Pennsylvania Congressional Vulnerability Ranking, October Update

Recent polling for U.S. House and Senate seats has given each party reason for optimism, but in the battle for congressional seats in Pennsylvania, the outlook continues to look favorable for the Democrats, according to our latest periodic ranking of most vulnerable seats, our first since Sept. 17.

Five Republican-held seats now rate as “highly vulnerable” on our list – an increase of one since September — and two others rate as “vulnerable.” By contrast, Democrats have one “highly vulnerable” seat and one “vulnerable” seat.

The biggest change in our current ratings is to move GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick back up to the “highly vulnerable” category after having been moved down earlier to “vulnerable.”

As always, we rank the districts in descending order, from most vulnerable to less vulnerable.


  1. 5th District: R-held open seat (Patrick Meehan)
    Geography: Delaware County

This race — an open-seat district that Hillary Clinton would have won by 28 points – has remained largely off the national parties’ radar because of the longstanding expectation that it will flip to the Democrats. Democratic nominee Mary Gay Scanlon, an education advocate, faces Republican former prosecutor Pearl Kim.


  1. 6th District: R-held open seat (Ryan Costello)
    Geography: Chester County and Reading

This race has also been quiet in recent months, as Chrissy Houlahan, a Stanford- and MIT-educated Air Force veteran and businesswoman, has remained a formidable frontrunner against Greg McCauley, a former Wendy’s franchise owner whose war chest is just a tiny fraction of Houlahan’s. The open Republican-held district supported Clinton by 10 points.


  1. 14th District: D-held open seat (Conor Lamb)
    Geography: Southwestern environs of Pittsburgh

As with the previous two districts, the contest in the 14th has remained fairly quiet in recent months. It’s a rarity – a vulnerable Democratic-held district in Pennsylvania, thanks to incumbent Democrat Conor Lamb’s decision to vacate it to run for a friendlier seat further north. Republican State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, a former judge and Navy veteran, faces Bibiana Boerio, a former senior automobile executive and an aide to then-Rep. Joe Sestak. Democrats think highly of Boerio, but the district would have supported Donald Trump in 2016 by 20 points, so it’s a steep climb even if there’s a Democratic wave.

  1. 17th District: Rep. Keith Rothfus (R) (shift from No. 5)
    Geography: Pittsburgh environs, including parts of Allegheny and Beaver counties

This contest – between Lamb and the district’s Republican incumbent, Rothfus — moves up a notch in our ratings. In mid-October, Monmouth released a poll showing Lamb beating Rothfus, 54 percent-42 percent. The poll also found Trump’s approval rating under water by 17 points among likely voters in the district. This result followed the National Republican Congressional Committee’s decision to cancel four weeks of ad spending, an ominous sign for Rothfus.


  1. 7th District: R-held open seat (Charlie Dent) (shift from No. 4)
    Geography: Lehigh Valley

This race remains a strong pickup opportunity for the Democrats despite falling a notch in our rankings. In recent polls, former Allentown solicitor Susan Wild, the Democratic nominee, has led Lehigh County Commission chair and Olympic cyclist Marty Nothstein, the Republican nominee. A mid-October DeSales University poll found Wild up by double digits, following a September New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll that found Wild with a 50 percent-42 percent lead among likely voters.

  1. 1st District: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) (shift from vulnerable)

Geography: Bucks County

After stumbling for a few months, deep-pocketed Democratic challenger Scott Wallace seems to have steadied his campaign against Republican incumbent Fitzpatrick. An early-October poll by a Republican firm found Fitzpatrick up by eight points, but a subsequent October New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll that found Wallace leading, 50 percent-43 percent. The main reason we’re moving this up from “vulnerable” to “highly vulnerable” is that suburban districts like this one have been moving most strongly in the Democrats’ direction nationally.


  1. 10th District: Rep. Scott Perry (R) (Shift from No. 8)
    Geography: Harrisburg and York

Trump won this district by nine points, but Democrats are high on the Democratic nominee, pastor George Scott. A late-September poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had Scott trailing Republican incumbent Perry by a narrow 44 percent-43 percent margin.

  1. 8th District: Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) (shift from No. 7)
    Geography: Scranton-Wilkes Barre

Republicans are counting on self-funding challenger John Chrin, a former managing director at J.P. Morgan Chase, to perform well in this blue-collar, Trump-friendly district. Cartwright is hoping his background as an attorney in the Scranton portion of the redrawn district will carry him through. Democrats express confidence about Cartwright’s prospects, but this district has a profile like those where the GOP has polled well in recent weeks, so a party flip remains possible.

  1. 16th District: Rep. Mike Kelly (R)

Geography: Erie and environs

Democrats have been enthusiastic about this district, but it’s now looking like a longer shot for the Democrats than it once did. Democratic nominee Ron DiNicola is a Marine boxer and the narrow loser in a 1996 U.S. House contest. He faces Kelly, a long-serving incumbent representing a Republican-leaning district. A New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll in early October found Kelly up, 50 percent-42 percent, though a subsequent Democratic poll found Kelly up by only three points.


No races currently in this category


  1. 9th District: R-held open seat (Barletta)

Geography: Schuylkill County and environs

With so many districts in play, this one — a Republican-held seat that Trump won easily — has attracted little attention from national strategists. But the GOP nominee, former state revenue secretary Dan Meuser, ended September with a fairly modest war chest of $383,000, and the Democratic nominee, Dennis Wolff, is a well-liked dairy farmer and a former state secretary of agriculture. We’re keeping half an eye on this race.


2nd District: Rep. Brendan Boyle (D)

3rd District: Rep. Dwight Evans (D)

4th District: D-held open seat (Brady)

11th District: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R)

12th District: Rep. Tom Marino (R)

13th District: R-held open seat (Shuster)

15th District: Rep. Glenn Thompson (R)

18th District: Rep. Mike Doyle (D)

12 Responses

  1. Definitely would be great if Denny Wolff gets more traction. Definitely affable and definitely would be an independent voice putting the community here in central pa at the highest importance.

    (Not that Meuser (who seems like a reasonable guy/standard Republican once all the Trump bs is set a side). Either way, we’re in for an improvement over the scam artist Barletta and the old 11th that was a gerrymander! Lous the bottom of the GOPS Trump dump barrel— and soon he will be unemployed!)

  2. Upset of the cycle: Jess King over the “NOT VULNERABLE” 11th District: Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R). Not my district, so I have no horse in the race. Just mark my words.

  3. Associating the 4th district to Brady is nonsense. Brady is in the new 3rd, and was never a part of the new 4th or overlapped it.

    The new 4th is part of the old 6th, 7th, 8th and 13th.

  4. Cartwright was born in PA. Moved to NEPA 30 years ago to work & raise a family. Chrin moved out of PA to work and raised his family in NJ. And if by far left you mean supports preserving Social Security, Medicare & protect us from Wall Street then so be it. McConnell & the GOP just told us they’re coming after SS & Medicare so they can keep the tax breaks for Wall Streeters like Chrin.

  5. Did Alex Trebek do this analysis? It’s horrible. How do you have the 14th District as even close to being competitive? Smucker race is competitive. PA-9 is way over. This is a terrible analysis.

    1. It’s not an analysis of competitiveness but rather the seat’s vulnerability to a flip. “14th” is currently held by Lamb (D, blue-dog) and most, including you, believe Reschenthaler will take it.

  6. John Chrin still can’t convince voters that he’s from NEPA, and they’re not likely to pick a New Jersey Wall Street banker to represent them. Why is he spending so much to renovate his house in NJ and why does his wife (who is notably absent from his campaign and commercials) still live there?

    1. VP Pence is coming to NEPA to stump for Chrin next week per news reports. That high level visit doesn’t happen unless the seat is very winnable per polls. Very winnable. But don’t be concerned! Nancy Pelosi or Kamala Harris or any of his far left sanctuary city loving Progressive Caucus friends will happily stump for Matt!

      1. All 6 people in the 8th who like Mike Pence will be impressed. And if they can stomach Pence, they were already going to vote for Chrin. Understand he will campaign for Chrin at a small private airport. Guess he’ll spend just a little less time here than has “resident” Chrin

    2. Can’t convince people because he isn’t. Bought his Skytop town house in May, wasn’t even registered to vote here until June. He is the dictionary definition of a carpetbagger and political opportunist.

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