‘Hey Jim, could you put together a list of House races where it’s either an open seat race or a vulnerable incumbent?” the editors ask, oh-so-innocently.
Do they have any idea how much work that entails? Scott Brown won a Senate race in Massachusetts by a healthy margin this year — you can find a list of winnable House seats by starting at page one of Michael Barone’s Almanac of American Politics and working your way to the index. It might be shorter to list the Democrats who aren’t vulnerable this year.
Once you add up the upcoming special elections, the open-seat races, and the races where there’s some indicator of trouble for a Democratic opponent — a particularly strong challenger, favorable district demographics, surprising fundraising numbers, a particularly weak Democratic incumbent, or a combination of these factors — you come up with more than 90 House races. If the GOP wins only half the seats listed below, they win back the House.
Two early measures of the public mood arrive this month. The first is John Murtha’s open seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th district, which the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) characterizes as “more of a national referendum on Pelosi and Obama.” Polling puts Republican Tim Burns narrowly ahead of Democrat Mark Critz, but in a district full of white, working-class conservative Democrats, it is likely to be a close finish. Critz is in a strange position, having to run ads touting that he opposed the health-care bill, but also declaring at a recent candidate forum that he would not vote to repeal the health-care bill. He has also apologized for an ad that mischaracterized Burns’s past statements on taxes.
Then there’s the special election for Neil Abercrombie’s open seat in Hawaii’s first district, where Charles Djou is trying to win a plurality in an odd, all-vote-by-mail special election against two well-known Democrats. The NRCC calls Djou “an exceptional candidate doing an exceptionally good job”; they think that the electorate currently splits, with roughly a third for each candidate but Djou ahead by a few points, and that’s a more modest assessment than that of a poll out May 2, which put Djou ahead by 8. The pollsters credit Djou for a “good ground game.”
Paul Hodes’s open seat, New Hampshire: Democrats will have a tough three-way primary, while Charlie Bass, who represented this district for twelve years, appears to have the inside track on the GOP side. A University of New Hampshire poll puts Bass up 17, and the Granite State is souring on Obama and Democrats in general quickly.
Bill Delahunt’s open seat, Massachusetts: There aren’t that many experienced Republican politicians in Massachusetts, but three of them came out of the woodwork to run against Delahunt after Scott Brown’s win. Two state legislators and guy with the last name “Kennedy” — no relation to the famous family — will compete on the Democratic side. Brown won almost 60 percent of the vote in this district.
Patrick Kennedy’s open seat, Rhode Island: No doubt this is tough territory for any GOP candidate, but the Democrats look set to fight out a tough primary, which won’t end until September 14, and the lone GOP candidate, John Loughlin, has some fairly healthy fundraising. On his list, analyst Charlie Cook has taken the seat off of “safe Democratic” and moved it to “likely Democratic.”
Eric Massa’s open seat, New York: Tom Reed would probably win the special election fairly easily if Gov. David Paterson ever got around to scheduling one.
John Tanner’s open seat, Tennessee: This is a very Republican-leaning district, and farmer and gospel singer Stephen Fincher has proven a fundraising phenom.
Bart Gordon’s open seat, Tennessee: Another very Republican-leaning district. This race will see crowded primaries on both sides. It’s worth noting that three of the GOP candidates have raised more than $400,000, while none of the Democrats has anywhere near that amount.
Brian Baird’s open seat, Washington: This district’s Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) is even, and David Castillo looked set to give Baird a good run before the surprise retirement of the incumbent; Democrat Denny Heck will probably be a tough competitor, though. Castillo will face primary competition from state representative Jaime Lynn Herrera.
Brad Ellsworth’s open seat, Indiana: Evan Bayh’s surprise retirement sends Ellsworth to the Senate race, pushing state representative Trent Van Haafften into a House bid with a late start. Meanwhile, roughly every Republican in the district was preparing to run against Ellsworth — okay, eight of them. Dr. Larry Bucshon leads the money race. This isn’t the most Republican seat in Indiana, but it went for McCain by 4 percentage points while he was losing the state overall and is scored at R+8 in the Cook PVI.
Joe Sestak’s open seat, Pennsylvania: This district scores D+3, but Republican Curt Weldon represented it for a long time. The GOP has a good candidate in former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan; he leads in fundraising by more than $300,000 against state representative Bryan Roy Lentz.
Marion Berry’s open seat, Arkansas: This is a classic GOP pickup opportunity, with a longtime Democrat leaving a heavily Republican area. McCain carried this district by 21 percentage points. So far, Republican Rick Crawford has outraised all of his potential Democratic opponents.
Vic Snyder’s open seat, Arkansas: Tim Griffin looks like the favorite in this Republican-leaning district (McCain carried it by 10 percentage points, improving on Bush’s narrow win); he’s vastly outraised all of his potential Democratic opponents.
Dennis Moore’s open seat, Kansas: Another very Republican-leaning district. Sam Brownback is probably going to win the governor’s race by a wide margin and either Todd Tiahrt or Jerry Moran will probably win the Senate race easily; they’re both out-raising the nearest Democrat by 20-to-1 margins. There is a crowded primary, but state representative Kevin Yoder has raised a half million for this race already. Democrats will probably hang their hopes on the incumbent’s wife.
Charlie Melancon’s open seat, Louisiana: Yet another Democrat leaving an open-seat race in a very Republican-leaning district; McCain carried it 61 percent to 37 percent. Assistant adjutant general of the Louisiana National Guard Hunt Downer is likely to declare and make a strong push.
Bart Stupak’s open seat, Michigan: This is a huge, rural district full of poorer small towns and conservative Democrats. The right Republican candidate would win here, and grassroots energy seems to be around Dr. Dan Benishek. But the picture will be clearer after both sides’ crowded primaries get hashed out.
Then there are a few currently Democrat-held open seats where the demographics and past voting history of the district make a GOP takeover highly unlikely, even in a great national environment: Arthur Davis’s in Alabama (D+18 district), Diane Watson’s in California (D+35), and Kendrick Meek’s in Florida (D+34).
It’s also worth noting that there are 19 congressional seats held by Republicans who won’t be running for reelection. Most of them are in fairly safe Republican territory, with two big exceptions: Mike Castle’s open seat in Delaware and Mark Kirk’s open seat in Illinois. In addition, some might wonder about the district held by the Diaz-Balart brothers (one is vacating the seat, the other running to replace him) in southern Florida.
VULNERABLE DEMOCRAT INCUMBENTS
Bobby Bright, Alabama: Bright narrowly won in 2008, and the NRCC is high on challenger Martha Roby. Her fundraising hasn’t been quite as impressive as hoped, but Bright won by the skin of his teeth in 2008 (less than 2,000 votes) in a district scored R+16 in the Cook Partisan Voting Index. This is a seat Democrats will have an exceptionally hard time holding in a wave election.
Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona: She’s a freshman Democrat in a Republican-leaning district; the Wall Street Journal placed Kirkpatrick on its list of the ten freshman Democrats most at risk. The GOP primary is crowded.
Gabby Giffords, Arizona: Representing a district on the Mexican border, she once bashed the Minutemen; now she calls for deploying National Guard troops to stop unlawful border crossings. She’s wavered on the state’s tough new illegal-immigration laws. She’ll face a strong GOP candidate in Jonathan Paton.
Harry Mitchell, Arizona: The second-term Mitchell faces a likely rematch with well-funded challenger in David Schweikert, former state lawmaker and former treasurer of Maricopa County, in a district scored R+5 in the Cook PVI.
Mike Ross, Arkansas: He’s classic Blue Dog Democrat in a district McCain carried, 58 percent to 39 percent. A poll in September of last year put his favorable at 45 percent and his unfavorable at 42 percent, with only 41 percent certain to vote to reelect him. GOP challengers Glenn Edward Gallas and Beth Anne Rankin are way behind in the money race, though. Top-of-the-ticket assistance will come from Sen. Blanche Lincoln, or, if she loses her primary, Bill Halter, which is akin to saying Ross can count on no top-of-the-ticket help at all.
Loretta Sanchez, California: This district scores only D+4, and the NRCC thinks Van Tran is the best challenger she’s had in years. Sanchez is a bit off-the-wall by congressional standards, issuing increasingly bizarre Christmas cards featuring her cat and cheerfully going through her purse for a Politico reporter. Nancy Pelosi urged Democrats to help Sanchez at the California Democratic party convention in April, suggesting that they sense a bit of vulnerability in this cycle.
Jerry McNerney, California: The district has a Cook Partisan Voting Index score of R+1, and three well-funded Republicans are competing in the primary: Elizabeth Emken, Brad Goehring, and David Jeffrey Harmer. The incumbent may have lucked out a bit in 2008 with the Obama wave in California and a disorganized, poorly financed GOP challenger.
Bob Filner, California: Nick Popaditch, a decorated Iraq War veteran, is taking on Bob Filner in the 51st district, in the state’s southeastern corner. No doubt, this is a tough district for any GOP challenger, but Popaditch seems like a uniquely strong candidate who might be able to pick up an anti-incumbent wave. This district includes El Centro, where the unemployment rate is the highest in the nation: 27.7 percent.
Betsey Markey, Colorado: This big, largely rural, Republican-leaning district is relatively low-hanging fruit. Markey told a reporter she is hoping that the health-care issue fades by November. Both Cory Gardner (the favorite) and Tom Lucero would make strong challengers.
John Salazar, Colorado: It’s an R+5 district, and Colorado is souring on Obama and Democrats in general rapidly; RealClearPolitics scores this race a “toss-up.” The NRCC likes challenger Scott Tipton.
Ed Perlmutter, Colorado: Ordinarily, Perlmutter would be pretty safe, but Aurora city councilman Ryan Frazier switched from the Senate race to this House race, and Lang Sias, another GOP candidate, has a stellar record of military service. And perhaps Frazier or Sias will get some help from the top of the ticket: Scott McInnis is running tight to Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, and Jane Norton looks set win the Senate race by a wide margin.
Jim Himes, Connecticut: Himes is a freshman helped along by the Obama wave; at least five Republicans, including a state senator and former state senator, think Himes can be beaten this year. This is the district of Chris Shays, the liberal Republican who survived the Democratic onslaught of 2006 but not the sequel in 2008.
Chris Murphy, Connecticut: Murphy heard some vocal opposition to health care at his town halls last summer, and this district is only D+2. He faces two relatively well-funded GOP challengers in Justin Bernier and state senator Sam Caligiuri.
Suzanne Kosmas, Florida: The space coast is getting slammed by Obama’s NASA cuts, it’s an R+4 district, and Kosmas voted for the health-care bill. Note that for all Florida races, the top of the ticket on the Democratic side will read “MEEK” and “SINK.”
Allen Boyd, Florida: The eastern part of Florida’s panhandle isn’t usually Democratic country (both McCain and Bush won easily), and Allen Boyd is one of those classic “how the heck is this guy representing this district?” incumbents. Eleven Republicans considered running against him this year; nine remain in the race, and Steve Southerland, co-owner and president of a chain of funeral homes, appears to be the most well-funded. Southerland is hitting Boyd hard on votes that cost the district jobs.
Ron Klein, Florida: This is a D+1 district, but you probably don’t want to stand in the way of Republican challenger Allen West.
Alan Grayson, Florida: This obnoxious, loudmouth, partisan Democrat represents a somewhat Republican district. Grayson won only 52 percent of the vote in 2008, even with the Obama wave carrying him. Grayson has almost unlimited funds, but a small army of Republican candidates are setting out to defeat him; the two most likely include popular former state senator Daniel Webster and current state representative Kurt Kelly.
John Barrow, Georgia: Barrow is a Democrat in a deep-red district who has always managed to hang on by the skin of his teeth — but he voted against the health-care bill. He managed only 50.3 percent in 2006, a good year for Democrats.
Jim Marshall, Georgia: He’s another Georgia Democrat who always manages to hang on by a small margin, and he faces a top-tier challenger who’s won some races before, state representative Austin Scott. But he voted against the health-care bill.
Walt Minnick, Idaho: One of the few House Democrats who voted against the stimulus, cap-and-trade, and the health-care bill, he was endorsed by the Tea Party Express. But GOP challenger Vaughn Ward can give this district all of the same stands without a vote to keep Nancy Pelosi as speaker.
Bill Foster, Illinois: He’s another first-term Democrat in a nominally Republican district; while he has a huge fundraising advantage on GOP opponent state senator Randy Hultgren, the Rothenberg Political Report recently moved this one into the “toss-up” pile.
Melissa Bean, Illinois: Bush won this district comfortably in 2004, and Obama won comfortably four years later; it has an R+1 Cook PVI. A poll by GOP challenger Joe Walsh puts him narrowly ahead of the incumbent. Both the Senate and gubernatorial races in Illinois should be competitive this year.
Debbie Halvorson, Illinois: She lucked out when the GOP primary winner in 2008 unexpectedly dropped out of the race, giving her the seat before ties to Rod Blagojevich were seen as politically toxic. GOP challenger Adam Kinzinger is a genuine rising star.
Phil Hare, Illinois: He paid for some polls this past quarter but hasn’t released the results. He appeared to suggest he didn’t worry about constitutional justification for the health-care bill. He has a tenacious, opportunistic challenger in Bobby Schilling; a local poll found only 40 percent of respondents said they would vote to reelect Hare.
Baron Hill, Indiana: He had an infamously brusque interaction with constituents at a town-hall meeting. A February poll showed Hill trailing his GOP opponent, former congressman Mike Sodrel, by 8 percentage points. And in all Indiana races, note that all GOP Senate contenders lead Democrat Brad Ellsworth by a healthy margin.
Joe Donnelly, Indiana: This district isn’t as Republican-leaning as some of the others in the state, but likely GOP challenger Jackie Walorski looks like a strong contender. The health-care bill, for which Donnelly voted, polled abysmally statewide.
Leonard Boswell, Iowa: Boswell has been on most Congress-watchers’ possible-retirement lists for a while, and GOP challenger Jim Gibbons is showing some healthy fundraising. Note that the governor’s race is, at least at this point, set to be a GOP rout, so Boswell can count on no help from the top of the ticket.
Dave Loebsack, Iowa: He beat Republican Jim Leach by 2 percent in 2006; Republicans had represented this district since 1977. Loebsack was helped by the Obama wave, but ran 3 percent and 15,000 votes behind Obama here while facing a political neophyte. The NRCC is starting to perk up about the chances of Rob Gettemy.
Ben Chandler, Kentucky: He’s a Democrat in an R+9 district who voted against the health-care bill. The two best-funded challengers are Mike Templeman, former CEO of Energy Coal Resources, and Andy Barr. Both are running as conservatives against Washington, and this appears to be one of those districts where it just isn’t that healthy to be an incumbent Democrat.
Frank Kratovil, Maryland: One of those 2008 fluke races where GOP divisions helped a Democrat win the reddest district in the state. Kratovil voted against the health-care bill, but state senator Andy Harris is well-positioned, and this part of the state is not enamored of Gov. Martin O’Malley, who’s up for reelection.
Stephen Lynch, Massachusetts: On paper, Lynch should be quite safe; he’s a well-known incumbent, and two little-known, underfunded Republicans are competing in a primary. But any Massachusetts Democrat who voted against the health-care bill and incurred the wrath of the unions (his vote triggered a primary challenge against him) must be hearing some pretty serious rumbling in his home district. Scott Brown carried this district by 18,000 votes.
Mark Schauer, Michigan: A January poll found that Republican challenger and former congressman Tim Walberg leads the freshman Schauer 46 percent to 37 percent in this nominally Republican district. While the primaries are still sorting themselves out, the GOP Michigan gubernatorial candidates are significantly outpolling their Democratic rivals.
Gary Peters, Michigan: A freshman Democrat in a district that scores D+2, Peters has somehow managed to attract not one, not two, but three GOP challengers who’ve raised more than $400,000: Gene Goodman, former state representative Andrew Edward “Rocky” Raczkowski, and Paul F. Welday. Peters has raised more than $2 million, but his district is hurting badly from high unemployment.
Gene Taylor, Mississippi: Taylor is in his tenth term, and he cruised to reelection with 75 percent of the vote in 2008. He’ll face either state representative Steven Palazzo or executive Joe Tegerdine. Taylor was the first Democrat to call on Charlie Rangel to step down as chair of the Ways and Means Committee. His fundraising has seemed a little low for a longtime incumbent. This will be one of those races where the NRCC does everything possible to tie Taylor to Pelosi, and he’ll be insisting he has little to do with her, even though his first vote every year is to make her speaker.
Travis Childers, Mississippi: In 2008, the incumbent managed to win 54 percent of the vote in a district where John McCain won 62 percent. He’s not technically a freshman Democrat; he won a May 2008 special election before winning his full term in November. He’ll face either Angela McGlowan, well known for her appearances on Fox News, or state senator Alan Nunnelee, who is showing healthy fundraising, or lawyer Henry Ross. Childers voted against the health-care bill.
Ike Skelton, Missouri: He was first elected in 1976, but represents an R+14 district and faces two potentially strong challengers, former state representative Vicky Hartzler and state senator Bill Stouffer. He voted against the health-care bill.
Dina Titus, Nevada: She’s already tied with her top GOP challenger, Joe Heck, and her health-care vote was unpopular. Her top-of-the-ticket help comes from the likely-to-lose-badly Sen. Harry Reid and . . . his son, gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid.
Shelley Berkeley, Nevada: She polled very modestly in January, the Las Vegas housing market was among the hardest hit in the country, and the state’s unemployment rate is among the highest. There’s a crowded primary against her, but Craig Lake leads in fundraising. The GOP challenger probably will need help from the top of the ticket.
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire: Granite State voters are particularly disgusted by Washington, and half of Shea-Porter’s constituents disapprove of her. She was carried along by anti-Bush and anti-GOP waves in 2006 and 2008. Cook Political Report currently scores this one a “toss-up.”’ There are several good GOP candidates, but Manchester mayor Frank Guinta appears to have a head start.
John Adler, New Jersey: He voted against the health-care bill, but counties in his district swung heavily to Chris Christie in November 2009, and challenger Jon Runyan is a former Philadelphia Eagle, which could bring a lot of non-traditional exposure for the GOP.
Rush Holt, New Jersey: This seat shouldn’t be competitive, and Holt usually wins with more than 60 percent of the vote. But in March, the DNC spent $73,803 on two weeks’ worth of pro-Holt television ads in Monmouth, Middlesex, and Mercer counties. It’s not unthinkable that the ground is shifting beneath Holt’s feet; Christie beat Corzine in this district 52 percent to 42 percent last year, winning 34 of the district’s 44 towns. Likely GOP nominee Scott Sipprelle appears to be keeping pace in fundraising.
Frank Pallone, New Jersey: Pallone’s classically suburban central-Jersey district isn’t even remotely competitive most years, but Christie won Middlesex County. Pallone will have a hefty campaign war chest, but he hosted some raucous town halls full of Obamacare opponents, and likely opponent Diane Gooch, a small-newspaper funder, may be able to keep pace in the money game. New Jersey has no gubernatorial race or senatorial race this year, so the House races are the top of the ticket, and voter turnout will likely be lower than average. A Washington Republican thinking about this race notes that under these circumstances, “a good ground game for getting out the vote means more than it does in a normal year.”
Harry Teague, New Mexico: He voted against the health-care bill; his race against Steve Pearce is scored “leans Republican” by Rothenberg Political Report.
Martin Heinrich, New Mexico: A February poll put Heinrich up modestly over likely GOP challenger Jon Barela, 45 percent to 36 percent, with 19 percent undecided; Heinrich’s job approval was a mediocre 40 percent, with 38 percent disapproving. Stu Rothenberg concludes, “Heinrich still has to be regarded as the favorite in his bid for reelection, but the change in the national mood and an unusually appealing GOP challenger make this definitely a race to watch.”
Michael Arcuri, New York: He voted against the health-care bill. Cook Political Report currently scores this one a “toss-up.” Arcuri will take on GOP philanthropist Richard Hanna, who came within 4 percentage points last year, with Obama driving turnout in what had traditionally been a slightly Republican district. Keep in mind that the gubernatorial and two senatorial races in New York State look like Democratic routs at the moment, suggesting that Democrats may get a bit of top-of-the-ticket help. Also keep in mind that the New York State GOP sometimes behaves as if it has a violent allergy to winning races.
John Hall, New York: It’s an R+3 district, and this second-term Democrat could face an extremely well-funded challenger in Nan Hayworth, an ophthalmologist who’s running hard against the health-care bill.
Bill Owens, New York: Even with Dede Scozzafava’s endorsement, Owens barely beat Doug Hoffman, and then he broke four of his campaign promises within a day of taking office.
Mike McMahon, New York: One thing is certain: Somebody named Mike will win in November. A pair of well-funded Mikes, Allegretti and Grimm, aim to knock off McMahon, a first-termer. McCain narrowly carried this Staten Island district, and Bush beat Kerry handily here four years earlier. The local press deems McMahon “New York City’s most endangered Democrat.”
Dan Maffei, New York: Local Republicans have unified behind Ann Marie Buerkle to take on Syracuse freshman Maffei. Buerkle is a little underfunded, and the district is scored D+3, but Maffei sweated his health-care vote, and has already faced attack ads over it.
Tim Bishop, New York: This Long Island district scores even on the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Small businessman Randy Altschuler and Christopher Cox, grandson of Richard Nixon, are two exceptionally well-financed challengers. A January poll put Bishop up by only 2 percent on Altschuler.
Larry Kissell, North Carolina: Kissell is a freshman who voted against the health-care bill and irked more than a few local Democrats in the process. The district is scored R+2 in the Cook PVI; as in two other North Carolina districts, there’s talk of a union-backed third-party bid.
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina: This seven-term Democrat would be safe in an ordinary year, but he felt enough pressure back in his district to vote against the health-care bill. GOP challenger Ilario Pantano, a police officer, raised $103,000, which is more than McIntyre did; the district rates an R+8 on the Cook PVI.
Heath Shuler, North Carolina: He’s usually pretty good about voting with the popular will in his district, and he voted against the health-care bill. But as with McIntyre and Kissell, local unions are talking about going third-party over his health-care vote, and the district rates an R+6. A local columnist looked at the district’s voter-registration numbers, opponents, and local mood, and concluded, “It’s going to be a race this time.” Ordinarily, Shuler’s voting record would protect him, but if independents turn away from Democrats as they have in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Virginia, Shuler could be sacked.
Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota: Pomeroy reportedly considered retirement; the top of the ticket will be a Senate race the GOP should win in a landslide. Pomeroy’s already up on the air. “[GOP challenger] Rick Berg gets to make a good argument in a state with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country,” notes a Washington Republican who’s following these races closely. “He gets to talk about what they’re doing right in North Dakota and contrast what they’re doing wrong in Washington.”
John Boccieri, Ohio: He flipped on the health-care bill, voting for it in the end despite the fact that only 38 percent of voters in his district supported it; the NRCC is already running ads hitting him on that vote. It’s an R+4 district, and likely challenger Jim Renacci raised almost as much as the incumbent last quarter. In Ohio, both the governor’s race and the Senate race are competitive this year, but the GOP loves its top-of-the-ticket candidates, gubernatorial candidate John Kasich and senatorial candidate Rob Portman, both former U.S. House members.
Zach Space, Ohio: He voted against the health-care bill, but voted for cap-and-trade — in a district full of coal mines. Then he conceded “that energy prices would rise as a result of the legislation.”
Charlie Wilson, Ohio: McCain carried this district narrowly. More than a third of self-identified Democrats (35 percent) as well as majorities of Independents (51 percent) and Republicans (60 percent) said they wanted Wilson to vote against Obamacare. He voted “yes” anyway. This seems like a classic momentum district.
Mary Jo Kilroy, Ohio: Kilroy underperformed Obama in this district, which is enduring hard economic times, and this time, she won’t have the Obama wave to carry her. GOP’s Steve Stivers looks like a strong challenger.
Steve Driehaus, Ohio: A January poll found Driehaus losing his expected rematch against former representative Steve Chabot badly, 56 percent to 39 percent. Only 39 percent of voters in his district supported Obamacare, but Driehaus voted for it. The Obama wave probably helped Driehaus; he won by 5 percentage points, Obama by 11 percentage points.
Betty Sutton, Ohio: This is a fairly Democratic district, but Sutton will face the extremely well-funded Tom Ganley; by lending his campaign $2 million, Ganley just gave himself a 10-to-1 advantage in cash on hand. Sutton will probably try to tie Ganley to a county GOP flier that declared, “Let’s take Betty Sutton out of the House and put her back in the kitchen.” Meanwhile, unemployment in Akron is 11.6 percent, and it’s 10.5 percent in Lorain County.
Dan Boren, Oklahoma: This Democratic incumbent is locally popular and voted against the health-care bill. But McCain didn’t just keep pace with George W. Bush in this district; he improved from 59–41 to 66–34. Boren declined to endorse Obama for president, but it’s easy to wonder how eager this very Republican district is to keep sending a Democrat to Congress.
Kurt Schrader, Oregon: Charlie Cook just moved this race one notch away from “toss-up,” and GOP challenger state representative Scott Bruun outraised Schrader in a recent quarter.
David Wu, Oregon: At first glance, Wu is an unlikely name on this list, as he won 71 percent of the vote in 2008. (The Republican primary winner that year endorsed Obama and formally dropped the GOP label two months before Election Day.) But Wu has had a history of odd comments in Congress, and a town-hall meeting last summer went badly for him when he refused to assure a constituent that he would read the health-care bill before voting on it. He’s only $200,000 ahead in cash-on-hand on one Republican challenger, Stephan Andrew Brodhead, and only $240,000 ahead of another, Robert Cornilles — these numbers are a little weak for a six-term incumbent.
Jason Altmire, Pennsylvania: Altmire voted against the health-care bill, but GOP challenger Mary Beth Buchanan, a former U.S. Attorney, brings a strong résumé. And in all of the Pennsylvania races, remember that Republican attorney general Tom Corbett leads all Democratic challengers by a wide margin and Pat Toomey leads Arlen Specter in most polling, so the top of the ticket isn’t likely to help Democrats much.
Paul Kanjorski, Pennsylvania: Kanjorski is consistently dogged by scandal and faces Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta in a rematch; in 2008, he won by 4 percentage points while Obama carried the district 57 percent to 42 percent. The Democratic incumbent may not be at the top of his game, recently insisting that troops serving in “wars in Europe” fit the definition of “bureaucrats.” PoliticsPA ranks him the second-most-vulnerable lawmaker in the state.
Chris Carney, Pennsylvania: Carney is yet another young Democrat facing a former U.S. Attorney, this time Tom Marino. Carney beat Don Sherwood in 2006, after the GOP incumbent was accused of trying to strangle his mistress.
Kathy Dahlkemper, Pennsylvania: She’s a freshman Democrat in a district McCain carried by 17 votes and Bush won easily. The local political gurus at PoliticsPA rank her the third-most-vulnerable lawmaker in the state.
Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania: He’s likely to have a rematch against Mike Fitzpatrick, the GOP incumbent he beat by less than 1,000 votes in 2006, a year when Lynn Swann and Rick Santorum were getting thumped statewide. It’s a nominally Democratic district.
Tim Holden, Pennsylvania: He voted against the health-care bill and skipped an Obama rally on the topic not far from his district, which is rated R+6 in the Cook PVI. State senator Dave Argall is a solid candidate, but probably could use an infusion of funds and momentum.
John Spratt, South Carolina: Spratt has had health problems, this is a GOP-heavy state, and a vote for the health-care bill put Spratt’s reelection much more at risk this year than it was in previous cycles. A Public Policy Polling survey showed Spratt in surprisingly good shape, but challenger Mick Mulvaney will do everything possible to tie Spratt to Pelosi in a R+7 district.
Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, South Dakota: She voted against the health-care bill, and she’s leading by only a few points in recent polls. She might have been able to count on help from the Democrat at the top of the ticket running against Sen. John Thune, had Democrats found anyone in the state willing to run.
Lincoln Davis, Tennessee: He voted against the health-care bill, and a GOP-sponsored poll found him tied with one challenger — and well below his usual levels of support — in a district that McCain carried, 64 percent to 35 percent.
Chet Edwards, Texas: Edwards, one of the first politicians to encounter angry crowds at his town-hall meetings, voted against the health-care bill. Edwards is a survivor, but this is the most Republican district in the country represented by a Democrat; he won with only 53 percent in 2008. Money should not be an issue for GOP challenger Bill Flores.
Ciro Rodriguez, Texas: This large, rural West Texas district is rated R+4 and has a Latino majority. Rodriguez was in Congress from 1997 to 2005, and, after a round of redistricting, won this seat in 2006. He’ll face his first Latino GOP challenger in this seat in Quico Canseco.
Jim Matheson, Utah: This Democrat usually is pretty shrewd about voting with his district, and he voted against the health-care bill. But if Utah Republicans are willing to toss out incumbent GOP senator Robert Bennett because he’s become part of the establishment, how comfortable should a Democrat be in a district rated R+15? Matheson also ran into a bit of controversy when his brother Scott was nominated for a federal judicial position right before the health-care vote.
Glenn Nye, Virginia: Nye is another freshman Democrat in a Republican-leaning district who voted against the health-care bill. Cook Political Report currently scores this one a “toss-up.” Republican Scott Rigel outraised Nye this quarter.
Rick Boucher, Virginia: Boucher voted against the health-care bill, but Republicans got the challenger they wanted, state house majority leader Morgan Griffith. It’s a socially conservative, heavily rural district, and Boucher voted for cap-and-trade. McCain carried this district by 19 percentage points. There’s some speculation that Griffith knows that if he doesn’t win this year, he’ll be well-positioned for a run in 2012 after redistricting tweaks the demographics a bit.
Gerry Connolly, Virginia: It’s a big suburban district, and moderate Republican Tom Davis represented it for 14 years. Some Virginia Democrats are underwhelmed by the new congressman’s performance, and Connolly was undoubtedly helped by Obama’s winning this district 57–42 in 2008. Keith Fimian and Pat Herrity are competing for the chance to take on Connolly. This year in Virginia, House incumbents are on their own; with no Senate or governor’s race, they are the top of the ticket.
Tom Perriello, Virginia: Perriello won by a few hundred votes in 2008 as Obama was driving up Democratic turnout; there is a crowded GOP primary. Cook Political Report currently scores this one a “toss-up”; Congressional Quarterly calls Perriello “one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country.” In 2009, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell beat Creigh Deeds in this district pretty handily.
Allan Mollohan, West Virginia: Mollohan is in danger of losing his primary; this probably relates to his constant complaints and the allegations of ethical misconduct against him — he has ranked among the “most corrupt members of Congress” for all four years that the group CREW has published the list. Cook Political Report currently scores this one a “toss-up.” For all West Virginia races, bear in mind that Obama polls terribly in this state, and Republicans are lining up to run against him.
Nick Rahall, West Virginia: Cap-and-trade proved a winning issue in a nearby southern Virginia state legislative race, and a bit less than half this district’s counties are coal country.
Steve Kagen, Wisconsin: He had some rough town-hall meetings, and his district has already seen ads hitting him for supporting the health-care bill. Seven Republicans smell vulnerability and are competing in a crowded primary. Kagen asked for and received fundraising help from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairman Chris Van Hollen in both Madison and Milwaukee — both out of his district. A recent meeting with small-business owners to tout the health-care bill went disastrously.
Dave Obey, Wisconsin: The New York Times felt compelled to write a piece about the danger he’s in this year; if the guys at the NRCC were any higher on Sean Duffy they would be writing his name in their notebooks with little hearts and swirly marks around it.
At this point, the only Republican incumbent House member in serious danger of losing his seat is Joseph Cao of Louisiana, who was elected in quite unusual circumstances in a special election. If you’re a Republican House member who survived either or both of the Democratic tsunamis of 2006 and 2008, you really have no excuse for losing this year. (Also note that Democrat-turned-Republican Parker Griffith may have difficulty winning a GOP primary.)
Exhausting as it has been to accumulate, this list is not exhaustive. Twenty states have not yet reached their filing deadlines, so there is still a possibility of some new challengers’ being added to the mix. A race’s absence from this doesn’t guarantee a Democratic return; the national anti-incumbent mood, a growing skepticism of big government, and frustration with high unemployment make for a volatile combination even in districts where Republicans haven’t been competitive for years.
– Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot blog on NRO.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been amended since its initial posting.