Pivot Counties and their U.S. House elections

Welcome to the Tuesday, November 15, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Where things stand in America’s Pivot Counties
  2. Donald Trump’s endorsees won 87% of their races, decreasing to 37% in battleground contests
  3. U.S. House and Senate Republican leadership elections scheduled this week

Where things stand in America’s Pivot Counties

This is the part of the election season where we get to crunch the numbers and analyze what happened. Let’s get started.

Remember Pivot Counties? Those 206 counties that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 before voting for Donald Trump (R) in 2016? 

We last checked in on those counties in 2020 and found that 181—called Retained Pivot Counties—supported Trump again, while 25—called Boomerang Pivot Counties—switched back and supported Joe Biden (D).

Today, we are looking at how U.S. House races turned out in districts that overlap with these counties.

This year, 98 U.S. House districts overlapped with at least one Pivot County. As of Nov. 14, Republicans won 60 of those districts and Democrats won 35. Among the three uncalled races, Republicans lead in two.

These figures are about the same as in previous U.S. House elections (2020 and 2018) even after redistricting. 

Before redistricting, there were 102 districts overlapping Pivot Counties, of which Republicans won 64 in 2020 and Democrats won 38.

Although they began as swing counties in the 2016 election cycle, the voting pattern in these Pivot Counties appears to have become more reliable for one political party.

  • Seventy-three districts up in 2022 contained only Retained Pivot Counties. Republicans won 49 of those districts, Democrats won 23, and another one is uncalled.
  • Twelve districts contained only Boomerang Pivot Counties. Democrats won eight of those districts and Republicans won four.
  • Thirteen districts contained both Boomerang and Retained Pivot Counties. Republicans won seven of those districts, Democrats won four, and another two are uncalled.

The map below shows the winner of each district in 2022 and what type of Pivot Counties the district overlaps.

We also took a look at Reverse-Pivot Counties, those six counties that voted for John McCain (R) in 2008, Mitt Romney (R) in 2012, and Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016. All six counties supported Biden in 2020.

Nineteen U.S. House districts overlapped these Reverse-Pivot Counties. As of Nov. 14, Democrats had won nine and Republicans had won eight. Both parties each lead in one of the two uncalled races.

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Donald Trump’s endorsees won 87% of their races, 37% in battleground contests

According to Ballotpedia’s tracking, former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed 257 candidates who appeared on the Nov. 8 ballot. This includes all regularly-scheduled general elections at all levels of government, Louisiana’s primaries, and the special U.S. Senate election in Oklahoma.

Trump’s endorsees won 209 of the 241 called races held on Nov. 8 (87%).

Thirty-five of those called races were battleground congressional or gubernatorial elections, rated as either a toss-up or lean/tilt Democratic or Republican by The Cook Political Report, Inside Election, or Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Trump’s endorsees won 13 of the 35 called battleground races (37%).

Trump’s lowest win rate was in gubernatorial races, where he endorsed 21 candidates. Two of those races—in Alaska and Arizona—remain uncalled. Of the 19 elections where we know the outcome, nine of Trump’s endorsees won (47%)

The table below shows Trump’s total number of endorsements made and win rates by office level. The “Total” figures cover all candidates who appeared on Nov. 8 ballots and the “Battleground” figures cover the subset from that total number who ran in battleground elections.

Ballotpedia also tracks endorsements other noteworthy political figures made:

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U.S. House and Senate Republican leadership elections scheduled this week

Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate are expected to meet this week to select the party’s leadership in both chambers heading into 2023. House Republicans are expected to meet today, Nov. 15, and Senate Republicans are scheduled to meet on Nov. 16.

These dates are as of Nov. 14. In both the House and Senate, some Republican members have publicly requested a delay of the leadership elections until more pending elections are called.

In both chambers, Republican members will select several positions, including:

  • Party leader: the party’s top representative in the chamber. The position is either titled as majority or minority leader, depending on who controls the chamber. 
    • In the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the current minority leader;
    • In the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • Whip: the member responsible for managing the party’s legislative program. Again, it’s called either majority or minority whip depending on chamber control.
    • In the House, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) is the current minority whip;
    • In the Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
  • Conference chair: the member responsible for managing the party’s messaging.
    • In the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is the party’s current conference chair;
    • In the Senate, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • Election committee chairs: the member who chairs each chambers’ respective national political action committee, responsible for electing party members. For the House, this is the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and for the Senate it’s the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).
    • The current NRCC chair is Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.)
    • The current NRSC chair is Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

The speaker of the House will not be elected until the new 118th Congress convenes on Jan. 3, 2023, but it is common for parties to make known now who their selections will be then.

House members will make their pick tomorrow, but ultimately, who becomes speaker will depend on which party controls a majority of the chamber.

Even then, to become speaker, a person must receive a majority of votes cast. With all 435 members present, that is 218 votes, but if a member is absent or if a race remains uncalled and no member is sworn in on Jan. 3, the number of votes needed would decrease.

In a House where either party controls only a slim majority, a speaker nominee would need near-unanimous support from their party to win. This would give leverage to smaller groups within each party, who could vote against a nominee from their own party and prevent that majority-vote threshold.

House Democrats are expected to make their selections on Nov. 30 and Senate Democrats are set to meet sometime during the week of Dec. 5.

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