated by Sen. Al Franken (D) following his resignation over numerous allegations of sexual harassment, is expected to hold off state senator Karin Housley (R), who once compared former First Lady Michelle Obama to a monkey and admitted that she knows nothing about Social Security, in a special election.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R) is unlikely to keep his job in the Denver suburbs’ 6th district, as former Obama adviser Jason Crow (D) has enjoyed a sizable lead in recent polling. The rural 3rd district in the western part of the state is thought to be safe for Rep. Scott Tipton (R), who doesn’t understand how magazine subscriptions work, but former state representative Diane Mitsch Bush (D) remains in “blue wave” territory.
Despite the best efforts of North Carolina Republicans to suppress votes, the Tar Heel State has turned bluer in recent years and there are a handful of House pickup opportunities for Democrats. In the 9th district that stretches from Charlotte to rural central Carolina, Rep. Robert Pittenger‘s (R) loss in the Republican primary has led to a toss-up race between pastor Mark Harris (R), who wishes anti-sodomy laws still existed, and U.S. Marines veteran and businessman Dan McCready (D). Incumbent Reps. George Holding (R), David Rouzer (R), and Ted Budd (R) are favored in the suburban 2nd, 7th, and 13th districts near North Carolina’s Triangle Area, but former state representative Linda Coleman (D), physician Kyle Horton (D), and businesswoman Kathy Manning (D) are all within striking distance if a “blue wave” comes to fruition.
The retirement of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) has ironworker Randy Bryce (D) projected within striking distance of state board of regents member Bryan Steil (R), a former aide for Rep. Ryan, in the 1st district in the southeast part of the state.
Rep. Karen Handel (R), who defeated Jon Ossoff (D) in one of the first special elections of the Trump era in 2017, now finds herself as a projected slight favorite against Everytown’s Lucy McBath (D), who lost a son to gun violence, in the 6th district outside of Atlanta.
Rep. Andy Barr (R) finds himself in a toss-up race with U.S. Navy and Marines veteran Amy McGrath (D), who produced one of the most memorable ads of this election cycle, in the 6th district that contains Lexington and Frankfort.
Could the “blue wave” make its way to the Sunflower State? Rep. Kevin Yoder (R), who said his Native American opponent should “be sent back packing to the reservation,” is projected to be unseated by attorney Sharice Davids (D) in the 3rd district near Kansas City. The retirement of Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) in the neighboring 2nd district has resulted in a toss-up race between U.S. Army veteran Steve Watkins (R) and former state representative Paul Davis (D).
Democrats are hoping a “blue wave” will help flip a couple of House seats here. Rep. Troy Balderson (R), who produced a strong contender for the worst ad of this election cycle, is favored over Danny O’Connor (D) in the 12th district, but it’s the type of area in the Columbus suburbs that could see a big swing to the left. Rep. Steve Chabot (R) is expected to keep his seat in Cincinnati’s 1st district, but Aftab Pureval (D) remains within reach.
It seems like Sen. Claire McCaskill‘s (D) electoral chances are always in peril in this toss-up-turned red state. After a narrow victory in 2006 and Todd Akin’s (R) “legitimate rape” implosion in 2012, McCaskill faces what might be her toughest challenge yet against attorney general Josh Hawley (R), who has vowed to protect coverage of pre-existing medical conditions as he’s part of a lawsuit intended to gut coverage of pre-existing medical conditions. Despite this, the race is considered a toss–up with the Democrat holding a slight edge in FiveThirtyEight’s projection.
It appears unlikely that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) will overcome Rep. Kevin Cramer (R), who dismissed credible accusations of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, to win a second term in the state that Trump won by over 35 percentage points in 2016.
Fortunately for Democrats, it seems like Sen. Jon Tester (D) is in better standing than his neighbor in a state that Trump won by over 20 percentage points in 2016, as the two-term senator is projected as a heavy favorite over state auditor Matt Rosendale (R).
In Big Sky Country’s at-large congressional district, journalist assaulter and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R) is expected to hold off a challenge from former state representative Kathleen Williams (D), although FiveThirtyEight puts the Democrat within striking distance in the notoriously tough to predict state.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R) finds herself in a toss-up race with Taylor Swift–endorsed former governor Phil Bredesen (D) to determine who will replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R) in a state that Trump won by more than 25 percentage points in 2016.
The retirement of Rep. Dave Reichert (R) in the 8th district outside of Seattle has provided Democrats with a pickup opportunity, as pediatrician Kim Schrier (D) is viewed as a favorite over state senator Dino Rossi (R).
A possible pickup opportunity appeared for Democrats in the mostly rural 2nd district when Rep. Steve Pearce (R) decided to run for governor, as the race between state representative Yvette Herrell (R) and attorney Xochitl Torres Small (D) is rated a toss-up.
Is longtime Rep. Don Young (R), who has been representing this state’s at-large district since 1973, in trouble? Who knows! Alaska is notoriously difficult to poll, but activist Alyse Galvin (D) has an outside shot at what would be a shocking upset.
Stay tuned to ThinkProgress’ Election 2018 Live Blog for more coverage of the midterms.