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The Line: Battle for House Taking Shape

Slowly but surely the House playing field is starting to take shape.

Democrats have scored early recruiting successes in Missouri's 6th District and Ohio's 16th, while Republicans got their men in Georgia's 8th District and California's 11th.

But we're still far from knowing how many seats will be in play come November 2008, as retirements, which usually come in droves following a change in party control, have not yet begun in earnest. Only four House members have announced that they will be vacating their seats at the end of the current term -- Democratic Reps. Mark Udall (Colo.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.) and Tom Allen (Maine), and Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter (Calif.).

There are many more potential retirees, so until we know who's staying and who's going (not until next year at the earliest) it's hard to predict potential gains and losses. Thus, the House races listed on The Line remain listed alphabetically. Use the comments section to offer your thoughts on the races we included and those we missed.

To the Line!

Arizona's 1st District (Currently Republican): Rep. Rick Renzi (R) has weathered the first wave of calls for him to resign after a business run by his wife was raided in April by the FBI. But he -- and Republicans -- are far from out of the woods. The GOP's best hope is that Renzi decides against seeking reelection and quickly moves off the national radar screen. Democrats are excited about their chances at this district, which was drawn following the 2000 Census to be a toss-up between the two parties. Dems caught a break recently when 2006 nominee Ellen Simon, whose campaign was sidetracked by ethical questions surrounding her husband, suddenly dropped her plans for a rematch. Former television anchor Mary Kim Titla is in the race on the Democratic side. State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, former Casa Grande Mayor Bob Mitchell and attorney Jim Ledbetter are also mentioned as potential Democratic candidates.

California's 4th (R): The FBI raid on his wife's business (no, this is not an accidental repeat of the Renzi write-up) has placed Rep. John Doolittle (R) in significant political peril. Doolittle has charged that the raid and the Department of Justice's investigation into the activities of him and his wife are a sign of a department gone wild as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales fights for his political life. But Doolittle has given hints that if the investigation isn't cleared up he may not seek reelection in 2008. Even if he does, he will likely face a serious primary challenge, with Air Force reservist Eric Eglund's name already being mentioned. For 2006 nominee Charlie Brown. (D) to win in this Republican-heavy district, he needs Doolittle on the ballot or the specter of the current congressman looming over the eventual GOP nominee.

California's 11th (Currently Democratic): Republican chances to take back this seat increased over the past month as former Rep. Richard Pombo (R) took himself out of the running and former state Assemblyman Dean Andal (R) formally announced his candidacy. Andal is the preferred candidate of state and national Republicans, while Pombo was widely seen as the one Republican candidate who would almost assuredly lose to Rep. Jerry McNerney (D) in 2008. Without Pombo in the race, the contest will turn on McNerney's first term in Congress. Republicans are trying to paint him as a liberal ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). This GOP leaning seat (President Bush won it with 54 percent of the vote in 2004) should be a top pick-up opportunity for Republicans next November, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the power of incumbency.

Florida's 16th (D): Democrats assured us that Rep. Tim Mahoney's victory in 2006 wasn't a fluke prompted by the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R). But Mahoney sure looks to us like he is struggling to get his footing. "I think there was a concern that I wasn't happy in Congress.," Mahoney recently told The Hill newspaper. "Very candidly, this isn't the greatest job I've had." Ugh. You can bet that quote will reappear at some point during next fall's campaign. The best news for Mahoney is that Republicans seem headed for a primary fight between Pittsburgh Steelers heir Tom Rooney, state Rep. Gayle Harrell and Palm Beach Gardens City Councilman Hal Valeche.

Georgia's 8th (D): Republicans scored perhaps their biggest recruiting victory of the cycle to date by convincing Major Gen. Richard Goddard to challenge Rep. Jim Marshall (D) in this Macon-area district. National Republicans insist that Goddard has long been seen as the candidate best positioned to defeat Marshall but has resisted past recruitment attempts. On its face the 8th district is a ripe Republican target. President Bush carried it with 61 percent of the vote in 2004 and Marshall beat former Rep. Mac Collins (R) by less than 2,000 votes last November. Could a Goddard candidacy convince Marshall to take a run at Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R)?

Kansas's 2nd: (D): Seeking to establish himself as the clear frontrunner in the GOP primary race, former Rep. Jim Ryun released a poll late last month that showed him with a 61 percent to 27 percent lead over state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins. We have no reason to doubt the veracity of the survey but expect this primary to be one of the most expensive and tightly fought in the country next year. The nastier the better for Rep. Nancy Boyda (D), who faces a tough reelection race in a district that gave Bush a 20-point victory in 2004.

New Mexico's 1st (R): Cycle after cycle national Democrats say they have finally found the magic formula to defeat Rep. Heather Wilson. In 2002 and 2004, it was Richard Romero, the president of the state Senate. In 2006 it was Patricia Madrid, who was Hispanic, had been elected statewide and was a woman. And yet Wilson is still on Congress. Her Albuquerque-based seat is moving away from Republicans (Al Gore won it with 48 percent in 2000 while John Kerry took 51 percent four years later), and it remains to be seen how politically salient Wilson's role in the U.S. Attorneys scandal will be by next fall. Democrats seem pleased with the candidacy of Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich, who will enjoy strong backing from the organization of Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.).

Ohio's 16th (R): Democrats believe that 82-year-old Rep. Ralph Regula's (R) time in Congress is up. The last time Regula dipped below 60 percent of the vote was 1990, but the district is potentially competitive -- President Bush carried it by 8 points in 2004 after winning it by 11 in 2000. Regula has given no sign either way about his reelection plans, but Democrats have lined up state Sen. John Boccieri as their candidate whether or not Regula runs for reelection. It's hard to imagine a worse political environment for Republicans than Ohio in 2006, but Democrats believe 2008 is likely to be more of the same. Time will tell.

Pennsylvania's 10th (D): It would be quicker to list the Republicans not thinking of running against freshman Rep. Chris Carney (D) than to name those who are considering a bid. The preferred GOP candidate is U.S Attorney Tom Marino, who confirmed to Talking Points Memo yesterday that he was considering a bid. If not Marino, who would have to resign his post to run, Republicans will almost assuredly find a serious candidate in a district President Bush carried by 20 points in 2004.

Texas's 22nd (D): Democrats got something of a break earlier this week when Rep. Nick Lampson (D) decided not to consider a run against Sen. John Cornyn (R). Lampson is probably the only Democrat who has a chance to hold this strongly Republican Houston-area seat (he won in 2006 when a ballot snafu led to Republicans failing to remove Tom DeLay's name from the ballot, forcing them to run a write-in candidate). Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who was the GOP's write-in candidate, is back for another race. Sugar Land Mayor David Wallace, Harris County Tax Assessor Paul Bettencourt and state Rep. Robert Talton are all mentioned. Without DeLay to kick around, Lampson will have a fight on his hands.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 1, 2007; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  House , The Line  
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