October 19, 2018 By FTI Consulting
As we barrel toward election day, we hear a lot of discussion about “wave” elections and debate on whether the Democrats will or will not take the majority in the United States House. In Washington, this is a major topic of conversation. However, what we rarely hear, is discussion surrounding which specific seats are likely to change hands, what type of candidates are running, and how the class of 2018 could influence legislative priorities.
In exploring these questions, FTI Consulting has identified 31 seats that are truly in play – likely to shift from Republican to Democrat or tossups with a slight lead toward Democrats. Keep in mind these seats are either open and previously held by Republicans or seats currently held by Republicans. While difficult to characterize regional opportunities, vulnerable seats can be found in every region of the country, there are a few states that stand out as having a larger than normal number of seats in play. These states include California, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. Beyond these three states, the seats are fairly well dispersed across the country. So what is the common thread among these seats? Fairly simple, a narrow Republican majority.
These seats are center-right in their politics and in a normal year, trend Republican. However, this isn’t a normal year, mid-term Trump’s Presidency and “Republican fatigue” has made these seats vulnerable to a Democratic take over, but only with the right kind of Democratic candidate, and there lies the key that no one seems to discuss. For the most part, the Democrats were successful in recruiting candidates that fit these districts’ profiles, moderate/conservative Democrats with attractive resumes. What’s the evidence? The Blue Dog caucus has given out over 20 endorsements this year, a caucus record. Also, several candidates are young (millennials) and supported by the Future Forum caucus who have given out 40 endorsements, also a record for this young group, they call themselves the 40 under 40.
Take for example Abigail Spanberger, running against Republican Congressman David Brat in Virginia’s 7th District. Brat won his 2016 race with 58 percent of the vote, but the Cook Political Report rates the 2018 race a tossup. Why? Because Abigail is a moderate with a great resume, former CIA Operations Officer, private business executive, Girl Scout leader. At 39 years old, Abigail is endorsed by both the Blue Dog caucus as well as the Future Forum caucus. While this race is considered a toss-up, this is the type of candidate what will deliver the Democrats a majority should they take back control of the House.
Combined, you are looking at a freshman group of Democrats that, on business issues at least, can be characterized as moderate. Combined with what is sure to be a very slim majority, this will be one of the most influential group of freshmen as we begin the 116th Congress. How influential? They have the potential to bring down the current Democratic leadership and replace it with a much younger set of leaders with significantly different core values that could change Democratic caucus issue priorities. Additionally, many of these future Members of Congress don’t have a deep reservoir of experience on key Federal issues such as a trade, tax and energy. While this might be an early challenge for them, it is an opportunity for FTI Consulting clients and others to educate these policymakers on issues important to the shareholders and employees.