Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

House playing field grows, Republican opportunities increase

Welcome to the first House Line of 2010 -- now with twice as much of the straight political dope you have come to expect.

Starting today the House Line grows to 20(!) races and just in time too as the increasingly volatile political climate continues to expand the potential playing field where the battle for the majority will be fought in less than 10 months time.

The Cook Political Report currently ranks 50 races in its most competitive categories while the Rothenberg Report pegs that number at 34. Regardless of which number you choose, the opportunity is almost all on the Republican side; Cook counts 40 Democratic races in his competitive 50 (80 percent) while Rothenberg has 30 Democratic seats in his top 34 (88 percent).

Friday Line

There are three mains reasons for Democrats' significant exposure in the coming midterm election.

First, history is against them. The first midterm election of a president's first term is almost always characterized by House losses in the mid-teens (and often higher). Remember that the Republican wave election in which the GOP picked up 54 seats and took back the majority came in 1994 -- the first midterm of President Bill Clinton's first term.

Second, the party is a victim of its own success. In 2006 and 2008 Democrats picked up better than 50 seats in the House -- often winning in places like Idaho and southern Alabama. By demographics alone, many of the 49 districts represented by Democrats but carried by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 should move back to the GOP column this fall.

Finally, while it was always going to be hard for Democrats to consolidate their gains even in a neutral political environment, the fact that the national landscape has tilted against them makes their job all the more challenging in November.

As a result, Democratic-held seats dominate the new 20-race strong Line. As always, the number one ranked contest is considered the most likely to switch sides in the fall.

One other note: Due to the doubling of the number of races we are writing about, each write-up will be shorter in an attempt to preserve the Fix's sanity. That is all.

To the Line!

20. Colorado's 4th district (Republican-controlled): Rep. Betsy Markey (D) won this conservative-leaning Colorado Springs seat in 2008 because former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) was so focused on bolstering her profile as a national conservative leader that she forgot about her district. Republicans are high on state Rep. Cory Gardner but he faces a primary fight. (Previous ranking: N/A)

19. California's 3rd district (Democratic-controlled): Rep. Dan Lungren (R) slipped by a surprisingly strong challenge in 2008 with 49 percent of the vote even as President Obama was squeaking out a 500-vote victory in the Sacramento-area 3rd. Democrats are very optimistic about their chances in the seat in 2010 and have lined up behind physician Ami Bera. (Previous ranking: N/A)

18. Idaho's 1st district (D): That Rep. Walt Minnick (D) is this far down the Line in a district where Obama took just 36 percent in 2008 is a testament to the incumbent's solid performance and the somewhat weak Republican field. Vaughn Ward, an Iraq war veteran, is the preferred GOP nominee but he faces a primary and has struggled on the fundraising front. (Previous ranking: N/A)

17. Ohio's 1st district (D): After years of frustration, Democrats finally ousted Rep. Steve Chabot (R) in 2008 thanks to heavy black turnout in the Cincinnati portion of the seat. Chabot is back again and, without President Obama at the top of the ticket, freshman Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) may struggle to recreate his winning math from last election. (Previous ranking: N/A)

16. Ohio's 15th district (D): In the days immediately following the 2008 election, state Sen. Steve Stivers (R) looked like the next Congressman from this Columbus-area district But, Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) ultimately prevailed by just over 2,000 votes. Stivers is back and this is a district where a slight change in the national environment could hand the race to Republicans. (Previous ranking: N/A)

15. Washington's 3rd district (D): Rep. Brian Baird's (D) surprise retirement last month hands Republicans a pickup opportunity. The southwest Washington State district is swing territory -- President Obama won it with 53 percent in 2008 -- and both sides are headed toward real primary fights. (Previous ranking: N/A)

14. Florida's 8th district (D): Rep. Alan Grayson (D) doesn't seem to grasp that he sits in a district that is among the most evenly divided along partisan lines in the Sunshine State. Grayson's charge that Republicans want ill patients to "die quickly" became a national controversy and the Congressman's unrepentant attitude about the comment suggests he doesn't grasp his own political peril. Republicans think state Rep. Kurt Kelly is their best nominee but he will have to survive a primary. (Previous ranking: N/A)

13. Mississippi's 1st district (D): Rep. Travis Childers (D) scored a major coup when he claimed this northern Mississippi seat in a May 2008 special election and subsequently won a full term in November 2008 with 54 percent. Two things work against a Childers' re-election: the black turnout in the district will be down due to midterm turnout patterns and Republicans have nominated a candidate -- state Sen. Alan Nunnelee -- from the right geographic part of the district (Tupelo) this time around. (Previous ranking: 8)

12. Tennessee's 8th district (D): Rep. John Tanner's (D) December retirement in a district where Obama won just 43 percent in 2008 makes this west Tennessee seat a major battleground between the parties. Democrats are optimistic about their chances thanks to the candidacy of state Sen. Roy Herron who dropped from the governor's race to run. Farmer Stephen Fincher has drawn some national attention for his surprising fundraising but will have to win a primary fight. (Previous ranking: 9)

11. Virginia's 5th district (D): First, the bad news for Rep. Tom Perriello (D): he was one of only a handful of targeted Democrats to vote for both the cap and trade and health care bills. The good news: while Republicans are very excited about the candidacy of state Sen. Robert Hurt, a crowded primary remains a real possibility although Hurt has to be considered the favorite for the nomination. (Previous ranking: 5)

10. Arkansas' 2nd district (D): Rep. Vic Snyder (D) has long maintained the odd practice of not raising money -- literally, not a dime -- in off years. He's survived in his Little Rock-area district despite tying a hand behind his back because Republicans have never fielded a real challenger. Until now. Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin has been in the race for months and is far ahead of the incumbent in cash and, if this survey commissioned for a liberal blog is to be believed, in polls as well. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Alabama's 2nd district (D): Rep. Parker Griffith's (R) party switch last month leaves Rep. Bobby Bright (D) as the only white Democrat in the state's delegation and, as such, a major Republican target. It's a testament to Bright's political skills that he was able to win this open seat in 2008 while Obama was winning just 37 percent in the seat. Bright's saving grace in that race was the district's large -- and energized -- black vote, a bloc of voters almost certain to shrink in a midterm election. (Previous ranking: 10)

8. Kansas' 3rd district (D): Rep. Dennis Moore (D) has held this Kansas City-area district for a decade despite its conservative underpinnings. His retirement in late November, however, has left Democrats scrambling to find a plausible replacement. Those efforts suffered a blow on Wednesday when former Kansas City Mayor Carol Marinovich announced she wouldn't run. Democrats must now hope they can convince current Mayor Joe Reardon to make the race. (Previous ranking: N/A)

7. Illinois' 10th district (R): Both parties are playing host to competitive Feb. 2 primaries in the race to replace retiring Rep. Mark Kirk (R) in this affluent North Shore district. Republicans argue that they have a strong field of candidates but the district's demographics -- Obama carried it with 61 percent in 2008 -- would seem to give the eventual Democratic nominee an edge. (Previous ranking: 4)

6. New Mexico's 2nd district (D): Former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) held this southern New Mexico seat easily before giving it up for an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2008. Rep. Harry Teague (D) used his personal wealth and familiarity with oil and gas issues to catapult himself to a surprise victory. Pearce is running for his old seat in 2010, however, and Teague's vote for cap and trade won't likely play well in the district. (Previous ranking: 6)

5. Maryland's 1st district (D): A recent poll conducted for state Sen. Andy Harris' (R) campaign showed him leading Rep. Frank Kratovil (D) by a 52 percent to 39 percent margin. That Kratovil's campaign didn't release numbers of its own suggests the incumbent isn't in a good place -- not surprising given the Republican tilt of this Eastern Shore district. (Previous ranking: 7)

4. Louisiana's 3rd district (D): Time moves slowly in this southeastern Louisiana district where the candidate fields remain in flux. State Rep. Nickie Monica is running on the Republican side while Democrats still hold out hope that Scott Angelle, a member of Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) cabinet, will decide to not only run but decide to run as a Democrat. (The Cook Report lists Angelle as a potential candidate for the Democratic and Republican nominations.) The key number to remember in this race is 61, which is the percentage of the vote that McCain won in the district in 2008. (Previous ranking: 3)

3. Louisiana's 2nd district (R): Rep. Joseph Cao became a Democratic celebrity late last year when he was the lone Republican vote for the President's health care bill. The problem for Cao is he will still be running for re-election in this New Orleans-based district where Obama won 75 percent with an "R" after his name. (Previous ranking: 2)

2. Delaware's at-large district (R): Republicans insist they will find a real candidate against former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) in the open seat race to replace Rep. Mike Castle (R). While they have some time to do just that -- filing closes on July 30 -- it's hard to see a candidate of real strength emerging from the state's weak Republican bench. (Previous ranking: 1)

1. Tennessee's 6th district (D): Rep. Bart Gordon's (D) surprise announcement last month that he would retire from this middle Tennessee seat he has held since 1984 likely handed Republicans a pickup. Not only did President Obama take just 37 percent in the district but Democrats can't seem to find a serious candidate interested in running. Republicans are headed toward a crowded primary but it may not matter. (Previous ranking: N/A)

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 15, 2010; 12:47 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: New poll shows Brown ahead in Mass. Senate special election
Next: Obama to stump for Coakley

Comments

You said it right when you said Kurt Kelly would have to survive the primary, since he'll be running against Patricia Sullivan. She is the one that will take down Grayson. Patricia has been on the scene for awhile and she has great supporters. She is one that is a true grassroots candidate that is running as a Conservative Republican. What she is not is an attorney, a carpet bagger, a millionaire, a fowl mouth, a supporter of big government or more taxes, a career politician or a blow in the wind change her mind kind of person. What you see is what she is, a supporter of the constitution, family, God, and the people of this great Nation. In November 2010 we'll be saying Bye, Bye Grayson and Hello Patricia Sullivan. www.patriciasullivanforcongress.com

Posted by: Beth407 | January 20, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

In the 8th District of Florida, there is a strong challenger to Grayson. It is Patricia Sullivan. She has good name recognition among conservatives and Tea Party Patriots alike. The GOP "leaders" would do well to remember lessons learned in New York's run-off.

Posted by: F1rstangel | January 18, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Cillizza, you may be correct on the other 19 on your list, but your analysis of Florida’s 8th district and Grayson’s chief Republican rival is incorrect. His chief Republican rival is Patricia Sullivan. She is the front-runner … just check out some of the Internet voting results. Patricia Sullivan has always been either number 1 or 2. Kelly may be a contender, but Patricia Sullivan is by far the favorite. She is the one who will replace Grayson (also known as the mouth) this November.

Posted by: jakmak | January 17, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Patricia Sullivan is the best conservative republican candidate the PEOPLE have running for the 8th Congressional District of Fl. seat. I wonder who the RINO republicans are that think Kurt Kelly is the best Republican who will run and beat Alan Grayson?? When the election is over in November Patricia Sullivan will be heading for Washington to give the people of the 8th Congressional District of Florida a voice of which they can be proud.

Posted by: thefaz10 | January 17, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Many of us here in Central Florida are standing behind Patricia Sullivan. She represents us well and is Grayson's contender as far as we are concerned.

Posted by: jellibacasano | January 17, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Rep. Kurt Kelly is not the chief rival of Alan Grayson. Patricia Sullivan, a true conservative will be giving Mr. Grayson fits. As Patricia's views become better known her support grows.

Posted by: deadtwo | January 17, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

You mention Kurt Kelly as the main rival of Alan Grayson. If you lived in the district you would know that is not correct. Mr. Kelly has some following in the northern part of the district but is not that well known in the central or south. Again, if you lived in the district you would know that Mr. Graysons chief rival and the person that will beat him in November is Republican conservative Patricia Sullivan. She has the organization behind her to achieve that goal and the desire, unlike the present NON-Represetative Alan Grayson, her main goal is to take care of the peoples business in Washington http://patriciasullivanforcongress.com/

Posted by: ric545Riker | January 17, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

One small correction: Betsy Markey's district does not include Colorado Springs. That would be Doug Lamborn's district, the 5th. The 4th's population center is in the northern Front Range cities (Fort Collins, Loveland, etc.)

Posted by: scottinla1 | January 15, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Re: #10

Vic Snyder has decided to retire for "family reasons".

http://blogs.cqpolitics.com/eyeon2010/2010/01/snyder-retires.html

That should move AR-2 up the list a bit.

Posted by: mnteng | January 15, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, 3 hours later and CA-3 (#19) is still "Democratic-controlled".

Someone better tell Dan Lungren ....

Posted by: mnteng | January 15, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Surprised to see no mention of either New Hampshire congressional seats up for grabs here.

With Hoades running against Ayotte for Greggs senate seat the NH-2 is wide open. Also Shea-Porter will be in for a tough fight as she has grown extremely unpopular in the state.

Posted by: aclark00 | January 15, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Another, really - really bad day for the DEMOCRUDS.

Posted by: stephenwhelton | January 15, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse


Obama is going to Copenhagen, I mean Massachusetts on Sunday.


Obama can not save Coakley from herself.


Yesterday she said that Catholics should not work in emergency rooms.


And she won't go to Fenway Park to shake hands.


And what else won't she do?

Posted by: 37thand0street
-----------------------------------------
Protect the Back Bay from an invasion of Red(state) Coats.

Posted by: leapin | January 15, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

"If a voter is faced with continue the Obama plan or go back to Bush era policies, I think most people will vote for the incumbant or just stay home."

As he usually does, Andy nailed it. Republicans everywhere are offering nothing more than a return. They are nostalgic, conservatives are by definition. The past was better, the future looks worse, or even worse.

Americans are going to have to choose between Republicans doing the same thing they have always done, or the Obama program. If they choose to return Republicans to power in large numbers and it looks like they may, they are picking poison, but I suppose it is ok with them, it is at least a poison they know and understand.

In the face of almost an entire decade of economic losses and stagnation, a decade that began with such amazing promise (no deficit, etc.) Americans are more afraid of the Democrats than they are of a return to all of the people and policies that brought them low.

Reading about Andrew Jackson's life and times, there are some amazing parallels going on now with his approach to winning votes (at that time, popular suffrage was pretty new), versus that of JQ Adams, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Martin van Buren and the rest of the New England elite running the National Republican party. Only now, the party names are reversed.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 15, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

WHAT'S BEHIND FRESH OUTBREAK OF MOLES ON POTUS' CHEEKS?
Posted by: scrivener50
------------------------------------------
It's too late to do anything about it.

Posted by: leapin | January 15, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

WHAT'S BEHIND FRESH OUTBREAK OF MOLES ON POTUS' CHEEKS?

RE: President Obama live TV address (Fri. 1.15.10, 1:12 p.m. )

I am genuinely distressed at the outbreak of new moles on POTUS' cheeks -- not just on the left side, which has exhibited many new moles since the 2008 campaign, but now on the right side of his face.

The number of new moles on his face is truly shocking. Now, I know he was in Hawaii, and it would be easy to write off the onset of these moles as the result of sun exposure. I don't think so. Sunlight is much more diffuse.

White House staff/aides: Please alert POTUS, VPOTUS, John Brennan and Dennis Blair and Jim Jones. Please ask them to consult with the White House physician about the possibility that these moles have resulted from external, silent, invisible microwave assault.

From "comments" section, http://nowpublic.com/world/u-s-silently-tortures-americans-cell-tower-microwaves OR http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 15, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

was actually hoping for a car that would be worth something next year. chryslers and GMs are like elected democrats, a high likelihood they won't be around for long. and not worth anything on the secondary market. you think anyone will pay dingy harry for his advice?

Posted by: drivl
----------------------------------------
Maybe his son.

Posted by: leapin | January 15, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

adnova writes
"Supposedly, in 1994, democrats held a generic vote preference advantage of 2% prior to the election and ended up losing 50 seats. Now that republicans are at a 9% advantage, what are we to make of it? Generic preferences plus the struggles in MA would suggest a thumping is on the way. Am I wrong?"

Your formula challenges your conclusion rather than supporting it. i.e. if Dems held a 2% generic advantage in '94, but lost a large number of seats, doesn't that imply that the generic polling is largely irrelevant?

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 15, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Obama is going to Copenhagen, I mean Massachusetts on Sunday.

Obama can not save Coakley from herself.

Yesterday she said that Catholics should not work in emergency rooms.


And she won't go to Fenway Park to shake hands.

And what else won't she do?


.

Posted by: 37thand0street | January 15, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

As for his progress in addressing "the challenges of nuclear proliferation," he set a year-end deadline for Iran to start behaving. The deadline passed with no Iranian concessions -- just more insults and defiance from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Obama's denying he'd ever set a deadline in the first place. Now that's leadership.

Not only that but China has just announced that it would not support another round of sanctions against Iran. Guess that deep bow in Shanghai didn't quite do the trick.

But never mind those details. Obama has already accomplished what needed to be accomplished on this front. Rhodes tells us how: "In April, the President delivered a landmark speech in Prague where he stated America's commitment to seek the security of a world without nuclear weapons." We can rest easy now.

Besides, why should Obama unduly agonize over this "contingency operations" thingy when he has much bigger fish to fry, such as cataclysmic, catastrophic, apocalyptic anthropogenic global warming, which is going to incinerate us all, including al-Qaida, anyway -- unless he transfers all this nation's wealth to "underdeveloped nations" and sends us back to the Stone Age?

And he plans on doing just that, as he has made clear with his efforts to pass cap-and-trade legislation, his trip to Copenhagen, and his Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory edict outlawing CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, in the real world, terrorists still hate us just the same and feel they've been given the green light to prove it, while ours remains fixed on yellow.

Posted by: drivl | January 15, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

The 2nd tier probably consists of seats in Pennsylvania, New York, Florida and Michigan as those legislatures drew the districts to their advantage. (NY was a deal between a split legislature to protect incumbents).

Somehow, New York Republicans seem to lose districts due to the personal failings of the incumbents such as:

Felix Grucci
John Sweeney
Vito Foscella
Randy Kuhl

Can't blame Bush for these clowns.

Posted by: Digital_Voter | January 15, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I was actually hoping for a car that would be worth something next year. chryslers and GMs are like elected democrats, a high likelihood they won't be around for long. and not worth anything on the secondary market. you think anyone will pay dingy harry for his advice?

Posted by: drivl | January 15, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Wow, four of our clients are on the list. It's beginning to look like Obama is the greatest thing to happen to house republicans since Newt.

Time to consider a new Porsche.

Posted by: drivl
------------------------------------------
If you buy GM maybe you will get a break on your healthcare. I mean it could happen. BO just hasn't been presented with the idea yet. Too busy in negotiations with da union.

Posted by: leapin | January 15, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Wow, four of our clients are on the list. It's beginning to look like Obama is the greatest thing to happen to house republicans since Newt.

Time to consider a new Porsche.

Posted by: drivl | January 15, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The thing with LA-2 is even if the Democrats retake the seat, it's not going to be a huge net positive since Cao is probably the most liberal Republican by a longshot now. Maybe it means one more vote for cap and trade, though.

Although I'm not sure that's even true since cap and trade will hurt New Orleans.

Posted by: DDAWD | January 15, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I've heard different takes on this so if someone knows I'd appreciate some clarity. Supposedly, in 1994, democrats held a generic vote preference advantage of 2% prior to the election and ended up losing 50 seats. Now that republicans are at a 9% advantage, what are we to make of it? Generic preferences plus the struggles in MA would suggest a thumping is on the way. Am I wrong?

Posted by: ADNova | January 15, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The Cook Political Report currently ranks 50 total races in its most competitive categories, while the Rothenberg Report pegs that number at 34. That could all change for the GOP if Brown pulls off the upset Tuesday.

Posted by: JakeD | January 15, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

House playing field grows, Republican opportunities increase
-----------------------------------------
Yes the field is incredibly fertile due to the large amount of fertilizer that Obama has spread.

Posted by: leapin | January 15, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

AndyR3:

Some Democrats still won in 1994, as there was only a net gain of 54 seats for the GOP. Stop trying to move the goalposts.

Posted by: JakeD | January 15, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

CC,

As always, an interesting breakdown of the House races.

Firstly, a quibble. For #19, CA-3 is currently R-controlled with Lungren.

Secondly, I'm going to lobby for one of either PA-6 or PA-7 as candidates for The House Line. Sestak moved to the Senate race after taking over from Weldon for only 3 years. And I imagine that Gerlach did himself some harm by flip-flopping on the Gov. race.

Lastly, I think the primary challenges on the R side from the TEA party candidates is going to play a major role on some of these races (NY-23 all over again). The effect will probably be most noticeable in the open seat races.

Posted by: mnteng | January 15, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

It is true that the GOP will most likely pick up seats, the fact that the Democrats will win Deleware and most likely take back the New Orleans seat is telling that the GOP will not be able to fully dominate the election like the did in 94. The numbers of retirements and the internet driven-fundraising of the Democratic party is going to moderate any losses.

As a side note, I find it interesting that alot of the GOP nominees that are running in the Demcratic held seats are the same people who were beat in 08. I dont' think that is the best plan for the GOP. They can't really argue that they are outsiders or that they represent change. If a voter is faced with continue the Obama plan or go back to Bush era policies, I think most people will vote for the incumbant or just stay home.

Posted by: AndyR3 | January 15, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Let's see what happens after Tuesday.

Posted by: JakeD | January 15, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company