As the midterms loom, Jewish Democrats are poised to flip at least four seats in the House of Representatives — even as their chances of sweeping out several more Republican incumbents seem to have faded in the final days of the make-or-break campaign, an exclusive Forward prediction model reveals.
The anti-Trump #BlueWave has pushed several insurgent Democrats into dominant leads in suburban districts as the fight for control of Congress enters its final days.
But even as several races look solid, a string of other Jewish Democratic candidates have failed to improve on their long-shot status — a sign that Democratic gains may not create the kind of tsunami liberals hoped for.
The Forward model predicts that Jews are likely to hold 27 seats — 25 Democrats and two Republicans — in the House — an eye-popping 18% improvement over the 23 they hold now.
At one point in the campaign, it looked possible that a Democratic wave might propel as many as eight or nine more Jews into office. However, that now looks less likely, as several Democratic candidates remain significantly behind in the polls going into the final hours of the campaign.
EXPLORE ALL THE RACES WITH JEWISH CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES IN OUR INTERACTIVE MAP
So, which Jewish candidates should you watch out for on Election Night?
The earliest bellwether race involving Jewish candidates is Elaine Luria’s tricky battle to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Taylor in Virginia’s Second District around Virginia Beach.
Luria, a Navy veteran who once led a Seder on an aircraft carrier, is one of those candidates who might have hoped to be in a dead heat by now. Instead she finds herself still trailing Taylor in polls by a slim but steady margin. Polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
Former Jewish Federations of North America chair Kathy Manning is a bit less of an underdog in her race against Republican Ted Budd in a North Carolina district centered around Greeensboro. Polls there close at 7:30 pm.
Both of those districts also mirror nationwide trends: Democratic women who are new to politics trying to topple GOP incumbents in suburban districts that voted for President Trump in 2016.
If Manning and Luria win, it could be a great evening for Jews and Democrats, and a terrible night for Trump and the Republicans. If they don’t pull it off, the night could be a more of a nail-biter than liberals might hope.
The Forward election model starts with some simple math. There are 23 Jewish representatives in the House now, including 21 Democrats and two Republicans.
Both Jewish Republican are ahead. But even if Lee Zeldin (R-New York) loses, his Democratic opponent, Perry Gershon, is also Jewish.
Three Jewish incumbents are retiring or running for higher office. But one of those seats, a Detroit-area district held by Sander Levin, is considered a sure thing to go to his son, Andy Levin.
Jews will pick up an additional seat because of a quirk in a newly drawn district in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where Democrat Susan Wild is facing off against Republican Marty Nothstein. Wild is considered a prohibitive favorite, but both candidates are Jewish, in any case.
And a third seat is considered a virtual shoo-in for Mike Levin, who is ahead by a healthy margin in a Southern California seat where longtime GOP Rep. Darrell Issa retired.
Jewish Democrats are strong favorites in at least three other races in which suburban districts to have turned strongly in their favor since Labor Day. Those candidates are Dean Phillips who is running for a GOP-held seat in the Minneapolis suburbs; pediatrician Kim Schrier, who opened up a lead in her suburban Seattle seat in the last couple of weeks; and Elissa Slotkin, a former Pentagon official who is poised to oust a Republican incumbent in another Michigan district stretching west from the Detroit suburbs.
There are also a number of Jewish candidates who have decent shots at winning, including Manning and Luria. Dana Balter, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, is mounting a tenacious fight in a Syracuse district that Hillary Clinton won in 2016l and veteran Max Rose is vying for a GOP-held seat on Staten Island.
Two Florida Democrats — Lauren Baer in a district north of Palm Beach, and David Shapiro on the Gulf Coast — appear likely to have failed in their fight to put those seats in serious play.
Republicans may be breathing a bit easier because all of those races remain rated Lean Republican or better by most analysts, and none appear to have decisively shifted to Democrats in the last week of the campaign.
If the GOP can hold on to almost all of those endangered seats, it could bode well for their chances of either maintaining control of the House, or at least limiting the damage.
One Jewish Republican, Lena Epstein, is fading in her bid to replace hold onto a Republican seat in Michigan. She took a torrent of bad publicity for inviting a Messianic Jewish “rabbi” to pray for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack at a campaign rally.
The Forward model, like many national models covering all the House races, has remained remarkably steady over the past several months.
Despite a blip of GOP excitement around the controversial nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, liberal enthusiasm and anger at Trump remains the defining feature of the midterms.
Democrats remain about 8% ahead of the GOP in polls of the so-called generic congressional ballot, which asks what party respondents want to see control the House.
The Forward’s election projection uses input from highly-regarded forecasters including the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections.
The Forward has assigned a real-time probability of each Jewish candidate winning his or her race. Those probabilities produce a weighted average of expected outcomes across all the races involving Jewish candidates, leading to a predicted number of Jewish winners and a confidence range associated with that prediction.
FullStack Labs CIO, Dr. Benjamin Carle, who has a Ph.D. in computer science and is an expert in data structures and algorithms, helped create the projections.
Dave Goldiner is the Forward’s director of digital media. Dave is a veteran journalist who has spent two decades working at newspapers in the United States and Africa. A native New Yorker, Goldiner wrote for the New York Daily News, where he covered some of the biggest stories of our time, including the attacks of September 11, along with thousands of stories of hope and heartbreak. He also studied and worked in Southern Africa and has written for publications in South Africa and Zimbabwe. He holds masters degrees in journalism and public administration from Columbia University. Dave can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @davegoldiner