From the outset, Democrats needed a very big-wave election to get to the 30 seats they need to win back control of the House. Then, a video of Donald Trump surfaced showing the GOP nominee making lewd comments, and later multiple women accused him of groping them. That left some wondering if these scandals could trigger that wave.
But that simply hasn't happened.
Some races have shifted late in Democrats' favor, particularly in Republican-held suburban districts with high levels of voters with college degrees. Still, there has not been the wholesale move in polling that the party would need, even with Hillary Clinton's gains across the electoral map.
House Republicans were already going to have losses this year, having essentially maxed out their majority, hitting 247 seats after the 2014 midterms that gave them a majority the party hasn't seen since the Great Depression. And, in a presidential year when turnout leans left, Democrats were going to make gains.
However, Democrats' opportunities are limited, hampered by the unfavorable map that was handed to them post-2010 redistricting. Some mid-decade, court-ordered redistricting will give Democrats a slight boost to start off. They're favored to pick up one seat (maybe two) in Florida and one in Virginia, though Republicans are favored to gain one in Florida too.
From there, Democrats have 26 other seats held by Republicans that President Obama won in 2012. Those are among their prime targets, but even in those, they've left opportunities on the table. And much like some of their Senate colleagues fighting a much tougher fight to keep their majority, Republican incumbents in some of the toughest terrain have proven resilient.
Democrats, on the other hand, have just five districts they currently hold that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. One of those Republicans will win due to redistricting, and another looks like it could flip to the GOP side too. But in the three other districts, Democrats have the edge, and one of those (Collin Peterson in Minnesota) isn't seriously contested this year.
Republican leaders, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, knew there would be a growing urgency after Trump's downward spiral to shore up down-ballot races. Ryan shifted his focus to minimizing losses, and, all but acknowledging that Clinton will be the next president, he and party strategists began imploring GOP candidates to make a "check and balance" argument to voters — that with a Democratic president, there would need to be a GOP House to keep her legislative efforts in check. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, when asked if they'd rather have a GOP candidate who'd be a check and balance to Clinton or a Democratic candidate to help Clinton pass her agenda, it was 53 percent Republican, 40 percent Democratic.
Polling after the the Trump tape still had Republicans in a good position. NBC/WSJ and ABC/Washington Post polls gave Democrats a 3-point edge on the generic-ballot question: Would you rather have a Congress controlled by Democrats or Republicans? But, in context, those numbers were +15 and +13 for Democrats in 2006 and 2008, respectively, when they made big gains. And that was pre-2012 redistricting that curtailed the number of competitive seats.
Even if Clinton does come up with an electoral rout, flipping the House is still a huge long shot for Democrats. The biggest worry for Republicans, though, may be if reliable GOP voters, frustrated with their White House choices, may simply stay home. Such a scenario could further shift the map in Democrats' favor.
At the beginning of October, the most likely outcome seemed to be a gain of 10 to 15 seats for Democrats. Now, that number could rise to 20 seats, which would be a very good night for them, according to Democratic operatives.
Below we've ranked the top 40 House districts, in order of likelihood of flipping party control.