It was a minor shift and probably signifies nothing very much, but on Tuesday, the political predictor Nate Silver noted that his site, FiveThirtyEight, had adjusted its outlook for the congressional race in Ohio’s Fourth District, which slithers through the north-central area of the state.
That seat is held by Rep. Jim Jordan, the leader of the House’s ultraconservative Freedom Caucus and perhaps the most influential member of Congress outside the formal leadership.
“Jim Jordan’s race just slipped from ‘solid R’ to ‘likely R’ in our model,” wrote Silver. “It’s a long shot for Democrats, but someone should probably poll it.”
It’s indeed a long shot: Silver’s model gives Jordan just a one in 20 chance of losing against retired teacher and union leader Janet Garrett. But Garrett has raised cash, and Jordan is still dealing with allegations that he ignored serial sexual abuse in the Ohio State wrestling program, where he was an assistant coach. But if there is a “blue wave” in three weeks — and recent polling shows Democrats with a double-digit lead on generic ballots — could it touch Republican leadership or powerful legislators like Jordan?
The energized left wing of the Democratic party has already claimed a victim in Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, the caucus chairman who in a stunning upset lost his primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive and political novice. Before his loss, Crowley had been considered in the running to succeed Rep. Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democratic caucus.
On the other side of the aisle, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced earlier this year he would not be running for reelection. He was already being challenged by Randy Bryce, an ironworker and Democratic progressive who has raised over $6 million in his campaign for the open seat. While Ryan often cruised to reelection, a poll in December 2017 found widespread disillusionment with the Republican leader. Bryan Steil is favored to retain the seat, which Silver rates “likely Republican.”
Rep. Luke Messer, the Republican Policy Committee chairman, vacated his seat to run in Indiana’s Senate primary, a race he lost. Republican House Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers is in a battle for her seat in Washington’s Fifth District. McMorris Rodgers has served since 2005 and typically garners over 60 percent in her reelection bids, but she’s being challenged by Lisa Brown, a former state legislator, and university chancellor. Brown outraised the incumbent in the latest round of fundraising and was just 8,000 votes (four percent) behind her in September’s open primary in the district. Both Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball rankings have the race as Lean Republican, while FiveThirtyEight gives McMorris Rodgers a 75 percent chance of keeping her seat.
As a rule, leaders in both parties hold safe seats; they become leaders in part by staying in office long enough to build their reputations and alliances. Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., are projected to have comfortable victories. On the Democratic side, Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and assistant Democratic leader James Clyburn cleared their primaries and have easy paths to reelection in November. The five have cumulatively served 114 years in the House, and in 2016 they held their seats by an average margin of 48 percent.