We’re about to make our predictions in the 2020 New Jersey House races. If you want to know who will represent the Garden State in 2021, this is the place to stop.
New Jersey has a reputation as a blue state. They have not had an elected Republican senator since the 1970s and the last GOP presidential candidate to carry it was George Bush 41 in 1988. The state’s House delegation flips to Republican once in a while and does not tend to stay that way for long. Since the mid-1960s, there have been predominant Democratic majority headcounts of members of the US House.
And yet, what the Democrats accomplished in New Jersey in 2018 was a major GOP beatdown, even for them. Democrats snatched an 11 to 1 majority, leaving long-timer Chris Smith as the only GOP member left from the Garden State. It had been over a century since the last time the Republicans were reduced to just one seat here, but then, Jeff Van Drew became a Republican after Donald Trump’s impeachment and their House numbers doubled.
Democrats are protecting several vulnerable seats this time. Regardless of how blue New Jersey may seem, Democrats won seats in areas in 2018 that they wouldn’t normally. Should the national political climate become less Democratic even on a marginal level, it could cost them two seats in New Jersey. Will that happen? Read on and see our latest predictions.
NJ US House Rating Scale
Here’s our scale illustrating how we rate the 2020 New Jersey House races. You will not see tossups here or anywhere.
2020 New Jersey House Races Current Prediction Summary: June 24
Current New Jersey US House Map
Republicans just don’t win here in this Camden-based seat, which is sort of the New Jersey eastern extension of Philadelphia. Donald Norcross will be re-elected.
Democrats feel betrayed by Jeff Van Drew, who picked the open seat up in 2018 and then switched parties after announcing he would not vote to impeach Donald Trump.1 When a party loses a seat because of a switch, their voters will tend to take it a little more personally than usual, but we are not convinced he is going to lose. Van Drew is well-known in the district given his decades of elected office there and Republican Frank LoBiondo held this seat for almost a quarter of a century. Expect Democrats to give this one a little extra but Van Drew is not in bad shape for now.
This seat is in the 98th percentile of “seats we waffled on” nationwide. This seat only goes Democratic once in a while and despite the force of a Blue Wave behind him, Andy Kim only won by about a point. We are leaving this as a (very) weak lean in favor of Kim for the time being, pending further review after the GOP primary. A Republican nominee with some momentum could absolutely flip this seat back.
Chris Smith was the sole Republican to survive the Blue Wave of 2018, so do not count on Democrats picking him off this time with no big names in the field.
RATINGS CHANGE: D2 to D3
June 24: Like NJ-11, this was a pretty Republican seat, but it’s not anymore and New Jersey is as unfriendly to Republicans as any time in recent memory. And, just like NJ-11, we are not feeling Republican chances here in 2020 with the national climate going as far blue as it is.
May 16: This was a Republican seat forever and a week, but Josh Gottheimer and the Democrats finally broke down the wall in 2016. What hurts the GOP is that this district, like the state it’s in, is less Republican than it used to be. Donald Trump carrying the district again is entirely possible, and with the right candidate, the race can be made closer. Note how we said “closer,” not necessarily “close.” Republicans would potentially take this seat back in a wave election of their own but we do not think that’s this year.
Frank Pallone has a very favorable district at his disposal and he has gained clout in Washington. That adds up to him being safe for re-election.
We are one gentle push from calling this seat a GOP flip. This isn’t traditionally a Democratic seat, the Democrats didn’t win by that much in their wave, and the GOP recruited about as well as could be expected here with Tom Kean, Jr. Our eyes are on this seat and if it appears Kean is running even with or edging ahead of Tom Malinowski in post-lockdown polls, you may see a ratings change. Malinowski should not at all feel confident about re-election despite it being a presidential year in a blue state.
There is no chance whatsoever of Democrats losing this very urban seat just across the river from New York City.
Bill Pascrell has been around for quite a while as a member of Congress, and the 9th District will send him back in 2020. He is now 83 years old, however, so we may see him stepping down in a near-future House election, which would open this district up to a bruising Democratic primary.
This district is bluer than blue and the Payne family has held this seat for over 30 years.
RATINGS CHANGE: D2 to D3
June 24: We have seen just about enough out of this seat already. There is no indication the GOP is putting up any fight against Mikie Sherrill. As we noted before, Republican recruiting in the district didn’t pan out and they will probably have to wait until the next red wave election to take another legitimate swipe at the 11th District. We now have her as safe.
May 16: The list of Republicans who took a pass on this race is a mile long. Once Rod Frelinghuysen got out of the way in 2018, Democrats capitalized and took this suburban and very wealthy seat. Republicans could win here again but this does not look like the year in which they will do it. Mikie Sherrill is now the incumbent, has tacked towards the center, and GOP recruiting did not go well here. Of the 2018 Democratic flips, we are playing all cautiously to start, but if we promote any to “safe,” this seat and Virginia-10 will probably be the first to go.
Winning this district has been a futile enterprise for Republicans since the time Dick Zimmer left.
NJ House References
1: Zeke Miller and Jill Colvin, “Trump celebrates Rep. Van Drew’s switch from Democrat to GOP,” Associated Press, December 19, 2019, AP Link)