Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, popped up as a potential target for Democrats in 2018 when President Donald Trump carried his district by fewer than 2 percentage points in 2016.
But Diaz-Balart hasn't drawn a big-name challenger in 2018 yet, prompting Sabato's Crystal Ball managing editor Kyle Kondik to move Diaz-Balart's reelection chances from "likely Republican" to "safe Republican" on Thursday.
While other Republicans' reelection chances aren't as rosy, Kondik rated 18 Republican-held seats as more competitive for Democrats in his recent ratings, Diaz-Balart was one of just two GOP incumbents whose reelection chances improved.
"As we cycle more races onto the competitive board from Safe to Likely Republican, it makes some sense to cycle out a couple of Republican-held seats with long-time incumbents where there’s not much going on at the moment," Kondik said, referring to Diaz-Balart and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. "Both of these seats qualify."
Currently, Diaz-Balart faces nominal Democratic opposition from Alina Valdes, who handily lost to Diaz-Balart in 2016. She has raised barely over $1000 in her bid to take on the longtime Republican.
Kondik rates Rep. Carlos Curbelo's reelection chances as a "toss up," though he referred to the Miami Republican as one of the party's "best incumbents."
"Despite the aforementioned retirements, Republicans have some of their best incumbents digging in to defend some of their most vulnerable districts: Reps. Mike Coffman (R, CO-6), Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26), Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10), and others. If the wave is big enough, there may be nothing these members could do to survive, but they all should run strong, well-funded races and won’t be easy for Democrats to defeat."
Retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's seat is rated as "leans Democratic," an indication that it will be challenging for Republicans to hold that seat.