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Offbeat10 places where the 2018 midterms will be won and lost

13:10  06 november  2018
13:10  06 november  2018 Source:   politico.com

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10 places where the 2018 midterms will be won and lost

Photo gallery by USA Today

Upstate New York and downstate Illinois. Metro Atlanta and the Delaware Valley. Orange County, Calif., and Maricopa County, Ariz.

These areas are among a relatively small set of places that will play an outsized role in picking the winners and losers of the midterm elections. A Democratic sweep of upstate New York could deliver nearly a quarter of the seats needed to overcome the GOP’s 23-seat majority in the House. Likewise, a strong GOP turnout in traditionally conservative Orange County could bolster Republican hopes of holding down the damage in the House — and maybe even help salvage the majority.

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These areas are among a relatively small set of places that will play an outsized role in picking the winners and losers of the midterm elections. Democratic strongholds in Hudson, Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties will be critical to embattled Democratic Sen.

Most of these places have been blanketed by TV ads for months because they’re home to a concentration of battleground House races or they’re essential to closely contested Senate or governor’s races. How Arizona’s Maricopa County goes, for example, could affect the balance of power in the Senate because of its critical role in the contest between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally.

Whether they are rural in character or metropolitan, Republican or Democratic in their voting habits, the common denominator in these places is that they will be influential in shaping the next Congress and determining which parties hold statehouse power.

Upstate New York

There are nine Republicans in New York’s 27-member House delegation and every single one of them is within reach for Democrats this year.

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The bulk of these endangered seats are concentrated in upstate New York, far from New York City. Freshmen Reps. John Faso and Claudia Tenney are fighting for their political lives. In Western New York, Reps. John Katko and Chris Collins are perhaps slightly better situated, but Collins is campaigning under the shadow of indictments on insider trading charges. Reps. Elise Stefanik and Tom Reed are in races that are more competitive than they once figured to be.

Downstate Illinois

There are different definitions of what exactly constitutes downstate Illinois, but it generally means everything south of the Chicago metro area. It’s a far more conservative place than Chicagoland and this year there are two GOP House members there, Reps. Mike Bost and Rodney Davis, who are in tough reelection campaigns. This is the part of a very blue state where President Donald Trump remains somewhat popular, so he’s come to the region at least twice in recent months to bolster their chances.

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Complicating their predicament, however, is Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. He's on a trajectory to lose to Democrat J.B. Pritzker by a wide margin, and a poor GOP performance in southern Illinois at the top of the ticket could play a role in dragging down Bost and Davis, not to mention the Republican slate of state legislative candidates.

That would only compound Republican problems in Illinois: In the Chicago suburbs and exurbs, there are two more Republican House incumbents who are in even more serious danger — Reps. Randy Hultgren and Peter Roskam, who are contending with blowback from Trump’s polarizing presidency.

Delaware Valley

The Delaware Valley region is essentially southeastern Pennsylvania and parts of South Jersey — in other words, the Philadelphia metropolitan area. And depending on how broadly you define the region, there are at least a half-dozen House seats in play.

On the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, a map drawn by the state Supreme Court earlier this year has scrambled the House landscape, nowhere more than in the populous southeastern corner of the state. GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick is locked in a toss-up battle in Bucks County. The two other nearby Philly suburban districts (the 5th and 6th Districts), neither of which have an incumbent running, are expected to be Democratic pick-ups. Farther north toward Allentown, in the district formerly held by GOP Rep. Charlie Dent, Democrats have the edge.

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As far as Pennsylvania statewide elections go, a recent Franklin & Marshall poll shows Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey swamping their Republican opponents in the Southeast.

On the Jersey side, the Shore-based seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Frank LoBiondo is widely acknowledged to be long gone — count it as a Democratic pick-up. The neighboring 3rd District held by GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur, on the other hand, is highly competitive: It snapped from voting for Barack Obama by 5 points to Donald Trump by 6 in 2016.

Orange County, Calif.

From Los Angeles to San Diego, Southern California is loaded with barn-burner House races this year. But it’s Orange County, the longtime conservative bastion that used to be called “America’s most Republican county,” that’s drawn all the attention.

Hillary Clinton carried Orange County in 2016, the first time in 80 years the county voted Democratic for president. And on the heels of that election there are four closely contested races there that are critical to Democratic chances of retaking the House. Republicans outnumber Democrats in terms of voter registration in each of those suburban-oriented districts, but they’re all razor-close.

GOP Reps. Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher are locked in toss-up contests; the seat left vacant by GOP Rep. Ed Royce’s retirement is also too close to call. The seat held by retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, which covers both Orange and San Diego counties, might be the most endangered of them all.

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Metro Atlanta

For decades, suburban Gwinnett and Cobb counties could usually be counted on to deliver comfortable Republican margins. But both left the fold in 2016 to vote Democratic in a presidential race for the first time since 1976.

With tight races for governor and in two competitive Republican-held House races in the Atlanta suburbs, those two counties — the two most populous in the state after Atlanta’s Fulton County — will have the spotlight on them Tuesday. In the governor’s contest, Democrat Stacey Abrams will need to do well with suburban college-educated women against Republican Brian Kemp.

In the 7th District, which is rooted in increasingly diverse Gwinnett, GOP Rep. Rob Woodall is expected to face his toughest test yet — since first capturing the seat in 2010, he’s never won less than 60 percent of the vote. In the 6th District — where a deep vein of suburban anti-Trump sentiment was revealed in its 2017 special election — GOP Rep. Karen Handel faces stiff competition in her bid to win a full term.

Las Vegas

The Las Vegas media market saw $103 million in political ad spending in this election cycle — second only to Orlando, Fla. The reason is that the bulk of the state vote is cast there, and Nevada is filled with barn-burner elections this year.

There’s the toss-up Senate race between GOP Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, and another toss-up contest for governor. There are also two Clark County-based, open House seats that are must wins for Democrats. Democrats have the edge in both of them, according to POLITICO’s race ratings, but neither is a slam dunk.

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Maricopa County, Ariz.

Maricopa County, which includes the Phoenix metropolitan area, is home to roughly two-thirds of Arizona voters. At the presidential level, it’s voted Republican in every election since 1952, but it’s not especially enamored of Donald Trump. In 2016, when the county cast roughly 60 percent of the state presidential vote, the president won by a narrow plurality.

This year, polls show Republican Senate nominee Martha McSally is lagging behind in Maricopa. That’s a big problem in her race against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who represents a Maricopa County-based congressional seat. But whether the county delivers it’s typical GOP margins is a question that will affect more than just the Senate race. There’s also a governor’s race, where GOP Gov. Doug Ducey is the favorite, and two competitive House races anchored in Maricopa County — Republican Rep. David Schweikert’s 6th District and Rep. Debbie Lesko’s 8th District.

North Jersey

Democratic strongholds in Hudson, Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties will be critical to embattled Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s chances of winning reelection against Republican Bob Hugin. High turnout in Hudson County, where the senator once headed the local party organization, is especially important.

And in a year when the state’s Republican incumbents are under siege across the state, there are several House contests in North Jersey where strong Democratic turnout could also make the difference. In the open 11th, an affluent Morris County-based seat held for 24 years by Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen before he announced his retirement, Democratic nominee Mikie Sherrill has the edge despite the district’s GOP lean.

In the 7th, GOP Rep. Leonard Lance is struggling to hang on in a Republican-leaning suburban seat that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. There’s also a Democratic-held seat here — Rep. Josh Gotteheimer’s 5th District — that bears watching because of its Republican lineage, but the freshman Democrat looks well-positioned to win a second-term.

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Oakland County, Mich.

Affluent, white-collar Oakland County is the most populous in the state after Detroit’s Wayne County. A strong Republican performance there is essential to GOP hopes in statewide races.

But with GOP chances flagging in both the Senate and governor’s races this year, the real question there is whether the party can hang onto the 8th and 11th congressional districts. In the 8th District, GOP Rep. Mike Bishop is thought to be the most vulnerable incumbent Republican in Michigan's delegation. Oakland will play a role in determining his fate, having cast close to 40 percent of the district’s vote in 2016. Reached by both the Lansing and Detroit media markets, it’s been one of the most expensive House races in the nation in terms of ad spending, $21 million in total.

In the entirely Oakland-based 11th — a Republican-leaning suburban seat left vacant this year by the retirement of GOP Rep. Dave Trott — Democrat Haley Stevens is thought to have a slight advantage over Republican Lena Epstein.

Greater Houston

The Houston metropolitan area features an array of competitive House elections this year — none as closely watched as the suburban 7th District. There, Republican John Culberson is in a toss-up race against Democrat Lizzie Fletcher, who’s capitalized on suburban disenchantment with Donald Trump. The district whiplashed from a 21-point Mitt Romney victory in 2012 to a 1-point Hillary Clinton win four years later. Houston TV has been bombarded with $19.4 million in ads from the race.

The Harris County-based 2nd District, typically solidly Republican, is competitive for the first time in years with GOP Rep. Ted Poe’s retirement. The 22nd District, another solidly Republican seat entirely within the Houston media market, is closer than anyone expected with GOP Rep. Pete Olson slightly favored to win.

10 places where the 2018 midterms will be won and lost

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