The Hill: Cook moves status of 6 House races as general election sprint begins

The Cook Political Report on Wednesday changed the status of six House races. 

In the race for Florida's 18th District, Rep. Brian Mast's (R) chances of holding onto his seat are improving, according to the election handicapper, which moved it from the "Lean Republican" column to "Likely Republican."

Likewise, the race to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) in Florida's 27th District has become more competitive for Republicans, moving from the "Lean Democratic" column to become a toss-up race.

Democrat Donna Shalala, a former Health and Human Services secretary under former President Clinton, is looking to turn the South Florida district blue. But she's facing an increasingly competitive challenge from Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, a well-known broadcast journalist. 

But the Cook ratings aren't all good news for the GOP. In Georgia's 7th District, Rep. Rob Woodall's (R) race against Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux is moving from "Likely Republican" to "Lean Republican." That means that the GOP incumbent has an advantage, but the race remains competitive for Democrats.

And in Minnesota's 2nd and 3rd districts, the House races are moving from toss-up status to "Lean Democrat," according to Cook, giving Democrats a slight advantage in otherwise highly competitive contests.

Also moving into the toss-up column is the House race for New Mexico's 2nd District, which previously leaned in Republicans' favor. In that race, Democrat Xochitl Torres Small is vying against Republican state Rep. Yvette Herrell to replace Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.).

Pearce is stepping down from his House seat to run for the New Mexico governor's mansion. 

Cook's latest changes were announced by the election handicapper's House editor, David Wasserman, on Twitter. 

Democrats are bullish about the chances of a so-called blue wave in November as they seek to gain control of the House. 

In the Senate, Democrats face a tougher battle to reclaim the majority. But a narrow path has opened up in recent weeks, with Democrats eyeing Senate GOP-held seats in Arizona, Tennessee and Texas as possible pickup opportunities.

Jake Best