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The Friday Line: The Battle for the House

If it's Friday, it's time for The Fix's latest Line. This week it's time to assess the 2006 battle for the House, where Republicans look likely to retain the majority given the (still) relatively small number of competitive seats.

Democrats have several months to fill slots in toss-up races and must do so if they want to make a believable argument as to why they can wrest back control. Again, the No. 1 ranked race is the most likely to switch parties, the 10th ranked race is the least likely (of the contests mentioned) to switch. Comments, criticism and queries are welcome.

Without further ado, the House line:

1. Colorado's 7th District -- OPEN: Rep. Bob Beauprez's (R) decision to leave the House to run for governor in 2006 creates a prime pick-up opportunity for Democrats. Created to be a toss-up between the two parties, the 7th District has lived up to its reputation. In the 2004 presidential election, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) won it by three percent, a margin of just more than 8,000 votes. Recognizing their vulnerabilities here, Republicans quickly united behind Rick O'Donnell, who lost to Beauprez in the 2002 GOP primary. Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Paschall is also weighing a bid but is not given much of a chance even if he runs. Democrats will have a primary between former state senator Ed Perlmutter and former state representative Peggy Lamm. Perlmutter appears to be the favorite as he has rolled up a series of key endorsements from organized labor.

2. Georgia's 8th District: Rep. Jim Marshall (D) faces a two-headed Republican monster as he seeks a third term in the House: A GOP-drawn redistricting plan that changed the makeup of his current 3rd District earlier this year, and former representative Mac Collins (R), who is running to oust him next November. The redrawn 8th District still includes Marshall's Macon base but also encompasses Collins's home in Butts County, which he represented during his six terms in Congress. (Collins left Congress in 2004 to pursue a Senate bid.) As evidence of the high priority national Republicans are placing on the seat, Vice President Dick Cheney will travel to the district to raise money for Collins on Oct. 28.

3. Iowa's 1st District -- OPEN: Rep. Jim Nussle (R) is running for governor, and ever since Nussle first won this eastern Iowa district, Democrats have been trying unsuccessfully to unseat him.  With Nussle seeking statewide office, Democrats believe now is their time. Using the 2004 presidential election as a guide, the seat seems to tilt in Democrats' favor, as Kerry won 53 percent to 46 percent over Bush.  Three-way primaries are underway on both sides. Former Iowa Trial Lawyers Association head Bruce Braley is leading the financial pack for Democrats; state Rep. Bill Dix and Heart of America CEO Mike Whalen are in a virtual dead heat in fundraising on the GOP side.

4. Pennsylvania's 6th District: Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) has so far been unable to plant roots with the voters of this suburban Philadelphia district. Elected in 2002 to a seat drawn for him by the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania legislature, Gerlach narrowly defeated Dan Wofford (D), the son of the former senator, 51 percent to 49 percent. Two years later Gerlach eked out another 51-49 win over attorney Lois Murphy, a first-time candidate who drew raves from national Democrats. Murphy's back for a rematch; and given the current mood in Pennsylvania toward Republicans (take a look at GOP Sen. Rick Santorum's polling numbers as an example), one gets a sense of why Democrats see Gerlach as vulnerable.

5. Illinois's 8th District: - Rep. Melissa Bean (D) was the upset special of 2004, defeating longtime Rep. Phil Crane (R) in what should be a comfortably Republican district. Bean won by making the race a referendum on Crane, who had served in Congress since 1969 and whose campaign apparatus was rusty -- at best. She will not have that luxury in her bid for reelection. Republicans have a crowded primary field, which helps Bean; but regardless of the GOP nominee, the fact that Bush carried this district by 12 points in 2004 ensures a close race.

6. New Mexico's 1st District: State Attorney General Patricia Madrid's (D) recent decision to challenge Rep. Heather Wilson (R) ensures another tough-race for this battle-tested incumbent. Madrid, who is Hispanic, has been in her current office since 1998 and has been mentioned by the party for a variety of offices, including lieutenant governor and state land commissioner. Wilson represents one of the most closely divided districts along partisan lines in the country, and if there is a wind at Democrats' back, it will be felt here first.

7. Ohio's 6th District -- OPEN: Rep. Ted Strickland's (D) decision to run for governor opens up a seat where Republicans are talking up their takeover chances. The field appears to be set on both sides. State House Speaker Pro Tempore Chuck Blasdel is the likely Republican nominee, while Democrats have settled on state Sen. Charlie Wilson. The seat is a toss-up; President Bush carried it with 51 percent in 2004.

8. Florida's 22nd District: Rep. Clay Shaw (R) is a perennial Democratic target even though his seat was made more Republican by the 2001 redistricting process.  Democrats are (again) touting a candidate to knock off Shaw -- state Sen. Ron Klein.  Shaw was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, an announcement that led to immediate speculation that he might not seek another term. GOP strategists insist Shaw is in it for the long haul and argue that he has shown a capacity to run and win against well-funded Democratic challengers. Klein has proved a formidable fundraiser so far in 2005, so it appears Shaw is in for a nail-biter.

9. Georgia's 12th District: Rep. John Barrow (D), like Rep. Marshall in the state's 8th District, has seen his reelection prospects affected by the state's new congressional boundaries. After defeating freshman Rep. Max Burns (R) in an Athens area district in 2004, Barrow watched as GOP line-drawers cut his home out of the 12th District.  The 12th should be friendly territory for a Democrat, even though Barrow does not live there (though he has said he plans to move into the district). Burns will be able use his one-term in Congress to raise the money to fund a rematch with Barrow.

10. Indiana's 9th District: Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) narrowly edged Rep. Baron Hill (D) in this southern Indiana district in 2004 and will face Hill again in 2006. This seat, along with Rep. John Hostettler's (R-Ind.) 8th District, will be major targets for national Democrats, who believe the current political mood gives them the leverage they need to pry those seats from Republicans. This race looks to be a carbon copy of the 2004 contest, but Hill hopes a favorable Democratic climate nationally will reverse the result.

Check out last week's Friday Line on the Senate.

-- Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 21, 2005; 9:23 AM ET
Categories:  House , The Line  
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Next: A National Voice for Mark Warner?

Comments

Good site

Posted by: Dublin Hotels | March 22, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Add Arizona's 8th district to your top ten seats to watch! After 22 years, moderate Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) announced over Thanksgiving that he's NOT seeking a 12th term. That means a Democrat could totally win this year. Kolbe was only reelected because he's a moderate and an incumbent.

In 2004 the Dems had Tim Sultan, the rising star in Arizona Democratic politics. By far the smartest, most thoughtful politician we've had in years (and good looking too). The guy has an MBA and another Master's in gov't from Harvard. Was an aide to House Dem Leader Nancy Pelosi and AZ Dem Governor Janet Napolitano. And he raised like 5 times the money everyone else did in the primary. Republicans run for the hills!

Posted by: Sara M. | November 25, 2005 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I agree with PATeacher that the PA7 is a prime area for a Democratic pickup next year, but it's curious tha s/he cites Paul Scoles as a well-organized frontrunner. If one subtracts the $15,000 that Scoles lent his campaign out of his own money, Scoles has only $3000 in the bank. This doesn't bode well. The PA7 is squarely in the Philadelphia media market. A succesful race will cost well over $1 million. If Scoles can't improve on his fairly anemic fundraising in 2004 (he raised and spent about $20,000), then he's not a serious candidate, however well-intentioned he may be. Time will tell -- or, the next filing date in January, will tell -- whether Scoles and Lentz can raise the money necessary to fight this battle. Democrats need to be pragmatic. Since both candidates are running as progressives, the party should back whomever demonstrates the ability to raise money and wage a proper campaign.

Posted by: SwarthmoreResident | November 15, 2005 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree with PATeacher that the PA7 is a prime area for a Democratic pickup next year, but it's curious tha s/he cites Paul Scoles as a well-organized frontrunner. If one subtracts the $15,000 that Scoles lent his campaign out of his own money, Scoles has only $3000 in the bank. This doesn't bode well. The PA7 is squarely in the Philadelphia media market. A succesful race will cost well over $1 million. If Scoles can't perform on his fairly anemic fundraising in 2004 (he raised and spent about $20,000), then he's not a serious candidate, however well-intentioned he may be. Time will tell -- or, the next filing date in January, will tell -- whether Scoles and Lentz can raise the money necessary to fight this battle. Democrats need to be pragmatic. Since both candidates are running as progressives, the party should back whomever demonstrates the ability to raise money and wage a proper campaign.

Posted by: SwarthmoreResident | November 15, 2005 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know of a systematic "scorecard" website keeping track (tabularly would be ideal) of all the House districts, which are contested, how the vote went last time, maybe how they voted presidentially, etc? Tall order maybe but would be much appreciated - I haven't been able to find anything like this.

Posted by: Mark | November 7, 2005 2:38 PM | Report abuse

There will be some truly interesting races next year--but we have to remember that the election is, in fact, next year. I agree that Democrats are more energized but that may or may not translate into many seats--primarily because an EVEN election favors Republicans by 4-5 points due to the minority held districts that are 80% plus Democratic.

As for the previous post by "MissMarmelstein"--showing contempt for any voters in your district is a sure way of losing. Perhaps that is why Baron Hill did lose.

Posted by: Dave N. | October 29, 2005 3:49 PM | Report abuse

hopefully the people in IN 9 will wake up and realize that we had an AWESOME representative before the crazy righties got hold of the ballot box, and will vote baron hill back in. the GOP did some very very nasty campaigning and told lies about rep. hill (that he supported putting pornography in the hands of schoolchildren, for instance), and sodrel basically won because there are some ignoramuses in the more rural counties (not trying to be rude, but i worked on hill's campaign and, well, that's just how it was). however, sodrel's done an abysmal job, and this time most likely won't have tom delay stumping in the district for him and sending him money. hopefully all y'all hoosiers in the south will remember a time that we had better representation. people, have some dignity. this is lee hamilton's seat, for crying out loud!

Posted by: MissMarmelstein | October 28, 2005 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Bill Gluba ran a very competitive race in the First District in Iowa last time, running considerably ahead of the national ticket. With the national republican party now a weakness, his demonstrated broad base of support should stand him in good stead.

Posted by: Brian Yates | October 28, 2005 3:54 PM | Report abuse

PA 7th (Curt Weldon's district) will indeed be VERY competitive in 2006. But not because of an "Iraq veteran" candidate. The clear Democratic front-runner is Paul Scoles, a medical doctor and chairman of the Haverford Township Democratic committee. He has the backing of the county parties in all three counties (Delaware, Montgomery, and Chester)that are parts of the 7th. The Iraq vet 'candidate', Bryan Lentz, is a total unknown. Scoles, on the other hand, gained 42 % of the vote in 2004 despite entering the race late and having virtually no money. The district has been tilting ever-more favorable for Democrats in recent elections (carried by Clinton twice, Gore, then Kerry, and also by Rendell). One of the very few split districts (represented by a Republican but won by Kerry). Scoles is well-organized this time around and Curt Weldon is increasingly marginalizing himself with his obsession on foreign policy/national security intrigue and due to an embarrassing patronage/nepotism incident involving his daughter. National Democratic party should be paying close attention here, and should help Paul Scoles take this seat for the Democrats.

Posted by: PATeacher | October 24, 2005 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I don't want to add any pet districts of mine as nominees for Democratic opportunities. The fact is that when you're making a top 10 list out of 435 races, by definition you're only scratching the surface. It's less than 0.25% of all House seats. So I'd give Chris a break here unless we want him to do a longer list--like top 25 or 50 seats--which I'd be all for but know would take a lot more work.

However, I think J Callmont makes a strong point and is on to something. If you ignore the Republicans' House gains in Texas in the 2004 elections, you actually wind up with a small (2-3 seat) net gain for Democrats. So if it weren't for DeLay's shenanigans, the Dems would actually have picked up seats in the House while losing them in the Senate and while Bush was being re-elected. I think what Texas did is a horrible, dangerous precedent, but I also think the Democrats should fight back tit for tat and not roll over for the Rs like they usually do. There are I think 43 states that have more than 1 House seat. Many of these have state governments which are divided or controlled by Republicans. But there are some solid opportunities for Democrats to offset Texas as well. New Mexico may be one of them, even though it only has 3 House seats. The states whose redistricting inaction truly amazes me are Illinois (20 seats) and New Jersey (13-14 seats). Between these two states alone, there are as many House seats as Texas has. And both states are controlled entirely by Democrats.

We also couldn't possibly talk about partisan redistricting without raking California Democrats over the coals. The state has 53 House seats, more than a state has ever had in history, but the Dems there were so driven by fear that they did NOTHING but solidify the seats already held by Democrats (32) and gave their 1 new district from the 2000 census to a Dem. So there are still 20 Republican House members from CA, in a state with more opportunity than any other to oust Republicans and elect several more Democrats. Until the 2003 recall election, CA was an all-Dem government. Gray Davis and the CA legislature let down the whole country by failing to do what Texas did anyway mid-decade.

All that said, I'm a believer in fairly drawn districts. The model Iowa, Washingon, and a handful of other states have adopted is the prototype the rest of the states should follow. There are exciting and promising reform measures pending in Ohio and New Mexico to do this, and I strongly support them.

http://sandwichrepair.blogspot.com

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | October 23, 2005 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget OH-18, Bob Ney's district. If, as many expect, he gets indicted in the Abramoff slush fund scandal he is toast.

Posted by: Heywood | October 22, 2005 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, you can't forget Musgrave's district in Colorado, or Chris Shays in Connecticut. Shays only won with 52 percent. Also, Robb Simmons, also of Connecticut is potentially vulnerable. Mark Kennedy's open seat in Minnesota could also be picked up by Democrats. At the very least you should add Chris Shays to your list, because he is definitely vulnerable. Also, I wouldn't be so sure about the House staying in Republican hands. The Republicans have had a fairly neutral climate in 2004, and with DeLay's redistricting were guarenteed to keep their majority. As long as there is a neutral climate, the Republicans are fine. But if there is a strong tide against the Republicans, you're going to see a lot of races that looked safe turn competitive. At this point, I'd say there's no telling who's going to end up with control of the House in 2007. Whenever one party loses the House, they tend to have held power there for a long time and begun to think they are immune from voter anger. The Democrats were shocked when they were swept out of control in 1994. If the Republicans don't get their act together, they are going to be stunned when they lose their majority.

Posted by: Cal | October 21, 2005 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, you can't forget Musgrave's district in Colorado, or Chris Shays in Connecticut. Shays only won with 52 percent. Also, Robb Simmons, also of Connecticut is potentially vulnerable. Mark Kennedy's open seat in Minnesota could also be picked up by Democrats. At the very least you should add Chris Shays to your list, because he is definitely vulnerable. Also, I wouldn't be so sure about the House staying in Republican hands. The Republicans have had a fairly neutral climate in 2004, and with DeLay's redistricting were guarenteed to keep their majority. As long as there is a neutral climate, the Republicans are fine. But if there is a strong tide against the Republicans, you're going to see a lot of races that looked safe turn competitive. At this point, I'd say there's no telling who's going to end up with control of the House in 2007. Whenever one party loses the House, they tend to have held power there for a long time and begun to think they are immune from voter anger. The Democrats were shocked when they were swept out of control in 1994. If the Republicans don't get their act together, they are going to be stunned when they lose their majority.

Posted by: Cal | October 21, 2005 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I would not underestimate the level of disgust the American people have with this White House.

I really think people are tired of the war, tired of half truths and tired of the cronyism.

And I'm a Republican !

Posted by: Texas Slim | October 21, 2005 5:48 PM | Report abuse

The stated goal of Texans for a Republican Majority and Americans for Republican Maajority was to insulate GOP control of Congress against the possibility of losing control of Congress, even in an extremely unfavorable political climate for Republicans -- as we have now. If the GOP holds on to Congress next year, that strategy -- which hinged on the very actions for which Tom DeLay has been indicted -- then those criminal strategies will have been validated.

That's not good for the country, no matter how you slice it.

Posted by: Rich | October 21, 2005 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Marilyn Musgrave is in deep trouble in Colorado's fouth district. her opponent will be Angie Paccione, a lady with a "to die for" resume'.

Posted by: jbowen43 | October 21, 2005 5:32 PM | Report abuse

There is NOTHING democratic about a legislature in which a majority of the seats are not competitive.

Posted by: PWLove | October 21, 2005 5:22 PM | Report abuse

IN 9 and IN 8 are going to be a lot fun. The Democrats in both districts have great shots at winning those seats.

I think Baron Hill only lost by 1,000 votes in 2004. It might have been the closest race in the country. He should be able to get his seat back.

Posted by: Kentucky Jim | October 21, 2005 4:49 PM | Report abuse

You neglected to mention the ultimate "swing" race in the 8th CD of Wisconsin in Green Bay. Mark Green (R) is retiring to run for Governor, leaving an open seat in a district won by Bush (R), but also by Feingold (D) Kohl (D) and Gov. Doyle (D). The right democrat wins that race. Wisconsin powerhouse David Obey (D) just last week endorsed Jamie Wall, a Rhodes Scholar (like Feingold) and a business consultant, as a strong candidiate likely to pick up a seat for the Dems. In a good Dem climate, in 2006, Wall should be able to follow Kohl and Feingold in picking up the seat.

Posted by: PackerBoy | October 21, 2005 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Your comments about Rep. Heather Wilson and the closely divided New Mexico 1st Congressional District are accurate. But this district does not HAVE to be so close.

If Governor Richardson would follow our neighbor to the east's stellar (and apparently legal) example and redistrict the 1st to include more of the 3rd Congresional District surplus of Democrats, Heather wouldn't have a chance of winning in 2006. Since Democrats run the House and Senate in New Mexico and they're all afriad of Bill, he would easily be able to do this.

The fact is New Mexico's Congressional districts are currently drawn to favor the Republicans in the state by packing so many of them into District 3 (Bill's old seat). Personally, I refuse to vote for Big Bill again unless he moves to redistrict the 1st District.

Posted by: J Callmont | October 21, 2005 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Nebraska may have a competitive race in the 2nd District. The incumbent Republican is rumored to be running for mayor of Omaha in 2008 and has taken his eye off the ball---his fundraising is down from two years ago. He also is a victim of Tom DeLay's misfortune---his $13k from DeLay has caused a bit of a buzz here. He is still the favorite, though, and he trouced his competition last time. The challenger has business community connections and is a good looking kid.

Posted by: Charles | October 21, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse

i think the OK 5th could be a lot of fun, a nasty Republican primary is brewing, and if a well heeled Dem gets in, the race could be wide open.

Posted by: Mark | October 21, 2005 3:52 PM | Report abuse

How many "competitive" House seats were there in 1994?

Then, the Republicans gave the American people a good reason to change their voting habits and put Republicans in office.

Now, the Republicans are giving Americans a good reason to vote them out of office.

Don't be surprised if a few "sure" seats fall the Democrats way Nov. 2006, given all the indictments--trials and possible convictions by that time, the horrible economy, the quagmire in Iraq, backsliding in education and healthcare, and a new bout of inflation.

Given the number poor people Bush is creating, expect a rise in crime--traditionally a Republican issue, but like Iraq and the budget a problem of their own creation.

Posted by: Carl | October 21, 2005 3:45 PM | Report abuse

If people vote the Republicans back in after the absolute disgusting mess they have made of this country, they deserve everything they get! However, our children and grandchildren do not deserve to inherit the mess our Congress and president has made. Everyone might want to think of voting out all incumbents who have already served two terms. We need a change. We need to show Congress that they work for US, the citizens, not corporations. They are not there just to grab more wealth and power. Let's show them who is boss!

Posted by: Disgusted | October 21, 2005 3:24 PM | Report abuse

While PA-6 is certainly a great race, and Lois is a great candidate, the 8th is as ripe, if not more for the picking. Patrick Murphy is an Iraq war Vet running against first-termer Mike Fitzpatrick. This is a District that has gone for the D in the last 4 presidential elections. The RNCC and the DCCC agree that this is one of the best chances Dems have for pickups

Posted by: McDaniel | October 21, 2005 3:11 PM | Report abuse

TAKE A LOOK AT DUKE CUNNINGHAM'S SEAT IN SAN DIEGO AREA. HE IS NOT SEEKING REELECTION FOLLOWING A SERIERS OF CORRUPTION SCANDALS AND THE DEMOCRATIC OPPONENT AGAIN WILL BE A VERY ACTIVE FRANCINE BUSBY. TOGETHER WITH THE LACK OFPOPULARITY OF THE CALIF GOVERNOR, THIS NORMALLY REPUBLICAN DISTRICT MAY BE UP FOR GRABS

THGANKS FOR YOUR EXCELLENT REPORTING; PLS REVIEW THIS REGULARLY

Posted by: JOE OPPENHEIMER | October 21, 2005 2:08 PM | Report abuse

There's an important race you've missed in the article - California's 50th. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, caught up in scandal, is not running for re-election, and no Republican has entered the race as of yet. There is a very strong Democrat, Francine Busby, who ran against Duke in '04, and is running again. She's gotten national attention from the Democratic party and should be a real contender.

Posted by: Joan | October 21, 2005 2:01 PM | Report abuse

There are apparently a few Iraqi war veterans running for Congress on the Democratic ticket. One is, I believe, challenging Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. I don't know anything about the challenger. Do you think it will make that seat more competative?

Posted by: Marcia | October 21, 2005 1:58 PM | Report abuse

There are apparently a few Iraqi war veterans running for Congress on the Democratic ticket. One is, I believe, challenging Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. I don't know anything about the challenger. Do you think it will make that seat more competative?

Posted by: Marcia | October 21, 2005 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Congressmen Delay, Ney, and Sherwood all seem to have been touched by scandal since the 2004 election. How does that affect their election chances?

Posted by: Ralph Bailey Langdon | October 21, 2005 1:02 PM | Report abuse

You might want to look into Connecticuts' Fourth District where long time Rep. Christopher Shays is again being challenged by the Democrat who lost to him by four points last time, Diane Farrell. Although Shays has always had liberal Democrat backing, to many liberals he has lost his luster. Many Republicans are unhappy with him and this race could go either way.

Posted by: Dave McMahon | October 21, 2005 12:46 PM | Report abuse

I honestly don't understnad where you get the feeling that there will be such a small number of contestable races in 06. This is not a conventional political climate.

If the Dems adopt a national strategy of tying in local candidates with a Bush-Frist-Delay trifecta that stresses the warning of a 1-party system that does not allow checks-and-balances (and therefor, accountability), the GOP is in big trouble.

Watch Long Island, where I live. I am willing to bet that next months races for local office will continue to show inroads for Democrats, now at an unprecendented level in local government. In fact, the red placards that have normally been used by GOP candidates are being replaced by some with red, white and blue. And you hear nothing about Bush on their campaign spots.

Your assumption sounds like it was driven by the RNC. But its okay. I don't mind if the GOP remains complacent.

Posted by: scootmandubious | October 21, 2005 12:19 PM | Report abuse

The conventional wisdom about the number of competitive seats in the US House of Representatives makes what assumptions about the voting patterns of independent voters?
How does the equation change if 65% of independents express disapproval of the performance of President Bush and/or the Republican Congressional majority a year from now?
How much of the independent vote did Republicans win in 1994, and how did that compare to 1992?

Posted by: Ralph Bailey Langdon | October 21, 2005 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I am hearing rumors that Rep Bill Young R-FL may retire. I don't know how that district swings. He's been so good to the district and the state as a senior appropriator.

Posted by: Political Junkie | October 21, 2005 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I'd hope that soon you'll add Oklahoma's 5th District where incumbent Ernest Istook, R, is leaving to run for governor. The current leading GOP candidate to replace him is Mary Fallin, Lt. Gov., but she's seen here as a very flawed candidate. So far, though, no Dem has entered the race who has a chance to win, but rumors abound that a well-funded novice will jump in before Christmas.

Posted by: laocoon | October 21, 2005 10:02 AM | Report abuse

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