There will be no shortage of vulnerable Republican members of Congress in 2018’s midterm elections, which Democrats hope could turn into a “wave year” that sweeps their party back into power in the House. However, there are also a few Democratic seats that could fall into Republican hands, which could keep Paul Ryan in the speakership and frustrate liberal attempts to stifle President Trump and the GOP.
Republicans who could lose their seats include regular Democratic targets like Illinois’ Pete Roskam and Colorado’s Mike Coffman, both of whose races could serve as bellwethers of whether the GOP retain control of the House. Other Republicans who could soon find themselves out of a job are some of the GOP’s most high-profile representatives, including ones that regularly find themselves the subjects of national scrutiny.
Here’s a list of five of the most vulnerable House incumbents heading into 2018.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Virginia)
For decades, Virginia was known as a reliable GOP stronghold, and voted Republican in presidential years from 1968 to 2004. However, the commonwealth’s changing demographics and the GOP’s weakness in its suburbs have now made it the most solidly Democratic state in the South, a trend that only became clearer when Democrat Ralph Northam won Virginia’s governorship in a surprise landslide earlier this month.
That brings us to Comstock, who was elected to Congress in 2014 to replace Rep. Frank Wolf, a moderate Republican who represented the district for decades. Comstock represents a large portion of Washington, D.C.’s affluent and well-educated suburbs, which makes the area a natural Democratic target in 2018. It’s certainly not an area that’s friendly to Mr. Trump, and Democrats will be doing their best to tie Comstock to the unpopular president.
The silver lining for Comstock in all this is that, given her vulnerability, a number of Democrats are currently vying to replace her. With Democrats still showing their penchant for bitter infighting, there’s a chance that their eventual nominee will stumble into a general election against Comstock bruised and battered, allowing the two-term Congresswoman to beat the national odds and keep her seat.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California)
Issa, believed to be the single richest member of Congress and a onetime chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, is running for reelection in a district Democrat Hillary Clinton won by eight points in 2016. The onetime car-alarm magnate won last time by the skin of his teeth, and may be heading for a rematch against Marine veteran Doug Applegate.
But Issa does have money to burn, and has proven resilient despite being a top Democratic target in the past.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California)
Rohrabacher has served in Congress since 1988 after serving as a speechwriter in President Ronald Reagan’s White House. His seat has long been considered safe, but his once solidly GOP district also voted for Clinton last year, and he regularly garners national headlines due to his unabashed support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Their relationship is so strong, in fact, that GOP House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy once reportedly joked that Rohrabacher is on Putin’s payroll.
With Russian meddling in the 2016 election a major national issue, Democrats are hoping they can finally knock off Rohrabacher. The 15-term Congressman is unlikely to benefit from the media scrutiny of his Russia positions, particularly given his role running the House subcommittee overseeing U.S. policies toward Moscow.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Russian intelligence viewed him as a source with his own code name. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the man tasked with investigating the Russian meddling, is also said to be interested in some of Rohrabacher’s connections to the Kremlin.
“My constituents couldn’t care less about this,” Rohrabacher told the Times earlier this week. “They are not concerned about Russia.” That could be true, but Democrats sure are hoping otherwise.
Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minnesota)
The lone Democrat on this list is widely seen as the most vulnerable member of his party in the House. Originally elected in the post-Watergate Democrat sweep of 1975, Nolan left office in 1981, only to return to Congress in 2012. He’s been reelected twice since then, even as Mr. Trump won the district in a landslide last year.
But Republicans argue that Nolan’s 2016 opponent was a weak one, and GOP recruit Pete Stauber is seen as a better fit for the largely rural and blue-collar district. Nolan also has a Democratic primary challenge from his left, and a Green Party candidate who could siphon away votes from him in the general election. So, even in what’s shaping up to be a bad year for Republicans nationwide, the GOP hopes that they can at least pick up Nolan’s seat.
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas)
Hurd, one of only three black Republicans serving in Congress and a former CIA agent, is young, telegenic, and rather moderate. No stranger to the national press, he’s sometimes touted as a politician with national potential and an ability to win over new voters to the GOP.
But despite his sterling resume and obvious political acumen, Hurd is vulnerable in 2018, with Democrats hoping they can nip his future in the bud. The sprawling district he represents along the Mexican border is larger in size than several states, overwhelmingly Hispanic, and went for Clinton last year, which makes it an obvious Democratic pick-up opportunity. Hurd, meanwhile, won reelection by just one point in 2016.
Hurd also has to navigate surviving the politics of a district that is naturally resistant to some of Mr. Trump’s big plans, such as a border wall that Hurd says would hurt his constituents.
“Building a wall from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd told CBS News’ “The Takeout” in April. “You can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution to border security.”
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