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The Fix 50: The Battle for House control

It doesn't take a mathematician, which is a good thing since the Fix isn't one, to see that the House playing field heading into the November election is both big and heavily tilted in Republicans' favor.

Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report, rates 85 total districts as competitive -- 77 of which are currently held by Democrats. Stu Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, puts the House playing field at 93 seats with 81 of those controlled by Democrats.

The factors for the current state of affairs in the House are many: historic trends regarding the first midterm election of a president's term (losses for his party in all but one post-World War II election), a Democratic party grown fat electorally by successive election -- 2006 and 2008 -- in which they were operating at a massive competitive advantage and President Barack Obama's declining popularity particularly among independents.

Friday Line

Regardless of the reasons -- and different factions within the Democratic party disagree about which factor matters most -- it's clear that the House majority is in peril.

Cook has predicted gains for Republicans in excess of the 40 seats they would need to retake House control; Rothenberg has set the bar at GOP gains between 37-42 seats. University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato is most bullish on Republican chances, predicting that the party will pick up 47 seats on Nov. 2.

The Fix isn't in the prognostication business -- yet! -- so we'll leave it to that trio of experts to make specific seat-gain predictions. But, there's little question that the playing field of competitive races is now plenty big for Republicans to regain the majority.

Below is our take on the 50 -- yes, 50! -- House seats most likely to flip party control this fall. We call it the "Fix Fifty." (Creative, no?)

As always, the number one race is the most likely to change parties. Agree or disagree with our picks? The comment section awaits.

To the Line!

50. Wisconsin's 8th district (Democratic controlled): A field of Republicans will fight for the right to face Rep. Steve Kagen (D) on Tuesday, and two of them have released internal polls showing them leading in the general election. (Previous ranking: N/A)

49. Pennsylvania's 8th district (D): Former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R), who lost this Philadelphia-area seat in 2006, led Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) 48 percent to 41 percent in an internal GOP poll. (Previous ranking: N/A)

48. Georgia's 8th district (D): In a late addition to the list of GOP targets this year, state Rep. Austin Scott (R) has a real shot in this Republican-leaning district held by Rep. Jim Marshall (D). (Previous ranking: N/A)

47. California's 11th district (D): Republican attorney David Harmer made a respectable showing in a special election in the neighboring 10th district last year; now he faces Rep. Jerry McNerney (D). (Previous ranking: N/A)

46. South Carolina's 5th district (D): Rep. John Spratt (D) looks like a more welcoming GOP target than fellow House committee chairman Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.). (Previous ranking: N/A)

45. Arizona's 5th district (D): The GOP didn't tout former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert (R) as hard this year as it did in his 2008 campaign, but he's got a much better shot at Rep. Harry Mitchell (D) after disappointing two years ago. (Previous ranking: N/A)

44. Michigan's 7th district (D): Former Rep. Tim Walberg (R) could win his seat back from Rep. Mark Schauer (D) just two years after losing it, as Michigan Democrats are reeling up and down the ticket right now. (Previous ranking: N/A)

43. Alabama's 2nd district (D): Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby (R) hasn't quite lived up to the hype against freshman Rep. Bobby Bright (D) but she might not need to run a great campaign in such a conservative district. (Previous ranking: N/A)

42. Pennsylvania's 3rd district (D): Car dealer Mike Kelly (R) faces a sharp financial disadvantage, but he has some personal wealth he could tap for his run at freshman Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) in this swing district. (Previous ranking: N/A)

41. Illinois's 14th district (D): Rep. Bill Foster's (D) 2008 special election win was a sign of continued Democratic momentum; now, his exurban Chicago seat could be vital to a GOP takeover. (Previous ranking: N/A)

40. Indiana's 9th district (D): Attorney Todd Young (R) recently went up with a hard-hitting ad featuring video of Rep. Baron Hill (D) getting testy at a town hall meeting last year.

39. Wisconsin's 7th district (D): Few districts epitomize the GOP's hopes for a national sweep like this open seat, which went 56 percent for President Obama in 2008 but features a top GOP recruit in former "Real World" star Sean Duffy. (Previous ranking: N/A)

38. Arizona's 1st district (D): A poll from Republican-leaning American Action Forum this month showed dentist Paul Gosar (R) leading Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) 47 percent to 41 percent. (Previous ranking: N/A)

37. Washington's 3rd district (D): State Rep. Jaime Herrera (R) will need to unite the party after a tough primary last month, but she's got a good shot in this open swing district. (Previous ranking: N/A)

36. West Virginia's 1st district (D): State Sen. Mike Oliverio's (D) campaign had a poll showing him up double digits, but former state Del. David McKinley (R) countered with a poll showing a five-point race. (Previous ranking: N/A)

35. South Dakota's at-large district (D): Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) was looking like she might be a goner until state Rep. Kristi Noem's (R) awful driving record became an issue. (Previous ranking: N/A)

34. Arkansas's 1st district (D): Democrat Chad Causey still appears to be struggling after a months-old, hard-fought primary, as a recent independent poll showed agricultural broadcaster Rick Crawford (R) up 16 points. (Previous ranking: N/A)

33. Michigan's 1st district (D): Republicans got a big break last month when surgeon Dan Benishek's GOP primary opponent didn't pursue a recount, despite being down only 15 votes. (Previous ranking: N/A)

32. Hawaii's 1st district (Republican controlled): State Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D) outraised special election-winning Rep. Charles Djou (R) in the most recent fundraising period, which should help fight the perception that she's a weak candidate. (Previous ranking: 13)

31. Texas' 17th district (D): Republicans continue to insist this is the year they can beat longtime target Rep. Chet Edwards (D), but the onus is on businessman Bill Flores (R) to prove he's got what (many) others didn't. (Previous ranking: 30)

30. Nevada's 3rd district (D): Rep. Dina Titus (D) swept into office in 2008 thanks to the Obama surge but will have to win this suburban Las Vegas district on her own merits this time around. Republicans like their chances with former state Sen. Joe Heck. (Previous ranking: N/A)

29. New Hampshire's 1st district (D): Rep. Carol Shea Porter (D) has proved surprisingly resilient since winning this seat in 2006 but New Hampshire looks to be a major problem for Democrats across the ticket. (Previous ranking: 26)

28. New York's 24th district (D): National Democrats released a poll earlier this week with Rep. Mike Arcuri (D) leading by double digits. He is still likely to be outspent by 2008 nominee Richard Hanna, however. (Previous ranking: 21)

27. Ohio's 16th district (D): Rep. John Boccieri (D) was touted as a star when he won this seat in 2008. Economic hard times and struggles at the top of the ticket for Ohio Democrats, however, have imperiled him. (Previous ranking: 29)

26. Florida's 8th district (D): Rep. Alan Grayson (D) gets lots of publicity -- not all of it good -- and raises lots of money. Republicans nominated former state Sen. Daniel Webster last month and are cautiously optimistic about their chances. (Previous ranking: 19)

25. Pennsylvania's 11th district (D): Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D), who has battled ethics issues, has been a perennial Republican target but GOP strategists believe this is the year Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta (R) gets over the top. (Previous ranking: N/A)

24. Illinois' 11th district (D): Republican Adam Kinzinger's campaign released a poll last month showing him with a double-digit edge over Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D) who faces not only a difficult national political environment but a challenging one on the state level too. (Previous ranking: N/A)

23. Tennessee's 8th district (D): State Sen. Roy Herron (D) is a good fit for this conservative minded district but farmer Stephen Fincher's surprisingly strong GOP primary victory helps validate the hype around his candidacy in Washington. (Previous ranking: 24)

22. Pennsylvania's 7th district (D): Republicans are over the moon about former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan's candidacy but state Rep. Bryan Lentz (D) has done well for himself too in this genuine toss up district. (Previous ranking: 23)

21. New Hampshire's 2nd district (D): Primaries will be held Tuesday in the Granite State. If former Rep. Charlie Bass (R) and Ann McLane Kuster (D) emerge from their respective primaries, Republican chances of winning the seat improve. (Previous ranking: 22)

20. North Dakota at-large (D): The two parties disagree on this race with Democrats insisting longtime Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D) can and will hold on and Republicans arguing that state Rep. Rick Berg (R) is a shoo-in this fall. Someone's wrong. (Previous ranking: 20)

19. Florida's 2nd district (D): Rep. Allen Boyd barely beat back a Democratic primary challenge from state Sen. Al Lawson late last month. His side said the primary was more problematic than the general election where he faces funeral home director Steve Southerland (R). We shall see. (Previous ranking: 27)

18. Virginia's 2nd district (D): Rep. Glenn Nye (D) has voted against nearly every major Democratic-led initiative during his first two years in office. Republicans, who have nominated car dealer Scott Rigell, argue it won't matter in this swing district. (Previous ranking: 17)

17. Florida's 24th district (D): This Orlando-area district is far more conservative than Rep. Suzanne Kosmas' (D) 16-point victory in 2008 makes it look. A new Republican poll gives state Rep. Sandy Adams (R) a double-digit lead over Kosmas. (Previous ranking: 27)

16. Mississippi's 1st district (D): Rep. Travis Childers' (D) northern Mississippi seat is decidedly Republican-leaning but a new Democratic poll showed the incumbent leading state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R) by five points. (Previous ranking: 11)

15. Virginia's 5th district (D): National Democrats released an internal poll this week showing Rep. Tom Perriello (D) statistically tied with state Sen. Robert Hurt (R) but re-creating 2008 turnout in this Southside district will be tough for the Democrat. (Previous ranking: 18)

14. New Mexico's 2nd district (D): An Albuquerque Journal poll last month showed Rep. Harry Teague (D) and former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) in a dead heat -- a good result for the Democrat. Republicans still believe Teague's vote for cap and trade is a stone cold loser in this southern New Mexico district. (Previous ranking: 14)

13. Ohio's 15th district (D): The Buckeye State's Senate and gubernatorial races are shifting to the GOP's favor, spelling bad news for Democratic incumbents like freshman Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy. (Previous ranking: 15)

12. Illinois 10th district (R): Democrat Dan Seals' camp released a poll this week showing him leading Republican Bob Dold by double digits in a rare Democratic pickup opportunity.
(Previous ranking: 16)

11. Ohio's 1st district (D): Former Rep. Steve Chabot (R) is favored to win back his old seat as Rep. Steve Driehaus (D) will struggle to re-create the 2008 black turnout in the Cincinnati portion of the district. (Previous ranking: 7)

10. Maryland's 1st district (D): State Sen. Andy Harris was outspent by businessman Rob Fisher in July and August, but Harris has spent more overall and is expected to cruise in Tuesday's GOP primary. If he wins, Harris is a favorite to oust Rep. Frank Kratovil (D), to whom he lost narrowly to years ago in this Republican-leaning Eastern Shore district. (Previous ranking: 12)

9. Indiana's 8th district (D): Democrats believe state Rep. Trent Van Haaften has a chance at holding the seat of Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who is running for the Senate. But, this district has conservative roots and in a national electoral environment favorable to Republicans, heart surgeon Larry Buschon (R) has the edge. (Previous ranking: 10)

8. Colorado's 4th district (D): The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pushed back against a report in the New York Times that it's considering pulling out of several races, including that of freshman Rep. Betsy Markey (D). Even so, it's hard to see Markey beating state Rep. Cory Gardner (R) in this conservative minded district. (Previous ranking: 8)

7. Kansas' 3rd district (D): State Rep. Kevin Yoder (R) has united the party behind his candidacy following his primary win last month, boosting Republicans' chances of taking the seat being vacated by Rep. Dennis Moore (D). (Previous ranking: 9)

6. Delaware at-large's district (R): Even if Republicans get their favored
candidate, wealthy businesswoman Michele Rollins (R), in Tuesday's primary, their chances of holding the Democratic-leaning seat of Rep. Mike Castle (R) remain slim. (Previous ranking: 6)

5. New York's 29th district (D): Former Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R) holds a seven-to-one cash advantage over his Democratic rival. Did we mention this is disgraced former Rep. Eric Massa's (D) seat? 'Nuff said. (Previous ranking: 5)

4. Louisiana's 3rd district (D): Republicans Jeff Landry and Hunt Downer still face an Oct. 3 runoff after Landry's surprisingly strong finish in the primary. The winner, who almost certainly will be Landry, is likely to win the seat of Rep. Charlie Melancon (D). (Previous ranking: 3)

3. Arkansas' 2nd district (D): Former President Bill Clinton and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have swooped in on behalf of state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D), but former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin (R) remains the clear favorite in the fall. (Previous ranking: 4)

2. Louisiana's 2nd district (R): Rep. Joseph Cao (R) told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he loves President Obama, but that still isn't likely to be enough to help him win this overwhelmingly Democratic district this time around. (Previous ranking: 2)

1. Tennessee's 6th district (D): State Sen. Diane Black's (R) victory in the August 5 primary, while a narrow one, all but ensures that she'll take the seat of retiring Rep. Bart Gordon (D) in this Republican stronghold. (Previous ranking: 1)

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | September 10, 2010; 10:56 AM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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