(DavidNYC and Crisitunity contributed to the writing of this post.)
We made these changes on Friday night, but haven’t had the opportunity to post our full write-ups until now. Here goes:
AZ-01 (Open): Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic
Essentially, Republicans ceded this race the moment that former Arizona state Senate President Ken Bennett declined to run for the open seat of “retiring” GOP Rep. Rick Renzi. In his place, Republicans are running Arizona Mining Association President Sydney Hay, a truly D-grade candidate whose sharply right-wing views would make Randy Graf smile with pride. Most starkly, Hay has only raised $363,000 compared to Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s $1.68 million. With the DCCC spending liberally against Hay, the end result is poised to look ugly for the GOP here. (James L.)
AZ-08 (Giffords): Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic
This is a case of good candidate, wrong year for the Republicans: they convinced state senate president Tim Bee to run against freshman Democrat Gabrielle Giffords in this R+1 district. Bee came in with something of a moderate image, but that was frittered away through a public tussle with Jim Kolbe, the Republican occupant of this seat prior to Giffords (probably over Bee’s support for a gay marriage amendment to the Arizona constitution) and having to have a Bush visit to help with fundraising.
In a normal year, the GOP could have made a strong race of it, even with these few unforced errors. Given the broader trends this year, though, and the GOP’s more pressing problems on defense, Bee simply got washed away… and acknowledging their chances, the NRCC just pulled out of this race. (Crisitunity)
CA-04 (Open): Lean Republican to Tossup
Hopes have been high for Charlie Brown’s second run at this seat in the Sacramento suburbs, after he narrowly lost to corrupt John Doolittle in 2006. Unfortunately (for Brown’s chances), Doolittle subsequently retired, meaning that Brown would instead be running in 2008 against ‘generic R’ in a dark-red R+11 district.
Fortunately for Brown, though, ‘generic R’ didn’t show up, and instead he found himself running against ‘conservative icon’ Tom McClintock, who between his name-recognition and access to money was supposed to have been a formidable opponent may just be too laughable and over-the-top even for this district. First off, McClintock is from southern California and hasn’t bothered moving to the district yet. He seems to have little intention of unpacking his bags even if he wins, as he’s keeping various accounts for 2010 statewide offices open.
Things just haven’t gelled for McClintock; not only has he trailed Brown in all polls except his own internals, but he’s almost out of money, as he finished the third quarter with only $94,000 cash on hand. The district lean here should disqualify a Democrat from picking up this seat, but by any objective measure, Brown is poised to be able to do it. (C)
FL-16 (Mahoney): Lean Republican to Likely Republican
This is an ugly, awful race with an ugly, awful candidate on the Dem line who really ought to spare himself, his family, his constituents, and his nominal party a whole lot of embarrassment by resigning. We’ll have a shot here again in the future.
One point I’d like to make in passing, though, is that if Dave Lutrin, who was a short-lived primary opponent of Mahoney’s back in 2006, thought his cause was just, he should never have dropped out. I’m really tired of claims that Rahm Emanuel somehow “pushed” Lutrin out of the race.
This isn’t a third-world country. His family wasn’t threatened. In America, if you want to run for office, you run. Some people might make things difficult for you, but that’s called politics. And we also have excellent proof that such a course of action by no means has to be quixotic – just look at Reps. Jerry McNerney and Carol Shea-Porter. In other words, there’s no excuse for giving up just because Rahm allegedly likes someone else better than you. (David)
FL-24 (Feeney): Tossup to Lean Democratic
Who would have ever thought that the first Republican incumbent to fall off the cliff and into the no-man’s land of “Lean Dem” would be someone other than Don Young? Tom Feeney was one of the few representatives tarred with the brush of Abramoff to survive 2006 and then decide to try again in 2008. Until recently, however, with Jack Abramoff disappearing in the rear-view mirror and Feeney safely ensconced in an R+3 district that he designed for himself while in the state legislature, it looked like he was going to skate through.
As Republican fortunes in general started to dwindle this summer, though, Feeney found former state representative Suzanne Kosmas gaining on him. So, he did exactly what any rational politican would do… he issued an ad reminding everyone of his involvement in the Abramoff affair and begging forgiveness for it. Wait… what? That’s not what a rational politician would do? Hmmm.
From that point on, everything seemed to go haywire for Feeney, and another Kosmas internal from last week gave her a head-spinning 58-35 lead over Feeney. This week would have been the time for Feeney to issue his own internal as a rebuttal… and his silence on the matter is extremely telling. Even in a good year for Republicans, this would be a difficult hole for Feeney to climb out of, but this year, it’d be nearly impossible. (C)
FL-25 (M. Diaz-Balart): Lean Republican to Tossup
This one is all about demographics. What was once a Cuban-American GOP stronghold has turned into a pure tossup district, at least according to the latest voter registration numbers. Recent polling shows Diaz-Balart up by only three points and well below 50%, and the DCCC is spending heavily against both Diaz-Balart brothers (while the NRCC has been focusing solely on protecting Lincoln with massive independent expenditures). This one feels hard to predict, making it a perfect tossup. (J)
ID-01 (Sali): Lean Republican to Tossup
Well, here we are – a place I distantly imagined we might possibly reach but am nonetheless quite surprised (and delighted) to be. The race for Idaho’s first Congressional District is a tossup, my friends, and this is a race rating change you can believe in.
Bill Sali has done for Democrats what even the lovechild of FDR and Howard Dean never could have: He’s made a seat that’s supremely conservative extremely competitive. As we’ve explained at great length, Sali is the perfect fuckup, capable of doing no right.
Meanwhile, Dem Walt Minnick has been an ideal candidate running a nearly flawless campaign. He’s scored support from a broad range of conservatives furious with Sali’s antics and ineffectiveness, and he’s picked up endorsements from the region’s most important papers (see here and here). What’s more, the polling (particularly a recent SUSA survey) has shown a tight race. We think Minnick has put himself in an excellent position to win this race and are eager to follow the returns on election night. (D)
KY-03 (Yarmuth): Lean Democratic to Likely Democratic
In any other cycle, this race would have been a barnburner: A popular, longtime incumbent narrowly upset in a wave election by a first-time candidate wages a serious comeback in a swing district. The problem is that this isn’t just any ordinary cycle. Indeed, it’s looking like a vale of tears for all of the Republican retreads who are seeking rematches this year.
But Northup is a special case – she was actually a replacement candidate against John Yarmuth, after her bitterly humiliating primary loss to corrupt Gov. Ernie Fletcher in 2007. Northup’s fundraising network may still be intact, but her political appeal isn’t. Yarmuth, who is proving to be a great fit for this district, has led comfortably in five straight SUSA polls.
Once you factor in top-of-the-ticket excitement in Louisville, the chances of Northup pulling this one off seem remote indeed. Hopefully, with three shattering losses in just twenty-four months, we won’t be seeing much more of Anne any time soon. (D)
NY-24 (Arcuri): Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
We’ve heard very little all cycle long in this sleepy race. When last we checked in half a year ago, malfunctioning NRCC robot Ken Spain was busy telling the world that Mike Arcuri would be vulnerable unless the DCCC spent its entire $44 million warchest to defend him.
Actual DCCC expenditures on this race? $00,000,000.00. That sort of tells you all you need to know. Rep. Mike Arcuri has raised solidly if not spectacularly ($1.5m), but that’s been more than enough to keep his Republican opponent Richard Hanna at bay. Arcuri is likely to hold this seat for a long time to come. (D)
OH-15 (Open): Tossup to Lean Democratic
After a paper-thin margin in 2006, this R+1 district in Democratic-trending Columbus was considered a prime pickup opportunity. Once incumbent Deborah Pryce decided to flee for the hills (actually, K Street is pretty flat, come to think of it) and county commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy came back for another try, many prognosticators thought this was the Dems’ single-best pickup chance. Subsequent retirements (NY-25) and retirements/sex scandals/untimely deaths/party meltdowns (NY-13) moved it down the list a bit, but it always looked good for the Dems.
The GOP scored big, though, by nailing their desired candidate, moderate state senator Steve Stivers. Polls never showed a big edge for Kilroy, and Kilroy got pinned down with various weird minutiae (like controversies over bids to build a baseball stadium and the
radical leftist pamphlet alternative weekly she used to edit) that kept her from building much momentum.
However, the general trend toward the Dems seems to have pushed this race into the Lean Dem column in the last month, with polls moving in Kilroy’s direction and the NRCC, in triage mode, more focused on saving incumbents than open seats. Throw in pro-life independent Don Eckhart making Stivers’ task even more difficult, and this becomes a race where a GOP victory would, at this point, be quite surprising. (C)
OH-18 (Space): Likely Democratic to Safe Democratic
Republicans thumped their chest pretty loudly after 2006 that Democrat Zack Space had a fluke victory and would be quickly dispatched with by a top-tier challenger in 2008. Well, it’s 2008, and we see no top-tier challenger here. We do see a sadsack nobody who has raised a whopping $332,000 in a year and a half since kicking off his campaign. That’s simply not enough to topple a Representative who, by most reviews, has been a good fit for his district and has provided superior constituent services.
Memo to Republicans: Better luck next year. (J)