A Look at the Crossover Congressional Districts

It seems like every interim between a Presidential election and a midterm, both parties focus on the Congressional Districts that “crossed over”: districts that voted Republican for President but Democratic for Congress, and vice versa.

These are decent targets for the out party, especially when there is a tremendous concentration of them. In 2008, John McCain won four dozen districts held by Democrats, and in 2010, Republicans won three-quarters of them on their way to a landslide turnover of the House. This year, Democrats are looking with envious eyes at the two-dozen districts whose voters opted for Clinton, but re-elected Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen. It’s not a silly strategy: they already voted against candidate Trump, if he has a rocky two years as President, perhaps they’ll take it out on these Republican Representatives. Republicans meanwhile are looking at districts that went in the other direction: Minnesota’s 8th, which re-elected Rep. Nolan barely and went to President Trump by 56,000 votes.

The issue of course is that some of these Members of Congress have been around the block a few times, and have been re-elected in multiple cycles that saw their districts break the other way: Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th, David Valadao in California’s 21st, or Colin Peterson in Minnesota’s 7th. When you look at how each Representative performed, the number of truly vulnerable members declines a bit. While Congressmen Pete Sessions and Ron Kind represent districts that voted differently for President, both had no opponent in 2016, so we eliminated them from the chart. We’ve displayed the Presidential and Congressional results from the remaining thirty-three Congressional crossover districts in the chart below:

Data: DDHQ database, DailyKosElections Results by District

There are some choice targets: Congressman Darrell Issa received fewer votes in his district than Hillary Clinton, and his Democratic opponent received more than candidate Donald Trump. Rep. Peterson received almost 35,000 fewer votes than Donald Trump in his district, and beat his Republican opponent by only 17,000. The candidates who received far, far fewer votes than the opposing party’s Presidential nominee are probably the more vulnerable to disapproval of the incumbent party, but this group is far smaller than that overall crossover target list.

On the Republican side of the Congressional ledger, Mrs. Clinton received more votes than Will Hurd in TX23, John Katko in NY24, the aforementioned Issa, Carlos Curbelo in FL 26, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in FL27. Hurd and Issa faced tough re-election fights, but the rest faced weak opponents who mostly trailed Trump’s vote tallies.¬†Eighteen other crossover Republicans bested Clinton’s tallies, though some narrowly: Coffman in CO06 by about 500 votes, Barbara Comstock by 99. Most bested Trump’s tallies by tens of thousands of votes.

On the Democratic side of the Congressional ledger, President Trump received more votes than Peterson in MN07, Nolan in MN08, Matt Cartwright in PA17, Tim Walz in MN01, Sean Maloney in NY18, Josh Gottheimer in NJ05, Carol Shea-Porter in NH01, and Jacky Rosen in NV03. Interestingly, the last three of these districts were Democratic pickups, despite Trump winning more votes. A majority of these Democrats, like their Republican counterparts, ran well ahead of Clinton, but the three that unseated/replaced Republican Congressmen underperformed her.

Things aren’t so simple as saying “target the red guy in the district that voted blue” when said Congressman has already endured multiple cycles or has a history of running well ahead of their Presidential/Gubernatorial counterparts. A bad wind in one direction will make many vulnerable, but actually defeating the more durable ones will take a good opponent and campaign.

We have less than twenty months to see who falls.