WASHINGTON – Democrats, brace yourselves for bad news. The pundits and prognosticators pretty much agree: At this point it looks as if Western New York's Republican members of Congress will coast to victory again this fall.
This might seem shocking, given the controversies surrounding Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence and the liberal enthusiasm in his district and that of Rep. of Tom Reed of Corning.
But the predictions are rooted in fact. Collins and Reed won in routs in 2016 – and in their districts, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump did, too. That means it would take a dramatic double-digit swing to push either Collins' 27th district or Reed's 23rd district to Democrats this fall.
More on that later, but first, the bottom line. Several prognosticators regularly rank congressional races in terms of competitiveness – and none of them rank the Collins and Reed races as among the nation's hottest. Here's a closer look at what they say about House races in New York State:
Sabato's Crystal Ball: Larry Sabato and his team at the University of Virginia's Institute for Politics are the only pundits who, at this point, envision any sort of competitive congressional race in Western New York. Collins' race against either Grand Island Supervisor Nate McMurray or Genesee County businessman Nick Stankevich doesn't make the cut, but Reed's race against one of (it seems) a horde of Democrats does, barely.
Sabato ranks Reed's race as "likely Republican" – the least competitive of three competitive rankings in Sabato's scoring. Syracuse-area Republican Rep. John Katko's race is ranked as "likely Republican," too, while Long Island's Rep. Lee Zeldin finds himself in a tighter "leans Republican" race. And in Sabato's telling, two New York Republicans -- Rep. Claudia Tenney of the Utica area and Rep. John Faso of the Hudson Valley – find themselves in toss-up races.
And all of this is after Sabato changed his ratings of 26 races nationwide in the direction of Democrats. That's because the current political environment clearly favors Democrats, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, wrote earlier this month.
Cook Political Report: This venerable outfit doesn't rank the Collins or Reed races as competitive. Katko and Zeldin find themselves in "likely Republican" districts, while GOP Rep. Dan Donovan of Staten Island resides in a slightly more competitive "Lean Republican" district. Like Sabato, Cook ranks the Tenney and Katko races as toss-ups.
Cook's rankings recently shifted 10 districts nationwide more toward Democrats, all for one reason: a Democratic win in a special election.
"Democrat Conor Lamb's victory in a district that voted for President Trump by nearly 20 points has many House Republicans sitting in less Trump-friendly districts on heightened alert," David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, wrote recently.
Inside Elections: This outlet – formerly the Rothenberg Political Report – ignores the Collins and Reed races, too. Nathan L. Gonzales, who runs the site, ranks the Katko and Donovan races as "likely Republican," while the Tenney and Faso races rate as toss-ups.
Gonzales agrees, though, that Republicans in general could be facing a "debacle" this fall.
"It could be tough for GOP incumbents and candidates to generate enthusiasm among Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters when the President is not on the ballot," he wrote recently.
So why aren't the Collins and Reed races on the radar of the national prognosticators?
"Republicans are very much in danger of losing a district that supported President Trump by 20 points less than a year and a half ago," Kondik wrote recently.
That sure doesn't describe Collins' district. Trump won that vast stretch of suburbs and countryside by 24.5 points – which might explain why Collins remains one of Trump's most loyal defenders.
Using Kondik's reasoning, though, Reed could be in more trouble than Collins. A Daily Kos analysis of presidential results by congressional district shows that Trump won Reed's Southern Tier district by just 15 points.
Then again, Reed has handily defeated his two previous opponents, and that, too, no doubt influences the prognosticators.
Of course, none of this takes into account everything we don't know yet. We don't know which Democrats will challenge Collins and Reed in November, nor how strong they will prove to be as candidates. We don't know what the political environment will be come November. And we don't know exactly how the great wave of Democratic enthusiasm will translate locally.
Democrats can take heart in one thing, though.
Remember that district that Lamb, the Pittsburgh-area Democrat, won in a surprise a few weeks ago?
The previous time a Democrat and Republican faced off in that district, in 2012, the Republican won by 28 points. And in the first poll in this year's special election there, the Republican was up by 12.
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