Pushing further into Republican territory one week before Election Day, Democrats are poised to expand their majority in the House while Republicans, weighed down by President Trump’s low standing in crucial battlegrounds, are scrambling to offset losses.
Bolstered by an enormous cash advantage, a series of critical Republican recruitment failures and a wave of liberal enthusiasm, Democrats have fortified their grip on hard-fought seats won in 2018 that allowed them to seize control of the House. They have trained their firepower and huge campaign coffers on once-solid Republican footholds in affluent suburban districts where voters have become disillusioned with Mr. Trump.
That has left Republicans, who started the cycle hoping to retake the House by clawing back a number of the competitive districts they lost in 2018, straining to meet a bleaker goal: limiting the reach of another Democratic sweep by winning largely rural, white working-class districts where Mr. Trump is still popular.
Depending on how successful those efforts are, Republican strategists, citing a national environment that has turned against them, privately forecast losing anywhere between a handful of seats to as many as 20.
That is starkly at odds with Mr. Trump’s own prediction just days ago that Republicans would win back control of the House, which Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared “delusional,” echoing the private assessments of many in the president’s own party.
Democrats currently outnumber Republicans in the House 232 to 197.
“The Democrats’ green wave in 2018 has turned into a green tsunami in 2020, which combined with ongoing struggles with college-educated suburban voters, makes for an extremely challenging environment,” said Corry Bliss, a Republican strategist who helped lead the party’s failed 2018 effort to protect its House majority, referring to the torrent of Democratic campaign cash.
“There are about a dozen 50-50 races across the country, and the most important factor in each is if the president can close strong in the final stretch.”
The terrain for House Republicans was not supposed to be this grim. But Mr. Trump’s stumbling response to the pandemic and inflammatory politics have alienated critical segments of the electorate, particularly suburban voters and women, dragging down congressional Republicans and opening inroads for Democrats in districts that once would have been unfathomable.