Brutal numbers show how tough it will be for Republicans to keep control of the House this November

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

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President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
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Joshua Roberts/Reuters

  • This week’s too-close-to-call special election in a ruby-red Ohio congressional district has called new attention to a 2018 electoral map that highly favors Democrats in the US House.
  • Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held seats to take control of the House.
  • There are 68 GOP-held House seats that are less conservative than Ohio’s 12th District, where Tuesday’s special election remains too close to call.

This week’s too-close-to-call special election in a Republican-leaning Ohio congressional district has called new attention to a 2018 electoral map that highly favors Democrats – especially in the US House.

It looks unlikely that the Democrat Danny O’Connor will successfully flip Ohio’s 12th District (provisional ballots are still being counted). But the fact that a district President Donald Trump won by 11 percentage points in 2016 could so quickly turn against the GOP has many predicting a “blue wave” in this year’s midterms.

And the numbers point in Democrats’ favor:

  • Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held House seats this year to take control of the 435-seat chamber.
  • In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 25 districts that are represented by Republicans.
  • On top of that, there are 68 Republican-held House seats that are rated as less conservative than Ohio’s 12th District and 119 GOP seats considered less Republican than the seat the Democrat Conor Lamb flipped in western Pennsylvania in March, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
  • Of the 62 races that Cook rated as only leaning toward Republicans or Democrats or as “tossups,” 58 are held by Republicans.

Boosting Democrats’ confidence are the president’s relatively low approval ratings and the stronger support for Democrats than Republicans in generic ballot polls.

But the GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak cautioned that the midterm turnout could be very different from that of a presidential election – specifically, midterm electorates are typically less racially diverse.

“There’s all this chatter about these so-called Hillary districts,” he said. “Does that mean the Democrat could win? Yes. Does it mean the Democrat is guaranteed to win? No.”

“Traditionally,” he added, “you’ve seen lower minority participation in midterm years.”

But Mackowiak conceded that the map and political trends were alarming for Republicans.

“It’s clear there’s tremendous risk if you are in an R+10 district or worse,” he said, adding that the “risks to the Trump administration if the Democrats take the House back are profound.”

If Democrats win control of the legislative chamber, Republicans fear they’ll use their subpoena power to aggressively investigate the president and his administration, kill the GOP’s legislative agenda, and attempt to impeach him.

But the Senate is a different story. Of the 35 senators up for reelection this year, 26 are Democrats and just nine are Republicans. And 10 of these Democrats represent states Trump carried in 2016. On top of that, only two of the GOP-held seats on the ballot are in traditional swing states (Nevada and Arizona).

To flip the Senate, Democrats would need to win 28 of these races – a much more significant challenge than they have in the House.