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A slate of races now lean Republican in our latest forecast update

The GOP is tantalizingly close to its goal of taking the House majority in three weeks, after an at-times-uneven, two-year campaign to flip the chamber.

POLITICO’s Election Forecast still rates the race to control the House as “Likely Republican” — but of the dozen newest updates, 10 individual contests moved in Republicans’ direction.

Two new races are moving into the “Toss Up” column, both in districts President Joe Biden carried by double digits in 2020. One of the two new toss-ups is in Oregon, where Democrats are struggling up and down the ticket.

There are still some bright spots on the map for Democrats, including Alaska, where the state’s lone House seat is now rated “Lean Democratic” after now-Rep. Mary Peltola’s surprise special-election victory this summer.

But, in typical fashion for a midterm election, the political environment is favoring Republicans as the campaign draws to a close. The generic congressional ballot has moved in the GOP’s direction after trending toward Democrats over the summer. And, swamped by well-funded Republican outside groups, Democrats are all but conceding a handful of potentially winnable districts, including one Phoenix-area seat Biden narrowly won two years ago.

Here are five things to know about the latest changes to POLITICO Election Forecast:

Republican inroads in blue America

The two House districts moving into the “Toss Up” category, California’s 13th District and Oregon’s 6th District, are in places Biden carried by large margins.

In California’s Central Valley, Democrat Adam Gray and Republican John Duarte are locked in a tight race — even though Biden won the newly drawn seat by 11 percentage points.

It’s the same story in Oregon, where the state’s new House district, allocated because of its population growth, is now a “Toss Up.” That race, between Democratic state legislator Andrea Salinas and Republican businessman Mike Erickson, is razor-tight, despite a 14-point Biden margin in 2020.

The close contest in Oregon is part of a promising trend for Republicans in the western state, where their critiques of Democratic leadership on inflation, crime and homelessness are paying dividends. Thanks to a credible independent candidate on the ballot, GOP nominee Christine Drazan could become the first Republican to win the governorship there in 40 years.

And Republicans could flip three of the state’s six House seats: In addition to the new “Toss Up” rating in the 6th District, the 5th District (Biden +9) is also a “Toss Up,” and the open 4th District (Biden +13) is rated just “Lean Democratic.”

Why Democrats are favored to hold Alaska

Peltola’s victory in the August special election might have looked like a fluke. But the smart money is on history repeating.

Her rematch against Republicans Sarah Palin and Nick Begich moves from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic,” as the same dynamics present in that summer upset are back. Palin and Begich haven’t made nice — while Peltola has built a formidable war chest ($2.3 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30) and has the sheen of a winner, at least for the time being,

It would be surprising to see either GOP candidate win another ranked-choice tabulation, if Peltola falls short of a majority on Election Day.

Democrats’ fortunes decline in Florida

Florida might still be a presidential swing state — but it doesn’t look like one this year.

Four House races are moving toward Republicans, driven by two main factors: Gov. Ron DeSantis’ strength at the top of the ticket, and the GOP’s continued improvement among Latino voters.

Two open-seat races, one near Orlando and the other on the fast-growing Gulf Coast, once seen as potentially competitive, have faded from the battleground. Republicans’ top super PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund, had booked airtime to win the state’s new House seat, the 15th District, but canceled that this week as GOP nominee Laurel Lee has a commanding lead.

DeSantis’ redistricting push — putting the screws to the chastened GOP-controlled legislature to pass a brutal gerrymander — seems likely to pay dividends.

Dems’ orphan seats

Democratic Rep. Ron Kind may not have prevailed in a rematch with GOP candidate Derrick Van Orden in western Wisconsin. But Democrats are barely contesting the seat now that Kind is retiring.

Van Orden leads Democrat Brad Pfaff for the seat, which went for former President Donald Trump by 5 percentage points in 2020. The race moves from “Lean Republican” to “Likely Republican.”

Democrats are also mounting little effort to unseat Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), despite the fact that Schweikert’s Phoenix metro seat went narrowly for Biden two years ago. Democrat Jevin Hodge is largely fending for himself in the air war, where prices have been driven sky-high by the competitive statewide races.

Schweikert is now the favorite: The race moves from “Toss Up” to “Lean Republican.”

GOP squanders its blue-state governorships

For the past eight years, Republicans have held up Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker as evidence that the GOP has broad appeal beyond the conservative base.

But both men have been effectively driven into irrelevance by Trump, and the party is all-but-certain to cede those posts in November.

Both governor’s races are moving from “Likely Democratic” to “Solid Democratic,” as Trump-endorsed GOP nominees aren’t mounting credible campaigns. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll out Tuesday gave Democratic state Attorney General Maura Healey a 23-point lead over Republican Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts, while a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll showed Democrat Wes Moore 32 points ahead of Republican Dan Cox last month.

The GOP has other opportunities to win in blue states this year, however. Oregon is a “Toss Up,” and races in Maine, Minnesota and New Mexico are in the “Lean Democratic” category.

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