In the past 3 months, Democrats have increased their House majority as they picked up a remarkable 3 seats in a series of special elections organized in Illinois’s 14th district, Louisiana’s 6th district, Mississippi’s 1st district. What is particularly remarkable is that all three of these districts leaned heavily Republican; in 2004, George Bush had won them respectively with 55%, 59% and 62%. Each defeat increased the chaos of the Republican caucus as the NRCC started to settle in panic mode. After the loss of MS-01 on May 13th, Tom Cole, the chairman of the NRCC, issued a remarkable statement calling on Republican incumbents to brace for the worse and find individual ways to deal with the onslaught.
And Republicans have reason to fear a second November debacle. First, Republicans are now three more seats away from the majority and it is hard to find a GOP operative willing to suggest their party has any hope of reducing that margin in November. Second, the party continues to be at a significant financial disadvantage while the DCCC has a huge pile of cash that it will use in dozens of districts in the coming months, testing any Republican seat that shows any sign of being vulnerable. While the GOP was able to respond in the special elections, they will not have the money to do the same in the fall and will be forced to make some painful choices.
Third, the success of Travis Childers in MS-01 differed from those of Don Cazayoux and Bill Foster in that his opponent was not tragically flawed; in other words, the GOP had no easy excuse to explain the loss of that seat and has to face the terrifying prospect that all of its open seats are vulnerable, no matter how competitive they have appeared in previous cycles. A number of districts that opened up in the past few months and which Republicans believed would be safe bets for re-election are now finding themselves at the center of the storm, districts like NM-02, MO-09, AL-02 and OH-07. Democrats know that they will likely not have such an opportunity to snatch away heavily Republican seats in years – perhaps even decades – and they will do everything they can to make the most of every opening they have this year.
The field has shifted towards the Democratic Party, as a stunning 53 of the 88 seats that are listed in these rankings are held by Republicans. The 25 seats Democrats are defending include the 3 districts that they have just acquired and that are likely to remain in their hands in November. New York in particular is looking to be emblematic of the national catastrophe Republicans fear. Once dominant in the Empire State, the GOP has only 6 districts left today. Next year, they might only have 2. NY-25, NY-26 and NY-29 were already on everyone’s list of vulnerable Republican seats at the time of my last rankings, though the GOP’s catastrophic recruitment process in the first two of these districts has increased their predicament. And in a sign that New York Republicans are doing everything they can to seal their own doom, Vito Fossella’s arrest and subsequent retirement and the farce Staten Island Republicans are currently playing has suddenly moved NY-13 from a barely vulnerable seat to one of the Republicans’ two most vulnerable districts nationally. And to make matters worse, Republican chances in districts Democrats picked up in 2006 are rapidly fading, despite GOP boasting that they would have no trouble recapturing NY-19 and NY-24 (though the first has been making some noise again over the past few weeks, see below).
I have written full descriptions of seats that have made news since mid-February. For detailed descriptions of the other races, check last month’s rankings. I indicated upgraded or downgraded next to the seats that saw their ratings change to indicate whether they became more vulnerable or less vulnerable for the incumbent party. Here is the quick run-down:
- Less vulnerable: IL-11, IN-07, IN-07, PA-06, OH-15, OH-18
- More vulnerable: AK-AL, AL-02, ID-01, LA-04, MD-01, MO-09, NM-02, NY-13, NY-19, NY-25, NY-26, TX-22, WY-AL
- Changed parties: IL-14, LA-06 and MS-01
- Off the list: DE-AL, FL-10
Outlook: Democrats pick-up 14-20 seats, with a possibility of higher gains. My current prediction is a net pick-up of 17.
Republican seats, Likely take-over (2)
- NY-13 (open, upgraded): In no other seat did Republican chances collapse as much and as quickly as in this Staten Island seat, the last which the already dying New York GOP controls in New York City. All it took was for Rep. Vito Fossella to be arrested on DWI charges for Republicans to unravel. First, there were revelations that Fossella had an extramarital affair and that he had taken his mistress on taxpayer-funded congressional trips, forcing Fossella to announce his retirement. Second, the top Republicans in the district declined to run, leading the Staten Island party to endorse a weak and unknown candidate, Francis Powers, the island’s representative on the MTA board. Finally, Democrats convinced one of their strongest candidates, councilman Mike McMahon, to jump in the race. Despite some divisions and the candidacy of Brooklyn Democrat Steve Harrison, Democrats were already favored to pick-up this swing district when the race devolved even further into a farce as Francis M. Powers, the son of the Republican candidate, announced he would run as the Libertarian candidate with the explicit desire to get the Republican Party (and thus his father defeated).
- NY-25 (Open, upgraded): Democrat Dan Maffei, who was came very close from unseating Walsh in 2006, never stopped running in this district that voted for both Al Gore and John Kerry. Given how toxic the environment is for Republicans in any open seat, the seat became instantly lean take-over as soon as Rep. Walsh announced his retirement back in January. And that was before the disastrous series of GOP recruitment failures, as the only Republican candidate who had stepped forward by mid-March suddenly dropped out, leaving the party with nowhere to turn. The county committees ended up settling on former Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Dale Sweetland. Given how many seats the NRCC has to defend in the next few months, it is unlikely they will put much effort into holding this seat.
Republican seats, Lean take-over (5)
- AK-AL (Rep. Young, upgraded): Hit by a corruption investigation that is sinking many Alaska Republicans (including Senator Stevens), Rep. Young has a Democratic target for months now, even more so since highly-touted Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz jumped in the race in 2007. Since then, numerous polls have shown Young trailing, the latest being a mid-May Research 2000 survey with Berkowitz up by 10 percent. In fact, the Democrats’ nightmare is that Young lose the Republican primary and the GOP nominate someone with less ethical trouble. The state’s Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell (whose father Young defeated 28 years ago) is challenging him in the primary.
- AZ-1 (Open)
- IL-11 (Open, downgraded): Republican prospects in this district have been dismal since the GOP candidate Tim Balderman abruptly withdrew after the primary. The seat was already leaning Democratic with Balderman in the race: the DCCC had hit the jackpot by convincing state Senate President Debbie Halvorson to jump in while the NRCC had failed to recruit its top candidates. With Balderman’s exit, party leaders got the right to select a new nominee and they attempted to convince state Senators that had previously refused to run to do so. Yet, despite the prospect of becoming a candidate without having to go through a primary, none of them changed their mind. At the end of April, Republicans appointed Chicago businessman Martin Ozinga to fill Balderman’s spot on the ballot. They now have a candidate to hold the seat — something they did not have at the time of my previous rankings — which is enough to downgrade the seat form likely to lean take-over. But there is no question that Halvorson is heavily favored to pick-up this seat, particularly with Barack Obama topping the Democratic ticket.
- NJ-03 (Open): Democratic state Senator Adler and Republican Mayor Chris Myers won their party’s nomination on June 3rd in a race with unbalanced recruitment. Adler is the Democrats’ dream candidate while Republicans did not get their first choice. In a district that is swing in a neutral year, an open race should be fatal for Republicans in a cycle that looks so toxic for them.
- VA-11 (Open): As soon as Tom Davis announced his retirement, Democrats rejoiced at the opportunity of a sure pick-up in a region that is rapidly trending Democratic, Northern Virginia. But the party’s primary, opposing former Rep. Leslie Bynre to Gerald Connolly, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, has gone very negative, even splitting the state’s establishment, with Sen. Webb and Gov. Kaine supporting different candidates. This gives Republicans hope that they might beat the odds and hold on to this seat with businessman Keith Fimian. It is too early to downgrade this race to a toss-up, but Byrne and Connolly better find a way to finish their race in a less brutal manner.
Democratic seats, Lean take-over (2)
- FL-16 (Rep. Mahoney): Tim Mahoney has had a target on his back ever since his narrower-than-expected victory in 2006 in the seat that had just been left vacant by Rep. Foley. The GOP primary is late so the race will not settle for a few more months, but the number of credible candidates running for this seat contrasts to the situation in many other districts and confirms that this is one of the Republicans’ top opportunities.
- TX-22 (Rep. Lampson, upgraded): This is a rare seat in which the GOP caught a break over the past few months. The former seat of Tom DeLay was won by Nick Lampson in 2006 after an absurd campaign in which DeLay messed up his retirement, preventing the GOP from replacing him on the ballot. Republicans settled on a write-in campaign on behalf of Shelley Sekula Gibbs. This year, Sekula Gibbs was running to take on Lampson one more time, but many Republicans were worried that she had become too much of a liability after spending a controversial few months in Washington (she had won the special election to replace DeLay until January 07); they were concerned that nominating her could doom their chances in a district they have no doubt belongs to them. Yet, Sekula Gibbs was crushed in the runoff by Pete Olson despite coming in ahead in the first round of the primary. Olson can now set his sights on Lampson and Republican are upbeat about their chances in this race. However, Lampson can take comfort in Democratic victories in seats like MS-01, as the country’s mood might be anti-Republican enough to save him.
Republican seats, Toss-up (14)
- CO-4 (Rep. Musgrave): Many feel that Democrats had their best shot here two years ago, when they fell just short of picking-up a second Colorado House seat. Musgrave has always significantly underperformed in this GOP-leaning district, and Democrats are fielding Betsy Markey, a former aide to Senator Salazar. A recent internal poll released by the Markey campaign shows Musgrave held under 50% and leading by 4%.
- CT-4 (Rep. Shays)
- IL-10 (Rep. Kirk): Rep. Kirk knows he has a target on his back since the early days of the 2008 cycle and he thus made sure to be the highest fundraising Republican congressman. Last month, challenger Dan Seals tried a stunt that had already been performed by many other Democratic campaigns across the country: he sold gas at the price at which it was sold when Kirk took office. But unlike similar events held elsewhere, Seals’ version somewhat backfired as many cars were turned away, the police intervened and Kirk asked for a vote-buying investigation to be launched. However, any Illinois Republican has a target on his back now that Obama is sure to top his party’s ticket and drive up Democratic turnout in his home-state.
- KY-02 (Open)
- MN-03 (Open): Rep. Ramstad’s retirement was an instant headache for Republicans in this swing district but at the time of my last ratings rumors were swirling that Ramstad would un-retire. That has not happened and both parties have now picked their nominee: Republicans picked state Rep. Paulsen. At the Democratic convention, early favorite state Senator Terri Bonoff surprisingly lost to Iraq War veteran Ashwin Madia. This race is still in its early stages and should thus be considered a toss-up but even a weak Democratic breeze would be enough to turn this seat blue.
- NC-8 (Rep. Hayes)
- NJ-07 (Open): Republicans nominated state Senator Lance Leonard to lead their party, defeating Kate Whitman, the former Governor’s daughter. The GOP’s obvious trouble in keeping any open seat — let alone one that is competitive on the presidential level — will make it hard for them to defeat Democrat Linda Stender who came close to unseating Rep. Ferguson in 2006.
- NM-1 (Open): It would be a curious feat if Democrats pick-up NM-02 but not this district, as Heather Wilson’s seat has been one that Democrats have targeted for years. Wilson’s career ended on June 3rd with a defeat in her party’s Senate primary and she opened up her seat in the process. Her campaigning skills were the only reason Republicans were able to retain this Kerry-voting district but sheriff Darren White is one of the GOP’s main recruiting successes this cycle, as the NRCC is confident he will keep the race more competitive than other Republicans would have managed to. Democrats nominated Martin Heinrich, the early favorite and a former Albuquerque councilmember. Given the political environment, Democrats are favored in most open seats — let alone one that leans Democratic usually. Yet, this race should remain competitive and suspensful.
- NY-26 (Open, upgraded): Rep. Tom Reynolds, the NRCC chairman in the 2006 cycle, unexpectedly retired since my last rankings, giving Democrats an opening in this traditionally Republican upstate New York. The GOP looks to have unified around businessman Christopher Lee but that was only after a disastrous recruitment effort in which the GOP’s top two choices declined to run for the seat — a problem that has haunted Republicans in this state more than in others. Thankfully for the GOP, the Democratic picture looks confused as 2006 nominee and unconventional (to put it politely) candidate Jack Davis wants the nomination and is looking to spend hundreds of thousands of his own money; actually, he is hoping to spend up to $3 million and to do that he has filed suit to overturn the millionaire amendment, which poses conditions on candidates’ self-funding… Meanwhile, most of the Democratic establishment is lined up behind Iraq war veteran Jon Powers. The New York primaries are very late, so if Davis decides to hit Powers it could give th GOP an unexpected boost in its effort to stay alive in New York State.
- OH-01 (Rep. Chabot): State Rep. Driehaus is trying to unseat one of 2006’s unlikely survivors. Some Democrats point that OH-01 has an important black population and with predictions of an increased African-American turnout in November this is one race in which that could have an impact.
- OH-15 (Open, downgraded): Mary Jo Kilroy unexpectedly lost her bid to unseat Rep. Pryce back in 2006 and when the Republican incumbent announced her retirement early in this cycle Kilroy was deemed the favorite. The fact that virtually every major Republican in the district passed on the race seemed to give Kilroy a pass in the general election but the NRCC managed to convince state Senator Steve Stivers to change his mind and jump in the race. The GOP is touting Stivers so highly that they at least look certain to devote some of their defensive resources to this race (the same cannot be said of every open seat the GOP will be defending) which warrants the downgrade to toss-up status. However, Kilroy remains a slight favorite. This is a district in which Bush and Kerry tied in 2004, and it will be difficult for the GOP to retain any such open seat. Furthermore, a poll conducted last month for the Kilroy campaign found her leading Stivers by 10%.
- OH-16 (Open): On March 4th, Republicans selected state Sen. Kirk Schuring to be their nominee. Schuring will run against Democratic state Senator John Boccieri who has long been one of the DCCC’s most prized recruits.
- WA-8 (Rep. Reichert): Challenger Darcy Burner lost by a thin margin in 2008 and is back for a rematch. The district leans Democratic, voted for Kerry and should go for Barack Obama in the fall which could help Burner. One of the biggest problems the Democrat faced two years ago was her political inexperience but now that she is running for the second time voters will feel more familiar with her, making it more difficult for the GOP to paint her as a risky vote.
- WY-AL (Open, upgraded): One of the most Republican districts in the nation, WY-AL was downgraded to lean retention in my last rankings after Rep. Cubin announced she would not seek re-election. Given that most of the GOP’s past difficulties in holding this seat had come from her unpopularity, an open seat made it easier for Republicans to hold the seat. But Democratic special election successes this spring means that no open seat is safe from take-over as long as Democrats have a credible candidate, and Gary Trauner (their 2006 nominee) is very viable. A new Research 2000 survey shows him edging out GOP candidate Cynthia Lummis, confirming a January poll by Mason-Dixon.
Democratic seats, Toss-up (9)
- CA-11 (Rep. McNerney): Republican state Rep. Dean Andal won his party’s nomination on June 3rd and he is being highly touted as a top recruit to take on Jerry McNerney, an incumbent Democrat in a district that leans Republican. Yet, the Democrats’ special election victories have made the 54% Bush got in this district look like an inconsequential GOP lean, though it is noteworthy that Andal won more votes than McNerney did on their respective primary ballots (both were running uncontested).
- GA-8 (Rep. Marshall)
- IL-08 (Rep. Bean)
- IN-09 (Rep. Hill)
- KS-02 (Rep. Boyda): The freshman’s incumbent main hope for re-election in this very Republican district is for the GOP primary between former Rep. Jim Ryun and state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins prevents the Kansas Republican Party — which has been divided for years between conservative and moderate wings — from uniting behind the nominee.
- NH-01 (Rep. Shea-Porter): Shea-Porter is one of the rare freshman Democrats who is facing a rematch with the Republican representative she defeated in 2006. Jeb Bradley wants his job back — given that this was the upset of the 2006 cycle he probably never fully integrated his defeat — and the latest poll of the race suggests this will be a tough hold for Democrats if Bradley is the Republican nominee. Shea-Porter just joined the DCCC’s Frontline program, meant to help Democratic incumbents raise money and prepare for their re-election; she had refused to join it through 2007, so her change of mind says a lot about her vulnerabilities.
- OR-05 (Open): The GOP endangered its chances in one of the only competitive Democratic open seats because of the incredible levels of nastiness their primary reached. State Rep. Kevin Mannix attacked his opponent businessman Mike Erickson for getting a woman pregnant and paying for her abortion, leading the National Right to Life is calling for him to drop out of the race. Incredibly, Erickson survived these allegations and became the GOP nominee by the thinnest of margins, most probably because of the strength of early voting and ballots sent in before the scandal was exposed. This is the kind of primary that leaves traces in a general election.
- PA-4 (Rep. Altmire): Melissa Hart, the Republican congresswoman Altmire defeated in 2006, is back for a rematch and it ought to be a tough one as this is a district that leans Republican and in which a Democratic victory was something of a last-minute surprise. But in the intervening two years Democrats have consolidated their position in Pennsylvania and the thousands of new registrations in the first few months of 2008 have altered the playing field in their favor.
- PA-10 (Rep. Carney): Republicans nominated businessman Chris Hackett in what is sure to be a tough race for Carney in a district Bush won with 60% in 2004. PA-10 is the kind of district, however, in which Cazayoux and Childers’s victories should reassure the incumbent Democrat the most.
Republican seats, Lean retention (18)
- AL-02 (Open, upgraded): Rep. Everett announced he was not running months ago, so why is this the first time I am adding the district to my ratings? MS-01 showed that even staunchly Republican districts are offering openings for Democrats, and they will be sure to seize them — who knows when the climate will be this favorable for them again? AL-05 gave 67% of its vote to Bush in 2004, clearly a huge percentage (even in MS-01 Bush “only” got 62%). But Democrats do have a candidate they believe will make this close, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright… who Republicans also tried to recruit, underscoring just how conservative Democrats tend to be in this kind of district.
- CA-04 (Open): A brutal and ideologically driven GOP primary was settled on June 3rd when Republicans chose to nominate the more-conservative candidate, Tom McClintock. His very high-profile in California circles will help him raise money and attract attention, though some suggest that he might be too identified with ideologically pure conservatism to win in the fall. The district is very Republican, and Democrat Charlie Brown’s best shot might have been to face the ethically challenged incumbent. But he could pull it off if he attracts moderate Republicans disappointed in McClintock.
- FL-13 (Rep. Buchanan)
- FL-21 (Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart)
- FL-24 (Rep. Feeney): Democrats are continuing to play up Feeney’s connections with Jack Abramoff and to tout the candidacy of former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas.
- IL-06 (Rep. Roskam)
- IL-18 (Open): Aaron Schock, a state Representative who is the 26 year-old Republican nominee for this open seat, has already created a PAC, signaling his confidence that he will be elected in November and minimizing the competitiveness of the race he is engaged in now. It is true that Democrats did not field the strongest of candidates, but IL-18 is less Republican than other open seats the Democrats picked-up over the past few months.
- LA-04 (Open, upgraded): The situation is the same as AL-05’s. This is a reliably conservative district that gave George Bush 58% of its vote in 2004. But no open seat seems safe for Republicans this year, and 58% is less than what Bush got in LA-06, which switched over to the Democrats’ side earlier this month revealing how much seats like LA-04 are also endangered. There is a wealth of candidates from both parties, so it will take a while to figure out the general election dynamics.
- MI-07 (Rep. Walberg): Democratic state Sen. Mark Schauer is outraising the freshman incumbent, a sure sign that the DCCC will pay attention to his campaign in the coming months.
- MI-09 (Rep. Knollenberg)
- MO-06 (Rep. Graves): This race has gotten heated early as Sam Graves is using challenger Kay Barnes’s fundraising events with Nancy Pelosi to hit her with two ads accusing her of having “San Fransisco values” along with footage of disco dancing and colorful images depicting gay marriages and the homosexual lifestyle. Beyond explicit gay-baiting, the aim of these ads is to alienate Barnes, the former Kansas City Mayor from the district’s non-urban voters. In response, the Democratic campaign is airing a brutal ad accusing Graves of neglecting the district’s true concern. Indeed, Graves’s tactics might not be adapted to a in a year in which the GOP brand is toxic and voters are giving signs of privileging non-value issues.
- MO-09 (Open, upgraded): The NRCC was not too worried when Rep. Hulshof first announced he would retire from the House to seek the open gubernatorial seat as this is a Republican district in which Bush got 59% of the vote in 2004. But the Democrats’ special election victories this spring mean that open seats like MO-09 are very vulnerable to take-over and Democrats realize they cannot afford to pass this opportunity. Both parties have crowded primaries in this district, with a number of former and current state Representatives seeking their party’s nod. The state primary is not until August 5th, so it will take us a while to have a better sense of the campaign’s dynamics.
- MN-06 (Rep. Bachmann)
- NM-02 (Open, upgraded): Steve Pearce’s retirement was not supposed to create that much of a headache for Republicans, but times are tough for the GOP when it comes to open seats and this is the type of Republican-leaning district that Democrats are confident they can make more competitive. On June 3rd, Democrat Harry Teague won a tight primary to become his party’s nominee and he will face Republican Edward Tinsley.
- NV-03 (Rep. Porter): There has been some unexpected movement in this race over the past few months, as Robert Daskas, the presumptive Democratic nominee who was highly touted by the DCCC, unexpectedly dropped out in late April. Democrats were able to recover, however, as they quickly moved to convince Dina Titus, the state Senate Minority Leader and the party’s 2006 gubernatorial nominee, to jump in the race, guaranteeing that this remains a competitive race.
- NY-29 (Rep. Kuhl)
- OH-2 (Rep. Schmidt): In this rematch of their 2006 contest, which Schmidt won by 1%, Democrat Victoria Wulsin is outraising the incumbent and has positioned herself for an upset. But Democrats have suffered two heartbreaks in this district whose GOP leanings (it gave 63% of its vote to Bush in 2004) still appear too difficult to overcome, despite Schmidt’s unpopularity. Democratic hopes in past cycles were fueled by Republican divisions, as some GOPers in the district were hoping for another Republican to represent them but that factor is fading away as cycles are passing.
- VA-02 (Rep. Drake): Democrats are upbeat about the chances of Glenn Nye, but Thelma Drake might have survived the worst by narrowly prevailing in a hotly contested race in 2006. A recent poll has her leading by double-digit but under 50 percent — a little bit for both candidates to celebrate. Like OH-01 (see above), increased black turnout have have an impact in this race.
Democratic seats, Lean retention (13)
- AZ-5 (Rep. Mitchell)
- AZ-8 (Rep. Giffords)
- CT-5 (Rep. Murphy)
- GA-12 (Rep. Barrow)
- IN-7 (Rep. Carson, downgraded): Andre Carson replaced his grandmother mid-March in a special election. Republicans believed they had a strong candidate, state Rep. Elrod, but Carson prevailed in this blue-leaning district by 11%. The special could have been tighter had Republicans had invested resources in helping Elrod but the NRCC did not have enough money to do that — a concrete example of the limitation the House GOP is facing because of their fundraising weakness.
- KS-03 (Rep. Moore)
- KY-03 (Rep. Yarmuth)
- LA-06 (Rep. Cazayoux, changed parties): Coming soon
- MS-01 (Rep. Childers, changed parties): Coming soon
- NY-19 (Rep. Hall, upgraded): Republicans had made freshman Rep. John Hall one of their top targets until their much touted candidate dropped out of the race in mid-November. Followed 5 months of confusion in which the NRCC struggled to find a replacement. They had given up when George Oros, the leader of the Westchester County Legislature, announced he would take on Hall, drawing the immediate support of the GOP establishment. Republicans have such a late start by now that it will be hard for them to live up to their potential, but this is a rare seat in which their situation has improved over the past 4 months.
- NY-20 (Rep. Gillbrand)
- MN-1 (Rep. Walz)
- WI-8 (Rep. Kagen)
Republican seats, potentially competitive (14)
- CA-52 (open)
- FL-8 (Rep. Keller)
- FL-15 (open): I forgot to add this seat to my previous rating, though it ought to have been on my list ever since Rep. Weldon announced that he would retire and leave this Republican-leaning seat open. Bush won this district with 57% in 2004, making it winnable for the opposing party but this is a rare race in which Democrats have failed the recruitment game as their favorite candidate, Nancy Higgs, abruptly dropped out of the race in February while the GOP has united around state Sen. Bill Posey. Democrats will need a very strong wind to move numbers in this district.
- FL-25 (Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart): This is the second of two Southern Florida districts which Democrats are trying to pick-up in a battle between Cuban-Americans, the other being FL-21. This Diaz-Balart is facing Joe Garcia, the former chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and the former director of the Cuban American National Foundation. This is a district that leans Republican and Cuban-Americans tend to vote for the GOP, so Garcia will need to convince them to have any shot at unseating the incumbent.
- ID-01 (Rep. Sali, upgraded): This is one of the most conservative districts in the country, and Bill Sali did the most difficult in 2006 by capturing an open race when most of the state GOP was attacking him. Yet, Sali won a surprisingly tight primary on May 27th, as he was held to 60% by an underfunded challenger, suggesting that Republican divisions have not yet been resolved. Democratic challenger Walt Minnick has more cash-on-hand than Sali as of May. But Democrats are the underdog here even when everything aligns for them.
- MD-01 (Open, upgraded): State Senator Andy Harris defeated Rep. Gilchrest in a primary on February 12th, making the seat nominally open. MD-01 has a clear Republican lean, so Harris starts out as the heavy favorite; but an open seat with a defeated incumbent can bring surprises, especially if Gilchrest supporters remain bitter.
- NY-03 (Rep. King)
- OH-07 (Open): George Bush won 57% here in 2004, which is less than his share of the vote in LA-06 and MS-01. An internal poll for the Democratic candidate finds Republican state Senator Auria leading by only 6%, though we have to wonder whether Democrats can win in such a district without their strongest candidate, as their first choice declined months ago explaining it was too Republican a seat.
- OH-14 (Rep. LaTourette)
- PA-03 (Rep. English): Surprised by English’s unexpectedly low 54% in 2006, Democrats are confident they can test the incumbent more actively this time. Kathy Dahlkemper won the Democratic nomination on April 22nd.
- PA-06 (Rep. Gerlach, downgraded): A rare Democratic recruitment disappointment, PA-06 should have been at the top of the DCCC’s priority list. But after two very close contests in 2004 and 2006, Democrats have eased the pressure on Gerlach in a district narrowly carried by Kerry. The Democratic nominee will be retired businessman Bob Roggio, and while the national environment is anti-Republican enough that anything will happen, Gerlach demonstrated two years ago that he is a tough code to crack.
- PA-15 (Rep. Dent)
- PA-18 (Rep. Murphy)
- WV-02 (Rep. Capito)
Democratic seats, potentially competitive (10)
- CT-2 (Rep. Courtney)
- IL-14 (Rep. Foster, changed parties): The former seat of Dennis Hastert fell into Democratic hands in March, in the first of the three shocking Democratic victories. IL-14 was also the least Republican of the three, but it still gave Bush more than 55% of the vote in 2004. The Republican candidate in the special election, Jim Oberweis, was a flawed candidate who had lost elections before and was denounced in state papers for his negative campaigning. The mere fact that he will represent the GOP again in November makes it improbable that Foster will be much threatened. Not to mention that the NRCC wasted enough money defending this seat in March that they will stay away from Oberweis in the fall.
- IN-02 (Rep. Donnelly): The filing deadline passed in Indiana and Donnelly attracted minor opposition in a district the GOP had vowed to take back this year.
- IN-08 (Rep. Ellsworth, downgraded): The situation is similar to IN-02. This is a Republican-enough seat that I gave the GOP the benefit of the doubt until now. They insisted that they would make this seat very competitive, but they are sending a former congressional aide, Greg Goode, against a Democrat who atomized his opponent, an incumbent, in 2006.
- NH-02 (Rep. Hodes): The GOP is concentrating its resources on NH-01, where Rep. Shea-Porter is much more endangered than Hordes. And given that the Senate race will also require heavy GOP attention, there won’t be much left for them to go after Hordes. The same poll that showed Shea-Porter in danger also shows Hordes costing to re-election.
- OH-18 (Rep. Space, downgraded): Given the district’s conservative nature, Zach Space was expected to receive one of the strongest challenges of any incumbent. But many Republicans declined to run and the party’s nomination was left in the hands of Fred Dailey, the state’s former agriculture director. Dailey’s fundraising has been anemic, especially compared to Space’s fast-paced campaign, and no one is really paying attention to this race anymore. This is a stunning turnaround considering the GOP’s determination 18 months ago.
- PA-07 (Rep. Sestak)
- PA-08 (Rep. Murphy)
- PA-11 (Rep. Paul Kanjorski)
- TX-23 (Rep. Rodriguez)