Which House races have the most at stake?

Nov 6 '12

This post is jointly authored with Boris Shor of the University of Chicago’s Harris School (currently Robert Wood Johnson Scholar at UC Berkeley).


In a recent post, we showed that party trumps constituency in House elections:  on average, Democratic and Republican House candidates are ideologically distant from each other in both competitive and uncompetitive districts.  Keith Smith reinforced this basic finding in a subsequent post.  (As before, see here for details about the data and methodology, and here for the actual ideology scores.)

However, there is still a lot of variation from one race to the next.  Some contests offer a stark choice between two candidates with very different views on the issues, while others offer much less stark differences.  This is important because it makes sense to focus on the races which have the most at stake.

Below we have listed the competitive races that feature the clearest ideological choice.  “Competitive” means those rated “leans” or “toss-up” by the Cook Political Report.  “Clearest choice” means ideological differences greater than the average for all the races.  Incumbents are indicated with an asterisk.