Just Thousands of Votes Stopped Democrats From Keeping the House
A new report shows just how narrow Republicans’ margin of victory in the House really was.
While Democrats navigate a newly insecure 51–49 Senate, with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s recent switch to independent, it’s worth revisiting how close they were to maintaining a majority in the House.
A new report from Inside Elections details how, in the five closest GOP House wins, the Republicans won by a combined measly 6,652 votes. Republicans’ gain of any seats at all came from just 22,370 votes, the combined margin of their nine closest victories.
The most razor-thin victory was Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert’s closing win over Democrat Adam Frisch. The far-right candidate, expected to win 97 times out of 100 in FiveThirtyEight’s election simulator, had won the district previously by six points. This November, she won by 546 votes—a 0.16 percent margin that triggered an automatic recount. (The Inside Elections report did not take into account Boebert’s even lower margin of victory after the recount, and we’ve updated the numbers in this piece accordingly.)
Elsewhere, in New York, the state Democrats allowed a disastrous string of losses, with two races being lost by less than one percent, including the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney.
A combination of state party mismanagement, a lack of strong top-of-ticket campaigning from reelected Governor Kathy Hochul, and a disadvantageous redistricting spurred by former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s appointed judges all contributed to New York Democrats’ disastrous results.
In total, New York Democrats lost six races in redistricted sections that voted for Biden in 2020. Next year, the balance of power in the House will be 222–213, with a Republican majority. Six seats the other way, not even counting any other close race Democrats lost, would have made it 216–219, letting Democrats keep their hold of the House.
Of course, Democrats won narrow races too. And these wins came not just from coasting off attacking MAGA candidates as such but actually doing the work of campaigning.
As Slate’s Alex Sammon points out, one of Democrats’ major upsets—Marie Glusenkamp Perez’s House win in rural Washington—benefited from a massive organic ground game. The operation came despite lackluster financial support from the DCCC (losing-candidate Maloney’s committee), which dismissed the race as a “reach.”
The balance is nevertheless tight. Kevin McCarthy still hasn’t corralled together 218 votes to claim the speakership. Maybe Democrats could compensate for their losses and, instead of constantly leveraging the left, pressure McCarthy—or another potential Republican speaker—for some favors in exchange for the gavel.