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As Democrats Eye Senate Control, GOP Likely To Hold Slim House Majority


Most of the attention this election has been on the presidential race, but no matter who becomes president, what they want to do will have to go through Congress. Democrats stand a good chance of taking over the Senate, but the House has a longer shot. They need to win 30 seats held by Republicans to do that. And now we're going to explore where control of the house stands with NPR's Jessica Taylor, who's been following all of that. Hi.


SIEGEL: There are 435 seats in the house. Thirty seats doesn't sound like all that much. What are the Democrats' chances of winning 30 seats and taking over the majority?

TAYLOR: Well, we're looking at less than 10 percent of the House - about 40 seats that are even competitive. And after the 2010 wipeout of Democrats, when Republicans gained control of a lot of these state legislatures, they were able to draw lines in their favor. And so we're looking at more safer Republican seats and fewer competitive House districts, so that makes Democrats' task all the more tough.

SIEGEL: Because they controlled so many statehouses. The states do the redistricting.

TAYLOR: Yes. So they were able to draw safer seats for Republicans and also decrease the number of competitive seats. So it's a much smaller competitive map that we're looking at, but it has moved Democrats' way in recent days, largely after, you know, this explosive Trump tape came out about "Access Hollywood" and things he said about women. So, you know, early on this month, I would have said that they could have picked up about 10 to 15. Now I think that could go as high as 20 on election night.

SIEGEL: So they'd still be in the minority, but make significant gains. And what kind of districts would you be looking at to see if they - if they win that much?

TAYLOR: Well, I think the first ones to go are some of these - there's 26 districts that Obama carried in 2012 that are now held by Republicans, so those are really prime pickup opportunities. Then there are some really large Hispanic populations that are - have grown even over the past four years. That, with a candidate like Trump, makes it hard - Carlos Cabello in Florida, Cresent Hardy in Nevada, Will Hurd in Texas.

And then some Republicans haven't really distanced themselves from Trump that much, even though they sit in pretty liberal districts, like Rod Blum in Iowa, for example. He's a conservative member of the Freedom Caucus that helped pick out John Boehner. Obama won his district pretty easily, and now Priorities USA, the main super PAC backing Hillary Clinton, just launched their first ad against him. Let's listen.


DONALD TRUMP: I'm really good at war. I love war in a certain way. Oh, I don't know what I said. Oh, I don't remember. I moved on her like a [expletive].

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And Congressman Rod Blum said...

ROD BLUM: Send me back to Congress, and you send Donald Trump to the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ron Blum still supports Trump today and even attacked Republicans who spoke out against Trump.

BLUM: Send me back to Congress.

SIEGEL: So there the idea is Blum equals Trump.

TAYLOR: Yeah. And it's - I think Democrats really think that's an effective strategy going forward.

SIEGEL: What about the Republican argument that, hey, if Hillary Clinton really is going to be the next president, we Republicans have to have strong majorities in Congress to put a check on her.

TAYLOR: This check and balance is really sort of what they see as their key to at least minimizing losses. And polling has shown recently that that is an effective argument with voters. And here's one ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee in an open New York House seat where they're making that argument.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ISIS is on the march. American jobs are disappearing. While Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi seek rubber stamps like Kim Myers to fast-track their agenda, our security and livelihoods are at risk. That's why we need Claudia Tenney. She'll stand up to Hillary Clinton just like she's always stood up to Governor Cuomo. Fighting Cuomo...

SIEGEL: And what's implicit in that Republican commercial is Hillary Clinton's going to win the presidency.

TAYLOR: Yeah, I think that they are beginning to sort of emit this, and they don't want to hand her a blank check. So this is sort of their most effective argument to not do that.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Jessica Taylor. Thank you, Jessica.

TAYLOR: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: And for more about these races, you have a list of the top 40 districts most likely to flip. That's on npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.