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The Friday Line: Ten House Races to Watch

What better way to recover from a Thanksgiving gorging than to settle down in front of the computer and check out the latest Friday line?  This week The Fix tackles the top 10 House races; the contests are ranked from the least likely to switch party control to the most (just like a Thanksgiving dinner, you have to wait until the end to get the good stuff).  As always, your comments, queries and criticisms are welcome, and you can compare this list to the last line on the House.

Without further ado, the Friday Line:

10) Indiana's 8th district - Rep. John Hostettler (R): Yes, we know Hostettler does almost nothing incumbents typically do - raise money, for one - and still always managed to win reelection in this southern Indiana district. And, yes, we know that Democrats tout their candidate in this seat every two years only to be disappointed on Election Night.  But we just can't resist putting this seat on the line - especially after Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) seemed to be all over television after tornadoes ripped through the area in early November. Hostettler, keeping with his un-politician image, had previously voted against more than $50 billion in relief dollars for Hurricane Katrina victims and initially balked at visiting parts of the district hit by tornadoes because he said it would distract from clean-up efforts. He eventually did visit the ravaged areas but voters may remember his early reluctance next year. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9) Iowa's 3rd district - Rep. Leonard Boswell (D): Boswell has been plagued by health concerns of late. Boswell had a non-cancerous tumor removed from his stomach earlier this fall and still has not returned to Washington, D.C. He did, however, campaign with several Democratic statewide candidates earlier this month and said he plans to run for reelection in this Des Moines-area district.  Republicans are thrilled at the early returns on the candidacy of state Senate president Jeff Lamberti. (Previous ranking: N/A)

8) Florida's 22nd district - Rep. Clay Shaw (R): State Sen. Ron Klein's (D) candidacy got a boost earlier this month when a nuisance primary challenge from a political science professor disappeared. Klein has raised nearly $1 million this year -- an impressive total for any challenger. Shaw, who is battling lung cancer for the second time in as many years, insists he will seek a 14th. Should he make the race, Shaw will again need to convince voters to cross party lines to support him; Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won the district with 52 percent in 2004. (Previous ranking: 8)

7) Georgia's 8th district - Rep. Jim Marshall (D): Although Republicans are enthused about the candidacy of former Rep. Mac Collins (R), Marshall is fully engaged in his run for reelection and begins the race with a lead. It's probably not as large (34 points) as a recent Mercer University poll (conducted primarily by students) showed, but Marshall does have an edge at the starting gate. Collins will be well-financed and the district was made more Republican in a mid-decade redistricting earlier this year.  (Previous ranking: 2)

6) New Mexico's 1st district - Rep. Heather Wilson (R): The story remains the same in this ultimate swing district. Democrats have their best candidate in state Attorney General Patsy Madrid, a Hispanic in her second term as a statewide officeholder.  Wilson has shown remarkable resiliency in holding this Albuquerque-area district and continues to impress with her fundraising prowess -- $732,000 on hand at the end of September.  Republicans have always conceded that in a bad political year Wilson could be one of the first to go. This race could move up the line if Madrid turns out to be as strong a candidate as expected. (Previous ranking: 6)

5) Ohio's 6th district - OPEN, Rep. Ted Strickland (D) is running for governor: The resounding defeat of a handful of reform propositions on the ballot earlier this month gave us pause about just how much trouble Ohio Republicans are really facing next November. Right now, their problems seem more minor than we thought as just a month ago. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) uses every opportunity to praise the campaign of youthful state Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R).  Democrats seem encouraged by the performance of state Sen. Charlie Wilson, who is their likely nominee and has the moderate bona fides to win in this southeastern Ohio seat carried by President Bush with 51 percent of the vote in 2004. Republicans insist that Wilson's background is riddled with political landmines that will doom him. (Previous ranking: 7)

4) Iowa's 1st district -OPEN, Rep. Jim Nussle (R) is running for governor: This open-seat contest remains almost totally unformed while the candidates on each side continue to focus largely on raising dollars.  Attorney Bruce Braley seems like the Democratic frontrunner based on fundraising returns; Heart of America CEO Mike Whalen (R) has drawn some heat from his Republican rivals for appearing in ads for his restaurant chain.  Nussle, who has held the Democratic-leaning eastern Iowa district since 1990, continues to run a strong campaign for governor. Should he win the Republican gubernatorial nomination, it is likely to boost the chances of the eventual GOP nominee seeking to replace him in the House. (Previous ranking: 3)

3) Illinois' 8th district - Rep. Melissa Bean (D): This race moves up because investment banker David McSweeney (R) seems ready, willing and able to spend from his considerable resources to win the GOP nomination. McSweeney went up with a biographical ad on cable stations in the district earlier this month and has already donated $287,000 to his campaign as of Sept. 30. He faces a crowded primary field against several other wealthy candidates.  Helping Bean win reelection will be a major priority of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.),, but she faces a tough road given President Bush's 12-point victory here in 2004. (Previous ranking: 5)

2) Pennsylvania's 6th district -- Rep. Jim Gerlach (R): Considering the political atmosphere in the state and the strength of 2004 nominee Lois Murphy, we probably rated this race too low last time around. After losing to Gerlach by less than 7,000 votes last cycle, Murphy is back with a vengeance, raising $330,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30. Gerlach is seeking to walk a fine line of moderation in order to win reelection, voting for the GOP-backed energy bill in October but against the spending cuts in the recently passed budget bill. The X-factor is Gov. Ed Rendell (D), the former Philadelphia mayor, who is up for reelection next November.  Rendell will need a huge turnout in his political base to secure a win -- a GOTV effort that's likely to help Murphy. (Previous ranking: 4)

1) Colorado's 7th district - OPEN, Rep. Bob Beauprez (R) is running for governor: This suburban Denver district remains in the poll position. Likely GOP nominee Rick O'Donnell welcomed Vice President Dick Cheney into the district in late October and will be very well-financed.  Former state Sen. Ed Perlmutter looks to be the favorite in a Democratic primary against former state Rep. Peggy Lamm. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) won this swing seat by three points in 2004 given the current political environment, either Democrat would be favored against O'Donnell in the general. (Previous ranking: 1)

-- Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 25, 2005; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  House , The Line  
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Next: Kolbe Retirement: A Sign of Things to Come?


Latest poll published in the South Bend Tribune for Indiana 2:

Joe Donelly - 48%
Chris Chocola - 38%!%20/News01/607190321

Posted by: Kyle | July 20, 2006 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Tom Davis is vulnerable in the Virginia 11th. He barely got 60% in 04 against a nobody, and since that time he has the baseball debacle, Terri Schiavo, and he interfered in a local landuse case, which angered developers - his bread and butter. Federal employees are not happy with him either. Democrats pulled well over 55% in the 11th in the recent statewide elections. For the first time since Davis was elected to office he is vulnerable - espcially since he can be tied to Delay through David and Jennifer Safavian and Adan Kidan (contributors) and Michael Scanlon (gave money to NRCC when Davis was chair.)

Posted by: Dara L. | December 9, 2005 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I vote in Beans district, won't vote for her unless she actually moves into it.

Posted by: Crazy Politico | November 29, 2005 1:36 PM | Report abuse

There are more than 10 contested House races, as you'd see if you clicked the links I posted here or read Chris' explanation. He is giving only the TOP 10 House races.

In IN-2, Dems have been trying to oust Chris Chocola for some time now with little success. Is there even a decent candidate running there?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 28, 2005 7:38 PM | Report abuse

What evidence do you have that Ron Lewis is vulnerable or that Mike Weaver will be a competitive challenger? KY-2 hasn't appeared on any list of contested House races I've seen. So Weaver is a Vietnam veteran--so is John Kerry. Ask him how well that worked out...

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 28, 2005 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Look out for Ky's 2nd District. Republican Ron Lewis actually was the start of the 1994 Republican Revolution by winning a special election in May of 94 for the Congressional seat held 41 years by William Natcher, the Democrat who never missed a roll-call vote , or who never accepted a campaign contribution. State Representative Mike Weaver, a retired Colonel and Vietnam War veteran, is on the rise and will win this one.

Posted by: Pete Tabb | November 28, 2005 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Dems here in NC are gunning after Robin Hayes in NC-8, hoping that his last-minute support for NAFTA after swearing to oppose it will hurt him. Also, I wonder what will happen with LA-1, since the voter base there will be significantly smaller than it was...

Posted by: Jeff | November 28, 2005 3:35 PM | Report abuse

PA 8 (Fitzpatrick, R) should be of as much concern to the GOP as PA 6 and might appear in a top 20 list, although I think Chris is right to rank Gerlach's seat ahead of that one.

Posted by: harrisburg | November 28, 2005 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Indiana 2nd district? Roemers old seat. Last time 54 vs 46 against an unknown?

Posted by: fh | November 28, 2005 12:22 PM | Report abuse

if there are only 10 contested seats this article is mute,because even if Democrats win all these seats they are still the minority party.

Posted by: buckastar | November 28, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

if there are only 10 contested seats this article is mute,because even if Democrats win all these seats they are still the minority party.

Posted by: buckastar | November 28, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Here's another one to keep an eye on. Jim Kolbe (R), Arizona is retiring.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | November 28, 2005 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Charlie Cook's analysis of competitive House races:

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 27, 2005 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Patrick, those things are good to hear. Certainly the longer prep time should help Scoles--he needs to raise a hell of a lot more than $24,000 if he is going to be competitive. It's disappointing though, to hear that the Democratic candidates for Delaware County office lost. Even though the district has a Democratic lean, incumbency is a powerful advantage, and the burden of proof is on the challenger to demonstrate to voters why they should replace the incumbent with him. That's why most of the competitive seats of any kind in any cycle are the open ones. Scoles has to improve his showing by 10 points--no small feat--if he is to win, and I don't know of anything Weldon has done to make himself vulnerable. This is certainly a race I'd keep in the back of my head, but I'm still not convinced it's that close.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 27, 2005 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Sandwich Repairman, I feel the most important evidence that Scoles can and will do better than Weldon in the earlier post is the fact that Scoles's 2004 campaign basically began in July because the previous candidate was sent to Iraq. Most candidates have a year or more to set up their campaign infrastructure and raise funds. Even without the usual preparation time, Scoles got the highest percentage of the vote of any of Weldon's opponents ever. This time around, he has a much longer start time. As you pointed out, the district does lean Democratic, but I think even more important is the fact that it is growing steadily more Democratic. Delaware County, PA, is traditionally a GOP bastion but it has gone for Dem presidential candidates in recent election cycles. Kerry won Weldon's district in '04 and in the 2005 county elections, the Dem candidates, while they lost, received the highest percentage of the vote that any Dem candidates had received in a long time.
On a more personal note, I know Paul Scoles and have volunteered for his campaign. He is a wonderful speaker and campaigner. I know this race may not be on some national radar screens, but its well worth paying attention to. For a senior House Republican, Curt Weldon really is in a lot of danger.

Posted by: Patrick Hart | November 27, 2005 1:54 PM | Report abuse

When we win this bet, all I ask is that you donate your $5 to:

Second Harvest is doing a wonderful job of getting food to people whose lives were devastated by Katrina. Peace.

Posted by: Rev. Marie E. deYoung | November 27, 2005 7:46 AM | Report abuse

Actually, Weldon got less than 70% of the vote 7 of his 9 elections before 2004: 1986-61%, 1988-68%, 1990-65%, 1992-66%, 1996-67%, 2000-65%, and 2002-66%.

But regardless of that, I don't see any evidence in your post to suggest that Scoles will do any better in 2006 than he did in 2004 when he lost 59-40. In fact, I'll bet you $5 that Weldon gets reelected.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 27, 2005 1:51 AM | Report abuse

Dr. Paul Scoles was asked to fill-in for our first candidate, who was called to serve in the Middle East just as his campaign started to take off. Paul ran a 90-day campaign, and achieved a historic 42% of the vote. Until Paul campaigned, Weldon never pulled less than 70% of the district vote. After the 2004 election, Rick Santorum remarked: "we were crushed in Delaware County and we didn't think that was possible." Paul Scoles led the campaign in 2004, and has been building party support to take back the House in 2006. Most importantly, Paul Scoles has a full domestic agenda -- which has been sorely lacking in the national debate about congressional races. Sadly, Curt Weldon has traveled the world at the expense of the taxpayer, but he has neglected the domestic issues that will decide the 2006 election. PA-7 is ready for Dr. Paul Scoles to represent their interests. We will send Paul Scoles to Congress in 2006.

Posted by: Rev. Marie E. deYoung | November 26, 2005 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Reverend, PA-7 does appear to lean Democratic even though it's been sending Curt Weldon (R) to represent it in the House since 1986. I see that Paul Scoles also challenged Weldon in 2004 and lost by 19 points, 59-40. What makes you think Scoles can close this gap and unseat Weldon in 2006? In 2004 it looks like Weldon spent around $678,000 on his race while Scoles came up with less than $24,000. Weldon got over 60% of the vote in every election from 1986 to 2002 as well. Has Weldon done anything to make himself vulnerable? Are the demographics of the district significantly changing? Is a single payer health care platform really going to appeal to enough voters to convince them to oust an incumbent? Will Scoles raise more money this time around? I'd love to see PA-7 elect a Democrat, but at the moment I see no reason why it should be expected to do so in 2006.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 26, 2005 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District will produce the most exciting win for Democrats in November, 2006. Dr. Paul Scoles, a retired orthopedic surgeon from Ardmore, PA, has won the endorsement of rank and file democrats in all three counties that comprise the district. Additionally, he has been endorsed by Harris Wofford, state, county and city elected democratic officials. When Paul Scoles is elected, he will introduce legislation for a single payer universal health care system that will benefit big business, small business, veterans, families, and senior citizens.
The district longs for a Democratic representative who is focused on the needs of our community. Dr. Paul Scoles has grasp of our issues, and has built relationships across three counties to help Democrats take back the Congress in 2006.

Posted by: Rev. Marie E. deYoung | November 26, 2005 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Strickland's lead in the Gov. race exceeds the margins by which Bush won Ohio in both 2000 and 2004.

And as long as everyone is adding potentially close House races, I'd like to mention Rob Simmons in CT-2 as a vulnerable Republican, as well as John Kline's seat in MN and the nearby one that Mark Kennedy is vacating, Anne Northup and some other Republicans in KY depending on what kind of candidates Democrats recruit to run in those districts, potentially Mark Kirk in IL-10, Dave Reichert in WA-8, and Marilyn Musgrave in CO-4. And just watch the moderate House Republicans who've started to buck their leadership on two recent budget votes, for example. They're doing this largely because they know their seats are vulnerable. I'll also agree that there's reason to follow Duke Cunningham in CA and Tom DeLay in TX. Rick Renzi in AZ I'm not sure about.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 26, 2005 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Vivabush, how can you even pretend to be posting facts when you can't even get the years in which public officials were elected right?? Even when they're staring you in the face in my own posts? You think Bush's 4 point win in 2000 and 2 point win in 2004 make Ohio some kind of right wing Republican bastion? If so, I kindly suggest drinking or smoking whatever you are. Finally, you have yet to acknowledge that Gov. Taft has a 15% approval rating--the lowest of any Governor in the nation--and that this does not help any Republican running for office in Ohio in 2006.

The Columbus Dispatch, a known right-wing rag, released a poll just 19 days ago showing Sherrod Brown with a 4 point lead over Mike DeWine. Rasmussen did a poll in the Governor's race which found Ted Strickland with a 6 point lead over Ken Blackwell. You might be better informed if you looked for objective facts and stopped drinking your Fox News Kool-Aid. Steve Chabot, Jean Schmidt--especially after her disgusting remarks on the House floor last week, Steve LaTourette, Deborah Pryce, and Bob Ney (of Abramhoff fame) are all vulnerable.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 26, 2005 12:42 PM | Report abuse

The Sandwichman may know a lot about national politics but he certainly is ignorant of Ohio today.

In his last post he suggests that since Ohio elected Sherrod Brown Secy of State in 1980, Metzenbaum in 74, Dick Celeste governor in '82, Lee Fisher in '90, well then it must be somewhat liberal and apt to send Brown to the Senate next year over Mike Dewine. Refering to the past, 20-30 years ago is unfathomable. Willing a Dem win/sweep in '06 doesn't make it. I agree that Ohio is not 2-1 Republican but there has to be a reason that since 1990 when Voinovich won the governorship and Taft Beat Brown it has been a RED STATE. Lee Fisher was the last Dem state office holder when Betty Montgomery defated him as Attorney General. So today and for the past 11 years, all state elected officials, governor, atty general, auditor, treasurer, secy of state ARE REPUBLICAN!
Of the 7 supreme court justices, 6 ARE REPUBLICAN!
Both the House and Senate are MAJORITY REPUBLICAN!
12 of the 18 U.S. representatives ARE REPUBLICAN!
Both U.S. senators ARE REPUBLICAN!

Despite what you say, Bush won handily both times, 4% in 2000 and 2%, 116,000 votes in 2004, hardly Florida in 2000--and we knew the outcome that same evening.

Saying that the house seats of Steve Chabot,Jean Schmidt and Steve LaTorette are in play doesn't make them so. Might they be vulnerable, perhaps, but who do you have opposing them? State that and you may have something.

For all the talk of corruption it remains to be seen if/how this will affect individual races. You have to agree that it did not move voters to change the state constitution with issues 2,3,4,5.

It is good that Cilliza works with facts and not what ifs. Strickland's seat which we know is open and we know the candidates is worthy of discussion.
Something else to factor in on all these races is money. Follow the money and you'll see how each of these races is affected. Recent reports show that the Dems under Howard Dean are millions behind the GOP.Closing that gap will tell how well the Dems can take enough seats to change both the house and the senate.

Last but not least, why does Vivabush04 think the Dems are up in the polls right now? First off, the polls I've seen show leads of 1-2 points. A Zogby poll of 2 weeks ago showed Strickland with a 1 point lead over Blackwell and Hackett with a 1 point lead over Dewine. Brown wasn't included in the poll. This hardly spells doom for the GOP.

Why are they up? No doubt the GOP has gotten bad press over the past year and the left has done a great job of demonizing Blackwell. And Strickland and Hackett have some good name recognition as well. THEY WILL BE TOUGH TO BEAT. Dewine probably lost some votes from conservatives when he joined the gang of 14. That will dissipate when it comes time to choose him or a liberal Democrat.

As a service to this blog, I will continue to post the most recent FACTS and updates on the Ohio '06 races.

Posted by: vivabush04 | November 26, 2005 10:56 AM | Report abuse

There is a major upset brewing in Arizona's 1st CD.

Challenger Mike Caccioppoli (D), is looking very strong against Bushite hack Rick Renzi.

This is definitely a race to watch as an upset is a distinct possibility.

Posted by: Sandra Moore | November 26, 2005 7:56 AM | Report abuse

What about Ohio Bob Ney. Its looking more an more like he will get indicted on bribery charges associated with JAck Abramoff. Additionally another name listed a Post story today mentioned Rep Doolittle, I forget where he is from. Add Randy Duke Cunningham's seat with Delay, Ohio repulicans scandal, Scooter Libby and most of the story line out there is about Republican corruption. AMericans are seeing tax breaks for big business and wealthy tax payers while gas prices skyrocket while Oil companies are making the most money ever. I do think there is a significant backlash is the making that will take down more than a few vulnerable Republicans. Add to the fact the Christian right will force more moderate republicans off the ballots during the primary season and I suspect GOP to be in real trouble overll. PRobably to the tune of 20 to 25 house seats.

The turnover in the senate may not be as dramatic but I see dems picking up 2 to 3 seats....probably DeWine of Ohio, Santorum in PA and Talent in MO. Burns of Montana could lose if this Abramoff thing gets closer to him or if he is indicted. The popular Governor of Montana is a Demorat (Schweitzer I think the name is)

Posted by: DB | November 26, 2005 4:00 AM | Report abuse

Stuart Rothenberg makes similar arguments to mine on the failure of redistricting initiatives in OH and CA:

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 26, 2005 3:07 AM | Report abuse

Roll Call lists 8 House races as tossups right now. Chris mentioned CO-7 (Beauprez running for Gov), PA-6 (Gerlach), OH-6 (Strickland running for Gov), IA-1 (Nussle running for Gov), and IL-8 (Democrat Melissa Bean defending a seat in Illinois' most Republican district); these 5 seats appear on both lists. Roll Call's other three are CO-3 (freshman Democrat John Salazar defending a Republican-leaning seat), CT-4 (moderate Republican Chris Shays facing a strong challenge from Dianne Farrell), and LA-3 (freshman Democrat Charlie Melancon running for reelection).

On CO-3: "1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic
Salazar won an impressive victory in 2004, aided in part by the presence of his younger brother, now-Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), at the top of the ticket. But it is a conservative district, and Republicans could bounce back. The national GOP is high on its one candidate so far: businessman Scott Tipton, though Tipton's fundraising numbers for the third quarter of 2005 were unimpressive -- he raised just $10,000 -- after a quick start earlier this year. But the Republican race remains fluid; 2004 nominee Greg Walcher, among others, could still get in -- though national GOP leaders would be less than thrilled if Walcher ran again. Meanwhile, Salazar recently issued a strong denial to the rumor that he was thinking about running for governor in 2006."

On CT-4: "9th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Tossup
Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell (D) is not done with Shays. She gave the moderate Republican, who became the first GOPer to call on now-deposed House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) to resign, the race of his life last year. She started as the underdog and came within 4 points of knocking off Shays, despite his seniority, willingness to buck his party and high national profile. Republican leaders were dumfounded when Shays refused to go negative on Farrell and barred the National Republican Congressional Committee from airing attack ads. They hope Shays has learned his lesson as 2006 could turn out to be an unfavorable year for the GOP, especially in districts like Shays' that Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) carried during the 2004 presidential election. Shays continues to be a prolific fundraiser. He closed out the quarter with almost $470,000 in his war chest. Farrell ultimately spent $1.5 million on her unsuccessful effort last year and seems to be on pace to have at least that next year. She had almost $300,000 on hand on Sept. 30."

And LA-3: "1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Tossup
The fireworks in this contest have already started, and Melancon's bid for a second term is no doubt likely to be one of the most heated races in the country next year. He faces state Sen. Craig Romero (R), who finished a close third in the 2004 all-party primary -- just barely missing a spot in the runoff. Portions of this southeastern district -- represented for more than two decades by Democrat-turned-Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin -- were badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. But it remains to be seen how the aftermath and displacement of some residents could affect politics there next year. Melancon's early fundraising has been strong, and he ended September with more than $700,000 in the bank. Romero, meanwhile, showed $285,000 in his coffers. Republicans argue that Romero is a much stronger candidate than Billy Tauzin III (R), the son of the former Congressman whom Melancon narrowly defeated last year, and that he is better positioned geographically as well. But bad blood between the Romero and Tauzin camps lingered after the primary, and it remains to be seen what, if any, support the Republican will get from the former Congressman and his allies next year."

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 26, 2005 2:48 AM | Report abuse

No race gets decided totally independent of what candidates are running. Americans vote for candidates, not for parties.

As for Ohio, I wonder why vivabush thinks Democrats are leading Republicans in the polls for Governor and Senator already. Chris most recently ranked Ohio as the 2nd most likely Governorship to change hands (after NY) and the 4th most likely Senate seat to do so. Could it be that Ohioans are tired of 16 years of Republican corruption and mismanagement? Do you think it *helps* Republicans that Gov. Taft's approval rating is 15%--the lowest in the nation? However far left of centre you may think Sherrod Brown is, he wasn't too liberal to win statewide office in 1982 and 1986. Gov. Richard Celeste also wasn't too liberal to get elected those same years, and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum wasn't too liberal to win statewide elections to the Senate in 1976, 82, and 88. Former AG Lee Fisher wasn't too liberal to come within 5 points of beating Taft for the Governorship in 1998. Bush narrowly carried Ohio in both his elections; it remains the swing state it has long been. The 6th District House race may be a tossup, but Republicans are vulnerable to losing their seats in the 1st, 2nd, 14th, 15th, and 18th Districts as well. The state does not favour Republicans 2:1 as its 12-6 House delegation would suggest. Republicans hold an artificially large majority of Ohio's House seats, and imbalances like these tend to correct themselves sooner or later.

Now let's look at the 3 latest additions to the "Ooh, don't forget me!" list.

AZ-8: Jim Kolbe (R) is retiring. This district voted 50-46 for Bush in 2000, and 53-46 for Bush in 2004. Kolbe got 51% of the vote in his first election to Congress in 1984, and 52% (to his opponent's 45%) in 1998. In his other 9 elections, Kolbe never fell below 60% of the vote. Most recently, he was reelected 60-36 in 2004. He also got 60% of the vote in 2000, meaning he won by at least 20 points. The District's Cook Partisan Voting Index is R+1, meaning it has a very slight lean to the right. Again, I would think it's most telling that Bush won this district by 4 points in 2000 and 7 points in 2004. Those are not landslide margins, so the Democrats may be competitive here. But the race will depend heavily on the quality of the candidates. If Kolbe just announced his retirement and neither party has recruited candidates yet, there's no information to use yet to say how competitive this race is. I think Chris is correct not to list it in his top 10 for now.

NY-24: Moderate Sherwood Boehlert (R) represents a district which has historically been Republican, but trended toward Democrats in recent years. One of the least conservative Republicans in the House, he has been endorsed in the past by groups like People For the American Way. This district voted 48-47 for Bush in 2000 and 53-47 for Bush in 2004. Like AZ-8, its Cook Partisan Voting Index is R+1. Boehlert won his 2004 election 57-34 against an underfunded Democrat. Before that, he had not fallen below 60% of the vote since his initial election to Congress with 56% in 1982. However, he has weathered a series of primary challenges from fellow Republicans. Boehlert will be 70 in 2006, and will lose his chairmanship of the Science Committee after that election due to caucus term limits. This seat could change hands in 2006, but we need to know more about who the Democratic candidate will be and how strong a candidate they will be before we could rate this as one of the 10 hottest House races of the cycle. Were Boehlert to retire, or lose his primary to a more conservative Republican, this race would certainly become more competitive.

FL-9: Michael Bilirakis (R) is retiring. This district voted 54-46 for Bush in 2000 and 57-43 for Bush in 2004. Since winning the seat when it was first created in 1982, Bilirakis has only fallen below 60% of the vote twice (1990 and 92). The Cook Partisan Index for this district is R+4. Some national Republican leaders have predictably supported son State Rep. Gus Bilirakis already, though it looks like there will be other candidates in a Republican primary. Based on this information, it seems like this district could possibly be in play, though the district leans a little toward Republicans. I don't know about the quality of the potential candidates, and haven't seen any fundraising figures let alone poll matchups. I definitely don't think this race should be considered among the 10 closest right now.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 25, 2005 11:46 PM | Report abuse

"Industrial Work" to "Knowledge Work" in 6 months?

I feel bad about the 30,000 GM workers losing their jobs. What can a modern vibrant American economy offer them? I recently thought about this problem while considering a run for the 2006 US Senate seat from Indiana. As a young Republican Moderate, what could I do to help these folks? Brainstorm and Broker multiparty deals?

I met with a few local GOP leaders last week at Charlie's Ale Restaurant in Munster, Indiana, and they informed us that Senator Lugar is going forward for his sixth term in the Senate. So, it is unlikely that my senate candidacy can go forward unless the Senator changes his mind.

Here is one idea I came up with. Since there are huge amounts of genetic sequences yet to be classified, Imagine if a Senator Bud Labitan(R) from Indiana, could broker and encourage a deal between Lilly, Microsoft, and GM to develop a simple plan to convert 30,000 "GM line workers" into gene-segment analysts or "knowledge workers." Also, imagine that these workers are all connected on a networked X-Box360 running a simple research software application (developed by Lilly, Microsoft, and GM) from their homes, within 6 months.

This temporary WPA-like program would help accelerate the discovery of genetic instructions. And, just like road building, new innovations would be developed as the projects progressed. Setting the proper incentives and time limits to government subsidized programs like these could facilitate the transfer of work groups back into a stimulated private sector of biotech knowledge work. If such a big conversion of industrial to knowledge work were brought about successfully, we would all benefit from more medicines and better health products developed.

Our Party can lead or "be lead." Pulling our party closer to the middle is vitally important to the future successes of our party's candidates. In my view, younger blood is needed for the healthy political competition of ideas. An elder statesman like Senator Lugar will not be inclined to tease Clinton and Obama, like Arnold went after his California "Girly-Men." I would like the opportunity to debate as well as "tease" Clinton and Obama as a senate equal on the good issues. Playing to the media, "the Indiana Oak" may help bring more good humor back to the GOP and help maintain "mass appeal" in the middle. Without more of the middle plus additional minority support, out GOP is in for a spell of losing.

Cesar "Bud" Labitan, MD, MBA

Posted by: Bud Labitan | November 25, 2005 9:55 PM | Report abuse

In regard to the district 8 race in SE Arizona, one potential Democratic candidate would be State Senator Gabrielle Giffords, now in her second term. She is deinitely a rising star in the AZ Democratic Party.

Posted by: JimN | November 25, 2005 9:04 PM | Report abuse

The Top Ten fails to account for those races where the real race is just falling into place. Florida -9 between Phyllis Busansky (D) and Gus Bilarakis (R) is a race that is just beginning. It is technically an open seat, though the retiring member's son is the favorite, but Phyllis Busansky is a tough opponent: great campaigner, strong fundraiser and solid Democrat. Watch for this one to begin popping up on future lists.

Posted by: Bulandio | November 25, 2005 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Now let me see, the MSM and the Left want to make a big deal that Dems won VA and NJ governorships, which they already had, and want to project big probs for the GOP in '06. Along comes Sandwichman who pooh poohs the loss of 4 ballot amendments in Ohio pushed by labor, the farleft and the Dems as meaningless. Fact. These amendments failed in all 88 counties. One would think they'd have passed in at least Cuyahoga(Cleveland), Lucas(Toledo), or Mahoning(Youngstown).

Two years running now the Dems and their far left allies have failed to beat the Ohio GOP. Turnout is the name of the game and this is something the GOP has done better.

SAndwich speaks of lengthy and confusing ballot language as one reason for the defeat of the RON amendments but fails to mention that Issue 1, also with lengthy language, passed easily. The RON forces had more money to spend and a full-blown state-wide organization and still lost overwhelmingly. And their message WAS CLEAR. Voting for the amendments was a clear choice to stop corruption and reform election law. Nothing confusing there.

Don't kid yourself that farleft Dem Sherrod Brown(who lost his secy of state seat in 1990 to Bob Taft)will beat Dewine. He first has to get by Paul Hackett in the Dem primary. What about Brown's vacated 13th Dist Seat? It probably will stay Dem.

Chris is right to make Strickland's seat a priority since there's a good chance it will flip to the GOP.

More evidence of the Dem turmoil is the announcement that Ohio State Dem Party chair Dennis White is stepping down at the end of the month, rather than at the end of June, 2006 as originally intended.
Stand by.

Posted by: vivabush04 | November 25, 2005 7:20 PM | Report abuse

You overlooked Southern Arizona's District held by Jim Kolbe who just announced he was retiring this week. If you look at his race four years ago which was very close, and at the recent Tucson City Council elections in which two incumbant Reublican Council persons were defeated by margins of 2-1 -- one can see that his seat is not at all assured. Esp when you take into account the voter registration in his district which contains almost as many Democrats and Republicans.

So here's another one which may go Democrat no matter who the Republicans nominate.

Posted by: Kurt | November 25, 2005 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Chris - Keep an eye on Republican Sherry Bohlert's central New York seat. For the first time in memory, a popular Utica Democrat, District Attorney Mike Arcuri, is talking about running against Bohlert. The republican incumbant is now carrying some serious baggage (money from Delay, Rove fundraiser, recent Bush budget cut supporter). This race is an example of what may be a national trend: Bush in freefall bringing out strongest local Democratic candidates who had been reluctant until now. Rignt now, the momentum is with the Democrats for this seat.

Posted by: dave portman | November 25, 2005 6:47 PM | Report abuse

The DCCC's website promotes former three-term Rep. Baron Hill (D) challenging Mike Sodrel for his old seat in IN-9. This is probably a top tier House race. Whether it should be listed in the top 10 I don't know.

A handful of states, including Iowa and Washington, have bipartisan or nonpartisan redistricting processes. OH and CA voters just turned down such reforms this month (affecting a total of 71 House seats; 16.3% of the House). Besides being fairer, these also tend to increase the number of districts that are in play; thus Jim Leach and Leonard Boswell's listings above. WA has swung fairly dramatically--of 9 House seats, it elected 8 Democrats in 1992 and 7 Republicans in 1994. WA-8 was a top race last year following Jennifer Dunn's retirement. The state's delegation seems to have hit its equilibrium at 6 Democrats and 3 Republicans, though the 8th still looks Democratic on paper while electing a Republican congressman.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 25, 2005 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Not to join in on the "...but you left out XXXXX" parade, but the closest house race in the country last year was the Indiana 9th district, which was won by less than 1500 votes. The anti-bush, anti-republican sentiment sweeping the country could easily see that tip that seat into the blue column.

Posted by: bow_down | November 25, 2005 6:18 PM | Report abuse

OK... overall, of the 435 seats in the House, about 50 of them are ever truly in play. The rest are "safe" seats, even when the congressman does a whole variety of stupid things and gets mixed up in stuff he (or she) should have.

Various districts in the states were all cut in order to maximize one party's presence (the one in control of the state legislature in the 2 years following a census year) in the House. They are never cut to truly reflect what the original intent of the founding fathers was: those elected to the House of Representatives go to Washington, DC, for two years to represent their districts, then go home and live under the laws they created.

Posted by: Joe | November 25, 2005 5:55 PM | Report abuse

According to National Journal, WI-8 (which Mark Green represents) voted 52-43 for Bush in 2000 and 55-44 for Bush in 2004. However, it also says that Kennedy won this area in 1960 and Clinton did so in 1996.

On 2006 candidates, it says: "Possible Republican candidates in the 8th District include Assembly Speaker John Gard, state Representatives Frank Lasee, Terri McCormick and Steve Wieckert. Possible Democratic candidates include state Senator Dave Hansen, Green Bay business consultant Jamie Wall and former Green Bay Mayor Paul Jadin."

WI-6, just south of WI-8, is represented by Tom Petri (R).

Based on this information, most notably Bush wins of 9 and 11 points in 2000 and '04, I'd say this district leans Republican. Depending on what local issues arise, and the quality of the nominees, it seems like this seat could go Democratic if there's a decent national wave in their favour. But all things being equal, the Republican probably starts with a built-in lead here. It doesn't look like a top tier House race to me.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 25, 2005 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Is WI-6 an evenly matched district between Democrats and Republicans? What was its presidential vote in 2004, and in 2000? If WI has party registration, what are the registration figures by party for the 6th District?

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 25, 2005 5:21 PM | Report abuse

If you expand the list, consider Wisconsin's 6th CD being vacated by Mark Green (R) who is challenging incumbant Jim Doyle (D) for Governor. This is an open seat with no decidedly strong contenders on either side of the aisle.

Posted by: Gymshoes | November 25, 2005 4:45 PM | Report abuse

John is right about my math. I made an error, though I'm not sure how. I stand corrected. Ten races of 435 is 2.3%. That means a top 10 list is still unable to cover the overwhelming majority--97.7%--of all House races.

Still, I continue to be disappointed that most of the comments just add another district that Chris must have "forgotten" or whatever. We can all do that. Would anyone else care to argue for a larger list of tight House races? Or would anyone care to submit their OWN list of the top 10 races? I would find that much more credible. I could rattle off 20 more seats that I think will be close races next year, but that's not the point.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 25, 2005 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Adding to the other comments, one Dem that is seriously in danger is that guy Charles Melancon. The Democrats have tried to prop him up by giving him some profile on the natural disasters but it will be real hard for him to win there.

Posted by: endangered Dems | November 25, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Well, Sandwich Repairman's math is off by a factor of 10, but his point is still correct: Ten races out of 435 is about 2.5%, but still a very small proportion of the total.

If I were to add one to the "won't change" list, it'd be Eric Cantor, Republican from down around Richmond VA. Alas. He really needs to go.

Posted by: John | November 25, 2005 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Ohio - 2, where Jeannie Schmidt won by only a percentage point or two.

She could not get elected dog catcher right now.

Posted by: Jed | November 25, 2005 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed to see so many people griping again that Chris omitted this or that district from his top 10 list. PEOPLE: There are *435* seats in the House of Representatives! Making a top 10 list means you're covering less than 0.25% of all House races! About 99.8% of them can't fit on any top 10 list. So yes, there are inevitably going to be competitive races that don't make one person or another's top 10 list of the MOST competitive ones. I see people pointing out other races that may or may not be competitive, but I don't even see any arguments as to why they should be considered more competitive races than any of the ones on Chris' list.

Again, I'd love to see a top 25 or top 50 list, which would cover a much greater proportion of the seats that really seem to be in play. Some publications run such lists, with some sort of tiered gradations analyzing just how close each race appears to be. But that would take more work on Chris' part. In the meantime, I'd be more interested in seeing discussion of the 10 races listed above.

For example, I think the defeat of the Reform Ohio Now measures may signal less than Chris thinks. There were 4 different measures, they were complicated for many voters to understand, and turnout in odd-numbered years tends to be low, favouring right-leaning candidates and issues. To me Gov. Taft's 15% approval rating, Rep. Strickland's lead over likely nominee Ken Blackwell for Governor, and Sherrod Brown's 35-31 lead over Sen. DeWine before campaigning in most of the state for the first time since 1990 seem like better harbingers of how Ohio will vote in 2006. If the RON results were the only reason for moving OH-6 up the list, I'd drop it back a notch or two.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | November 25, 2005 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Tom Davis' (VA-11) district has just voted for John Kerry & overwhelmingly for Tim Kaine. Tom Davis' recent forays into ultra-conservative issues such as his issuance of a subpoena and press release in the Terry Schiavo debacle, his refusal to condemn Social Security "reform," and his partisanship (Pressuring D.C. Government over George Soros' investing in the Washington Nationals & meddling in local zoning disputes) will undermine his allegedly moderate credentials. He's endangered and should be on your list as well.

Posted by: Jim | November 25, 2005 1:36 PM | Report abuse

You overlook the race shaping up in the 29th district of New York. Eric Massa, a retired Naval Officer and special military assistant to General Wes Clark is taking on Congressional freshman Randy Kuhl. Massa, a former republican with Capital Hill experience( House Armed Services Committee) is running in a district that normally tilts republican. Kuhl, however, barely beat back a democratic challenge in 2004. The incumbent has also taken unpopular positions on issues such as Social Security, is considered too close to the current leadership in the House and suffers from a poor reputation regarding his private life.

Posted by: Anthony Scott | November 25, 2005 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I'd keep a close eye on Tom Delay's seat. A majority of voters in his district now agree that 'it's time for somebody new.' He recently had his district recklessly redrawn to the Democrats' advantage. Considering that he may be doing his campaigning in '06 from either a court room or a jail cell, this seat should be strong candidate for a Democratic pickup.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | November 25, 2005 1:12 PM | Report abuse

You overlook the race shaping up in the 29th district of New York. Eric Massa, a retired Naval Officer and special military assistant to General Wes Clark is taking on Congressional freshman Randy Kuhl. Massa, a former republican with Capital Hill experience( House Armed Services Committee) is running in a district that normally tilts republican. Kuhl, however, barely beat back a democratic challenge in 2004. The incumbent has also taken unpopular positions on issues such as security, is considered too close to the current leadership in the House and suffers from a poor reputation regarding his private life.

Posted by: Anthony Scott | November 25, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

We disgree. If you wait until the end of the Thanksgiving dinner in our house, you get nothing.

Posted by: William and James Whitey | November 25, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Please note: If you agree with the following email and feel strongly that Woodward's actions warrant an immediate termination from the washington post as well as agree with the general state of the media, please sign your name at the bottom of the email under the signed section, and forward to as many people as possible and include in the CC field the following emails at the washington post:,,,,,

Let your voice be heard, this is an action that you can take to voice your dissatisfaction and frustration.

From Deep Throat to Cohort:
The Devolution of the American media

The last straw has just descended. The continued debasing of "journalism" has hit a nadir; a profession which is an integral part of our constitution, our way of life, the very fabric of the American ideal has finally disintegrated. We are left with a press toothless, courage less, and faithless in the pursuit of truth. Bob Woodward, the iconic reporter, has devolved into a willing accomplice of the ruling elite. This truly is a sad day for journalism; a sadder day yet for America.

What was revealed should send shockwaves throughout the world. We have witnessed the unmasking of the conglomerate behind the so-called free press, whose only desire is chasing profits instead of leads. Bob Woodward, evidently selling his soul to gain "access" to the White House, is an active participant in the continuing lie perpetrated on the American people. A man whose very job is to expose lies, has instead been lying to the very public he is supposed to serve. While most reporters and journalists refuse to name sources to better serve the public, Woodward instead tells us that he did not want to tell the truth about who the original source of this leak is in order to protect himself from having to testify in front of a grand jury--courage indeed. Has it come to this, a reporter lying about a source, not to protect the public's right to know, but, rather, to deny it. What a disgrace! My hero exposed for what he is: a lying sycophant more interested in self preservation and the preservation of his access to power. After two years of lying, he finally owns up to his deception and reveals that someone in the White House did in fact speak to him two years ago about the Valerie Plame. He acknowledges this after going on talk shows dismissing the gravity of the case; erstwhile being a willing co-conspirator. How convenient that this "confession" aids an accused criminal, one Louis Libby--does the word aiding and abetting sink in yet?

The truth is that Woodward's actions are symptomatic of the general state of the press. Reporters have morphed into a tool of power instead of speaking truth to it. In the obsession to "make news", reporters jumped in the bed of the very people they are supposed to be keeping honest. Moreover, companies such as the new york times and the washington post have embedded in their employees the notion that breadth of reporting is more important than depth of reporting. In the mad dash to capture market share, the modern day news media has settled on a vision of capturing the most amount of readers while making sure to coddle the ruling elite. Sure they will report of some senator who cheated on his wife, but will ignore the actions of the very institution that senator works in that cheats their constituents. News has turned into a snapshot of events which can capture the most attention, instead of a continuous effort to educate and cultivate an informed public. Obsessed with gaining access to news makers, the news media has transformed into whores of the powerful, turning tricks to get two minutes of pleasure with the very people they are supposed to keep in check. Sound bites that tell us nothing, rhetoric reported as news, truth forsaken for an intangible balance. On a scale of news, truth has no balance and counterbalance; truth stands on its own. Yet the state of today's news media is that of a meek poodle, yelping at its master for a crumb from the table. And they wonder why subscriptions have fallen off, it's because those you serve are seeing more and more that you are Judas to the public. Unable to bear the cross of truth, you instead sell out for the nearest shekel. Reporters who no longer see the profession as a crusade against tyranny, instead you seek it as a way to get your spot on the stage. Journalists who are more eager to stand in front of the microphone instead of behind it, the silent tool of truth transformed into publicity hounds while you try to land on the new york journal best seller list. Think about that next time you are talking to your agent on a new book deal. For those who might have true passion for journalism, ask yourself if you are really doing today what you came into the business to accomplish when you were in college. For those that have always seen journalism as a means of acclaim, I truly hope that the day will come where you are torn down by your own lack of scruples.

All this leads back to Bob Woodward. From this day on, I urge all readers and subscribers of the washington post to cancel their subscription TODAY. It pains me that a great paper like the washington post has been reduced to enabling an admitted liar and in the end justifying his stance. Until Woodward has been summarily dismissed from the washington post payroll, a full accounting given of what he testified about to the grand jury, and a full page apology given to the readers, I will NEVER pick up another washington post newspaper again. I have already cancelled my subscription and urge all other readers to do the same until the washington post have resolved this situation as described above. I urge all readers to cease and desist visiting the, and I urge all businesses that stand for honor and intergrity to stop selling the paper forthwith until a full accounting is given. There is one weapon that the consumer, vote with your wallet and starve the washington post of its revenue; it seems that is the only way to get a whore's attention.

Posted by: | November 25, 2005 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Regard Iowa's 1st : Rick Dickinson has raised over $200,000 with 90% plus from within the district. Bruce Braley's finacial supporters are 90% trial lawyers from outside the district. This will be a horse race for the Democratic nomination.
Nussle's performance as Budget Chair this year will affect his value to the ticket in 2006.

Posted by: Bob Osterhaus | November 25, 2005 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Regard Iowa's 1st : Rick Dickinson has raised over $200,000 with 90% plus from within the district. Bruce Braley's finacial supporters are 90% trial lawyers from outside the district. This will be a horse race for the Democratic nomination.
Nussle's performance as Budget Chair this year will affect his value to the ticket in 2006.

Posted by: Bob Osterhaus | November 25, 2005 12:52 PM | Report abuse

For more on the Southern candidates listed here, plus information about a few more hot races, including the 11th District in NC and the 22nd District in Texas, check out the SouthNow Blog:

Posted by: Martin Johnson | November 25, 2005 12:20 PM | Report abuse

You might want to ad Sue Kelly here in New York to your list. She's a rabid religous right win harlot that has been playing the part of a moderate, and the curtain is about to come down on her act.

Pinto Bean

Posted by: Pinto Bean | November 25, 2005 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what you may think of the announcment earlier this week that Jim Kolbe (R) Arizona 8th is retiring. Should be an interesting race as border issues will take center stage. So far, Randy Graf (R), a former state house member has signed up to run. Democrats are now galvanized to try to capture a seat that has been in Republican hands since 1984.

Posted by: Jim Ward | November 25, 2005 11:33 AM | Report abuse

CT-02, CT-04, and AZ-08 should all be in the top 10.

Posted by: asdf | November 25, 2005 11:23 AM | Report abuse

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