Yesterday the DCCC introduced its Frontline program for the 2010 electoral cycle. These are the 40 incumbents considered to be most vulnerable, who are targeted for independent expenditures as needed to keep their seats in the D column.
Not all of these incumbents will stay vulnerable; in the previous cycle, between solid Dem fundraising out of the gate and an auspicious political landscape, only 10 of the initial 34 wound up needing funding. This cycle may be a little different, though; we’re playing more defense in more Republican-leaning seats, and fighting the usual midterm tendencies to recoil against the party in power.
Here’s the list of 40; rather than listing them alphabetically, I’m listing them according to the difficulty of the district’s estimated presidential lean in 2008 (and also including each rep’s margin of victory in 2008):
Take a moment to compare this with the House Vulnerability Index that we compiled last month. Pretty solid overlap: 18 of the 20 on the Index are also in the Frontline program. The two who aren’t are Chet Edwards, who’s well ensconced in his bright-red district, and Jim Marshall, who seems to finally be getting settled after a number of rocky cycles.
Note, also, the large number of sophomores who quickly locked down their iffy districts and have already graduated from their training wheels: Brad Ellsworth, Heath Shuler, Jason Altmire, John Yarmuth, John Hall, and Zack Space, among others. (Also observe who got the training wheels slapped back on: Mike Arcuri and the perpetually tottering Leonard Boswell.)
Who’s in the reddest districts without needing Frontline help? It’s all long-time representatives from the Blue Doggish end of the party, starting with Gene Taylor (36-pt McCain margin) and Chet Edwards (35). The rest of the top 10 includes some Tennessee and Arkansas reps who watched their previously safe districts fall out from under them, at least at the presidential level: Dan Boren (32), Lincoln Davis (30), Bart Gordon (25), Charlie Melancon (24), Ike Skelton (23), Marion Berry (21), Mike Ross (19), and Rick Boucher (19).
And who had the narrowest margins in their own House races, without requiring Frontline help? Top of the list is Paul Kanjorski, who most people seemed to have left for dead and who escaped with a 3-point victory; apparently, the consensus seems to be that he was uniquely vulnerable to Lou Barletta and there aren’t any other threats on PA-11’s GOP bench. Following him are Chet Edwards (8), Ron Klein (9), Chellie Pingree (10), Jason Altmire (12), Jim Marshall (14), Paul Hodes (15), John Murtha (16), Dennis Moore (17), and Tim Bishop (17).
Finally, not to be outdone, the NRCC is about to roll out its counterpart, the “Patriots” program. (Apparently they don’t feel so sanguine as to call it ROMP, or Regain our Majority Program, any more.) No word on who the recipients are yet. One key difference seems to be while Frontline offers a lot of carrots, the Patriots program seems to involve a whole lot of stick:
As one Republican source put it Monday, the effort is also designed to “end the welfare state that the NRCC has become over the past six to eight years” by setting strict benchmarks for Members and adding one big stick to the process. Namely, those candidates who aren’t working to help themselves will be cut off from NRCC financial assistance.