The outcome of the presidential election won’t be known until late Tuesday night — at the very earliest. But the results of House races will begin to trickle in early, and a few key bellwethers will signal which party’s having a good night well before the next president accepts a concession call from his opponent.
Here are 10 swing races on the East Coast and in the Midwest to use as an election night barometer, selected by TPM based on input from Republican and Democratic aides who closely monitoring them.
If Republicans Win These Races, They’re Having A Good Night
IL-08: Rep. Joe Walsh (R) vs. Tammy Duckworth (D)
Freshman Walsh has made a series of incendiary comments in his quest to represent this swing district for more than one term, and war veteran Duckworth is the favorite to unseat him. But Walsh, a tea party darling, benefits from stockpiles of conservative cash, and if that carries him to victory, it means Republicans may be having a very good night.
FL-22: Adam Hasner (R) vs. Lois Frankel (D)
This newly redrawn district was so Democratic-leaning it motivated incumbent Rep. Allen West to run for his second term in a nearby district. Frankel and Hasner are both imperfect candidates who have yet to serve in federal office, and if Hasner can overcome the partisan headwinds to defeat Frankel in this swing state, it’s a positive sign for Republicans.
NH-02: Rep. Charlie Bass (R) vs. Annie Kuster (D)
This race, like New Hampshire’s other House contest, is a rematch from 2010. Bass eked out a victory by only a few thousand votes in that overwhelmingly Republican year. It would be a very good omen for his party if he hangs on in a tight presidential election year — in a state where Obama holds a slim advantage, no less.
IL-10: Rep. Robert Dold (R) vs. Brad Schneider (D)
One of the most moderate Republicans in the House, the freshman Dold touts his support for Planned Parenthood funding among other votes to shore up his liberal credibility. That’s because he’s representing a district that voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008. He swept into Congress in the 2010 tea party wave, and if he hangs on next week against moderate businessman Schneider, that would suggest Democrats are under-performing.
NY-24: Rep. Anne Marie Buerkle (R) vs. Dan Maffei (D)
Buerkle rode into office on the 2010 Republican wave, but she can no longer rely on the same kind of conservative enthusiasm. In addition, her redistricted seat has become more Democratic, and she’s fending off a strong challenge from ex-Rep. Maffei, who is working to persuade voters that he’s a better fit to represent them. Winning this race would mean Republicans are over-performing in Democratic areas.
If Democrats Win These Races, They’re Having A Good Night
IA-4: Rep. Steve King (R) vs. Christie Vilsack (D)
The wife of former Iowa governor and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has mounted a serious challenge to King, a five-term congressman and conservative firebrand known for his bomb-throwing rhetoric. But King retains the edge with a Republican-leaning district and a wave of outside conservative money. If he fails to hold on, it bodes ill for his party.
OH-16 : Rep. Jim Renacci (R) vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D)
Sutton is said to be polling behind President Obama in this competitive district, which includes the suburbs of Cleveland and Akron. The president remains the favorite to win Ohio, but if Sutton can best Renacci in a redrawn district that includes many more of his old constituents than hers, Democrats will probably be having a better night than they thought they would be.
PA-12: Rep. Mark Critz (D) vs. Keith Rothfus (R)
Critz is defending his seat in the Republican-heavy western Pennsylvania against a conservative who enjoys strong funding from the Club For Growth. Critz remains competitive in part due to his social conservatism, but pulling out a victory in a region where voters are motivated to oust President Obama would have positive national implications for the Democratic Party.
NC-07: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) vs. David Rouzer (R)
Despite his 16 years in Congress, McIntyre’s newly drawn and more conservative district will be very tough to hold given the number of likely Republican voters he would need to win over. Rouzer, a state senator, was the establishment GOP’s candidate of choice. If McIntyre wins this uphill battle, there will be a lot of nervous Republicans on election night.
FL-18: Rep. Allen West (R) vs. Patrick Murphy (D)
The conservative firebrand may be a less than ideal candidate for the swing seat he jumped to after his original district was redrawn, but West enjoys a large war chest thanks to conservative groups. He has run a steady campaign against 29-year-old businessman and political novice Murphy, who is being helped by outside Democratic groups. If Murphy pulls out a victory in an evenly split district in the key state of Florida, Democrats will have reason to be hopeful.
Additional reporting by Brian Beutler
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.