The Campaign Spot

Early Moves to Watch for in Next Year’s House Races . . .

I spoke to Brian Walsh, political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, late on Friday, and we talked a bit about the emerging landscape for 2010 races for the House of Representatives. Perhaps the most interesting indicators at this moment are the incumbent House members who are contemplating running for higher office, and who will be making decisions very soon.

Rogers noted the current crop of open House seats is not too difficult for Republicans, at least right now, because the majority of them are “pretty safe” seats – two in Kansas, one in South Carolina, one in Tennessee’s third district, Pete Hoekstra’s district in Michigan. There are, however, three House Republicans who may be running for higher office in 2010 – Mark Kirk may run for Senate in Illinois, Mike Castle may run for Senate in Delaware, and Jim Gerlach may run for Senate or governor in Pennsylvania.

Obama carried Gerlach’s district with 58 percent, Kirk’s district with 61 percent, and Castle’s “district” (the state of Delaware) with 62 percent. Furthermore, Rogers noted, all of those districts are relatively expensive media markets.

However, the good news for Republicans is that there are a considerable number of House Democrats considering bids for higher office, and each of those bids would create at least a competitive open-seat race.

Charlie Melancon, the lone Democrat in the House representing Louisiana, is considering a bid to unseat Sen. David Vitter. John McCain carried his district with 61 percent.

In South Dakota, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for senator or governor. McCain carried her “district” (the state of South Dakota) with 53 percent of the vote.

In Utah, Jim Matheson, the only Democrat representing the state in the House, is mentioned as a potential gubernatorial or Senate candidate. John McCain carried 58 percent of the vote in that district.

Almost every Democrat representing North Carolina has been mentioned as a challenger to Sen. Richard Burr. But the three generating the most buzz are Heath Shuler*, Bob Etheridge, and Mike McIntyre – all Democrats who carried districts that are right-leaning or closely competitive: McCain won 52 percent in Shuler’s, 47 percent in Etheridge’s, and 52 percent in McIntyre’s.

Rep. Peter DeFazio is reportedly strongly considering running for governor of Oregon in 2010. The NRCC really likes the challenger they’ve recruited, Springfield mayor Sid Leiken, who has run the district’s second-largest city since 2000. Obviously, in an open-seat race, he’s got an even better shot.

In Hawaii, Rep. Neil Abercrombie has announced he’s not running for reelection and instead is running for governor in 2010. Hawaii is a pretty deep blue state, and Obama took 70 percent in this district last year, but the NRCC thinks they have a grade-A candidate, two-term Honolulu city councilman Charles Djou. He has a much better chance against an unknown Democrat than against an entrenched incumbent, and Democrats are near-certain to have a contested primary that will run until September 18.

In New Hampshire, Rep. Paul Hodes announced he’s running for Senate. The Granite State also has a primary that doesn’t end until September and at least two Democrats running; Republican Charlie Bass, who represented the seat for twelve years, is reportedly thinking of running again.

UPDATE: Today Shuler insisted he’s not running for Senate.

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