The Campaign Spot

Looking at the Open-Seat GOP Pickup Opportunities Again

I’m going, bit by bit, to go through my list of 99 open seats and vulnerable Democrats from early May. Since I assembled that list, we’ve seen some incumbent Democrats manage to get easier GOP challengers than expected (Frank Pallone in New Jersey stands out), some incumbent Democrats absolutely implode (Paul Kanjorski, start brushing up your shuffleboard), and some incumbent Democrats demonstrate that my original list was too narrow (I would have originally included Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, but he kept asking who I was).

There are two competitive district representatives who have won office since the original list:

PA-12: Mark Critz and Tim Burns will rematch in November, but this time Democrat Critz will enjoy the benefits of incumbency. Burns won’t have the impediment of a Democratic primary driving turnout for that party.

HI-1: The newest House Republican, Charles Djou, will have the benefits of incumbency and is already working hard on demonstrating his ability to get results for his constituents. Unfortunately, this time he’s only taking on one Democrat, Colleen Hanabusa.

And now the competitive open seats:

AR-1: One of the Democrats who lost the House primary — 49 percent to 50 percent — is so far withholding his endorsement of Chad Causey, and isn’t saying that Causey will beat Republican Rick Crawford. This adds up to divided Democrats and a united Republican party in an R+8 district.

AR-2: Even Democratic Senate candidates are jumping on the Tim Griffin bandwagon in an R+5 district.

IN-8: Republican cardiologist Larry Bucshon can’t take anything for granted, but with former GOP senator Dan Coats leading Brad Ellsworth by a healthy margin in the Senate race, he should get some top-of-the-ticket help. This is one of those Democrat-held seats that the DCCC insists upon classifying in their “red-to-blue” list.

KS-3: What’s the Democrats’ line against state representative Kevin Yoder? A campaign video shows him walking with his nieces and nephews . . . which, the Dems contend, is trying to fool voters into thinking they’re his children! Er, whatever, guys. It’s an R+3 district in a state where the GOP is going to romp in the gubernatorial and senatorial races.

LA-3: Hunt Downer looks like a no-nonsense GOP candidate with just a dollop of Dale Peterson, but when the Democratic alternative is a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-drilling businessman who trashes Obama’s response to the spill, it’s a lose-lose for liberals either way.

MA-10: Boston’s NPR affiliate finds low turnout at Democratic events in a district dominated by independents, a district Scott Brown carried with more than 60 percent, sees big energy and big crowds turning out for campaign events with Republican Jeff Perry, and declares, “this is still Perry’s race to lose.”

NH-2: A University of New Hampshire poll at the end of April found all possible GOP candidates leading all Democrat candidates, by a range from 1 to 17 percentage points. Former congressman Charlie Bass looks like the frontrunner. No indication that the numbers have moved since then.

NY-29: Gov. David Paterson, in some sort of twisted joke, decided the special election for the remainder of Eric Massa’s term would be scheduled for Election Day. Republican Tom Reed has a head start, obviously; while this will undoubtedly change, he currently leads Democrat Matthew Zeller in cash-on-hand, $287,000 to $0.

RI-1: No doubt, Republican John Loughlin has an uphill climb. He may be helped out by a four-way Democratic primary that won’t be resolved until September 14. He’s actually outraising three of them. Note that Rhode Island had, as of early June, the fourth-worst unemployment rate in the country at 12.5 percent.

MI-1: Bart Stupak’s district is huge, rural, and tough to measure; it’s easy to envision a scenario where it goes either way. Perhaps Democratic state representative Dan McDowell reassembles the Stupak coalition and wins by a similar easy margin, or perhaps the Republican, most likely Dr. Dan Benishek, taps into frustration and anti-Washington sentiment in this district that’s enduring hard times, pointing out that Michigan has become exhibit A of how liberal policies can ruin a thriving state.

TN-6: Three exceptionally well-funded Republicans are slugging it out in the primary; the best-funded Democratic challenger has $314 in cash-on-hand. No, that is not a typo.

TN-8: Democrat Roy Herron will have a ton of money, as will likely GOP foe Steve Fincher. The district is R+6. Not quite as easy a GOP pickup, but the state Democratic party is in rough shape, the governor’s race could be a Republican rout, and Obama’s approval rating statewide is 42 percent. Democrats have the wind in their faces here.

WA-3: A GOP-commissioned poll here asked, “If the election for U.S. Congress were held today, would you be voting for the Republican candidate or Democratic candidate?” and found 42 percent said they would vote Republican, 35 percent said they would vote Democratic, 3 percent said neither, and 20 percent were undecided. This mostly tells us what we knew before: The GOP has a healthy shot of winning this seat, but nothing resembling an easy road ahead.

WI-7: When last we checked on this seat, it wasn’t an open-seat race; in the interim David Obey shocked the political world by retiring. It seems the Democratic strategy against Sean Duffy is to repeat “reality star” a lot and hope everyone ignores that he’s been a successful prosecutor.

WV-1: This is now technically a Democrat-held open seat, as Allan Mollohan lost his primary. This has been a tough district for Republicans, and the Democrat who beat Mollohan, Mike Oliverio, indicated he doesn’t want to vote for Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. But John Boehner has stumped for GOP candidate David McKinley and the AP describes the race as a “toss up.”

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