November 4th: Final ratings
We will soon know the breakdown of the 111th Congress. Surprises surely await us, but there is no question Democrats will be very disappointed if they net less than 20 seats. Who could have predicted just six weeks ago that only losing a net 20 seats would be a great moral victory for Republicans?
Note, when reading these ratings, that a "lean" designation means that the race tilts towards one candidate but that the contest remains highly competitive and that an opposite result would not be surprising. A "likely" designation signals that a candidate is strongly favored and that the opposite result would be a considered a stunning upset - though we should certainly expect a number of those on Tuesday nights. There is simply not enough data on House races to draw exact conclusions as to which district are the most vulnerable.
- Safe Democratic: 211
- Likely/Safe Democratic: 231
- Lean/Likely/Safe Democratic: 246
- Toss-ups: 26
- Lean/Likely/Safe Republican: 163
- Likely/Safe Republican: 149
- Safe Republican: 124
History of House ratings:
- October: Can Democrats keep up the 2006 parallel?
- August: Will the DCCC succeed in putting the top tier in play?
- June: The field continues to shift towards Democrats, particularly in New York
- February: As many more races get competitive, Democrats keep clear edge
- November: How many more Republican retirements?
- October: Democrats feel better as GOP faces worrisome retirements
- September: Democrats poised to keep majority
- AK-AL (Rep. Young, polls, last updated November 1st): Any hope Rep. Don Young might have had to overcome the ethical scandals that surround him and survive Tuesday's vote evaporated with Ted Stevens' conviction. The state GOP's corruption troubles and Young's ruined reputation were once again cast in the spotlight. Ethan Berkowitz has been leading Young for months, and Democrats are poised to win their first federal race in this state since the 1970s.
- AZ-01 (open, last updated October 25th): No one gives Republican candidate Sydney Hay much of a chance to beat former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in this open seat, but the DCCC is taking no chances. It has already poured $1.7 million in the district, including a $338,000 buy this week. The DCCC's continuous spending suggests that their internal numbers aren't showing the easy pick-up that has come to be expected, but those $1.7 million spent labeling Hay a "corporate lobbyist" should close any door the Republican might have had.
- IL-11 (Open, polls, last updated October 25th): Debbie Halvorson was once one of the Democrats' biggest recruits, while Republicans did not even have a candidate well into 2008. But eventual GOP nominee Martin Ozinga proved surprisingly resilient in a district Democrats were expected to pick up easily. Not anymore. The Democrats' surge over the past month has erased the GOP's hopes of pulling off come-back victories in districts like this, and the DCCC's money (more than $1 million) is helping Halvorson close the deal. Independent polls and private Democratic surveys find Halvorson pulling ahead.
- FL-24 (Rep. Feeney, last updated November 1st): Rep. Tom Feeney was caught in the worst position a politician can find himself in: He was so damaged by reports of his ties to Jack Abramoff that he simply had to air an ad apologizing - but in so doing he might very well have sealed his fate. Even Republicans no longer believe Feeney can survive, and the NRCC has not spent a dime on his behalf; Democrats, meanwhile, have spent more than $1,1 million and have ensured that the Abramoff-funded Scotland trip remains on voters' minds with some hard-hitting ads of their own. The only poll we have seen of late has been a DCCC internal showing Kosmas leading by 23%; that might have seemed excessive, but the GOP's failure to release a counter-poll reveals just as much about the state of the race as the DCCC's poll.
- NY-13 (open, last updated October 5th): Who knew Republicans had it in them to make this race even more chaotic? Just all the spring and summer confusion seemed to have given way to a slow wait for Democrat McMahon's certain victory, a new chapter was written in the civil war of Staten Island's Republican Party when GOP nominee Staniere squashed an attempt to grant him a judicial nomination to perhaps pave the way for Rep. Fossella's return on the ballot.
- NY-25 (open, last updated October 5th): An open seat in a blue-leaning district is a gift to Democrats in a year in which they are favored. Note that the DCCC has stepped in and spent more than $100,000 in ads so far; should that be taken as a sign that the race could be tighter than we are thinking or as confirmation that Democrats have enough money for insurance policies? The only potential danger for Democratic candidate Maffei right now is his connection with Rep. Rangel.
- VA-11 (open, polls, last updated October 5th): The situation is the same as in NY-25, and the DCCC has spent some money here as well.
Democratic seats, Likely take-over (1)
- FL-16 (Rep. Mahoney, last updated October 18th): Rep. Tim Mahoney was elected to replace Mike Foley two years ago - and now he himself is embroiled in a massive sex scandal that includes charges of pay-off and harassment. Pelosi has called for an investigation, Republicans are having a field day and Mahoney’s re-election prospects have fallen so low that even the NRCC moved out of the district: they don’t even see the need to spend any money to ensure the seat falls in their lap. A recent GOP poll had Tom Rooney leading by more than 20%, confirming that this race is over.
Republican seats, Lean take-over (12)
- CO-04 (Rep. Musgrave, polls, last updated October 5th): Musgrave consistently under-performs her district's Republican lean, and she holds the dubious distinction of being the 2006 House candidate to win with the lowest share of the vote (45%). Now, Democrats are heavily targeting her, and so are independent groups. Musgrave has been targeted by the largest outside expenditure of any district: the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund just bought a stunning $650,000 worth of air time. A late August independent poll and a mid-September Democratic poll found Democratic nominee Betsy Markey leading Musgrave outside of the MoE - never a good place for an incumbent to be.
- FL-08 (Rep. Keller, last updated October 25th): It looks like Rep. Keller will be the victim of the Democrats' gains in the Sunshine State, and Obama's ground game risks overpowering the GOP machine in this Orlando-based district. In fact, Democrats just gained an edge in voter registration in the district, reversing the GOP's 14,000 voter advantage just two years ago. Add that to Keller's own weakness (he only received 55% of the vote against a weak opponent in the primary), and you get an explosive combination. The DCCC just released a poll showing its candidate Allen Grayson leading by 11%, even though they have curiously still not spent a dime in the district. Keller quickly replied with a survey of his own showing him leading 47% to 43%, but you know things are bad for an incumbent when he feels compelled to release such weak numbers.
- ID-01 (Rep. Sali, polls, last updated November 4rd): That such a conservative district could find itself in the lean take-over column is entirely due to Rep. Bill Sali, who is despised but much of his state's GOP establishment - as well as by many voters. Sali is a controversial provocateur who gained national headlines recently by heckling his opponent's chief of staff while he was delivering a television interview. The latest polls show Democratic nominee Walt Minnick has a slight lead. But this is Idaho, so no Republican incumbent will ever be a clear underdog and the race remains highly competitive.
- MI-09 (Rep. Knollenberg, last updated October 25th): Joe Knollenberg is a well-established incumbent who would be very difficult to beat in a neutral environment, but the Democratic wave is now threatening to submerge him. Not only did the incumbent receive a terrible blow when McCain abruptly pulled out of Michigan, undercutting Knollenberg's hopes of relying on the GOP's presidential ground game to turn out his own base, but the NRCC has canceled all of the $600,000 it had planned on spending on his behalf. By contrast, the DCCC has already spent $1,6 million on behalf of Democratic candidate Gary Peters and the Obama campaign is still organizing in the state. A just-released DCCC poll has Peters ahead by 10%; that might be overstating his lead, but the NRCC's decision to pull out of the race confirms that even the GOP thinks the race is drifting away.
- NC-08 (Rep. Hayes, polls, last updated October 25th): What a difference two years make. In 2006, Democrat Larry Kissell was pleading for the DCCC to invest some resources in his race against Rep. Robin Hayes. The DCCC left him in the cold, and Kissell lost by about 300 votes. This year, the DCCC is not committing the same mistake: they have already poured in $1.7 million, while the NRCC has invested nothing. Kissell is also benefiting from Democratic gains in North Carolina. And the expected boost in African-American turnout (as testified by the early voting numbers) should make a huge difference in this district, which has a substantial African-American population. As if this was not enough, both an internal DCCC poll and a SUSA survey showed Kissell with a large lead over Hayes over the past month.
- NM-01 (Open, polls, last updated October 5th): GOP nominee Darren White is one of the Republicans' strongest recruits this cycle, and it is unlucky for him he is running in a year whose fundamentals favor Democrats. John Kerry only won the district by 3% in 2004 but Barack Obama could win it by a comfortable margin, and that should help Democratic nominee Martin Heinrich who already appears to have a slight edge. This race remains highly competitive, however, and the DCCC is pouring in hundreds of thousands of dollars already.
- NM-02 (Open, last updated November 3rd): This is a conservative district, but Barack Obama's gains in the state will hep Harry Teague (in this district) and Martin Heinrich (in NM-01). But a dominant dynamic in this district has been money: Both nominees are wealthy, but Teague has donated far more to his campaign and has benefited from a high $1,5 million the DCCC has poured in the race. By contrast, not only has the NRCC failed to invest a dime in the district, but Ed Tinsley himself has stopped airing advertisements, meaning that the GOP's camp has gone dark in the district.
- NV-03 (Rep. Porter, polls, last updated October 5th): Porter recently decided that it was urgent for him to release an internal poll which shows him leading within the margin error and at a dismal 41%. That tells you just about all you need to know on Porter's vulnerability. The incumbent is being helped by Freedom's Watch, and that money will come in very handy to strike back against the DCCC's attack ads.
- NY-29 (Rep. Kuhl, last updated October 11th): Republicans currently hold six seats in the Empire State, and Democrats have been targeting four of them - including three in upstate New York. Of these four seats, NY-29 is the only one featuring an incumbent. Rep. Kuhl barely survived the 2006 cycle, and Democrat Eric Massa is back for a rematch. It is never easy to topple an incumbent, but New York's Republican Party is in disarray and Kuhl looks highly vulnerable. Three polls released over the past week (one by SUSA, one by Research 2000 and one released by Democrats) show Massa leading outside of the margin of error, with Kuhl in the low 40s. That's not a good place to be for an incumbent. Add to that the DCCC's commitment to fund this race, and Democrats have a slight edge.
- OH-15 (Open, last updated October 11th): If the political environment didn't favor Democrats, Republicans would be very well positioned to defy the odds and retain this district. Mary Jo Kilroy hasn't been a strong campaigner (she was favored to pick-up the seat in 2006 but fell short in one of the GOP's most unexpected victories of the cycle) and Republican state Sen. Stivers is a strong recruit. But this is not a neutral year, and any Republican would face an uphill fight in an open seat in a swing district like OH-15. A recent SUSA poll and an internal DCCC poll find Kilroy leading by single-digits, and that is where the race should be on paper as well: Kilroy underperforming but able to hold on to a slight lead. Add to that the DCCC's commitment to win this seat over (they have already spent more than $1 million dollar!), and the picture looks even bleaker for the GOP.
- OH-16 (Open, last updated October 5th): Democrats were hoping this would be a fairly easy pick-up, but Republican state Sen. Schuring has stayed alive in a district that tilts Republican at the presidential level. A recent SUSA poll showed that state Sen. Boccieri is ahead, but he has yet to close the deal. The DCCC has already spent more than $800,000 attacking Schuring, and that money could make the difference in absence of a GOP response.
- PA-03 (Rep. English, last updated November 1st): Democratic challenger Kathy Dahlkemper was always considered a good recruit by Democrats. but this was never supposed to be a top-tier race. But we got our first taste of how vulnerable Rep. Phil English was when the NRCC chose to make one of its very first investments here. Unfortunately for Republicans, that did not prevent the DCCC from significantly outspending its counterpart (and pouring in a total of $1.5 million over the past 6 weeks). Pushed by the Democratic wind, Dahlkemper is in a strong position to knock off the incumbent Republican. An English victory would certainly not be shocking, but the race now narrowly tilts Democratic.
Democratic seats, Lean take-over (2)
- PA-11 (Rep. Kanjorski, last updated October 5th): Kanjorski should not be in troube. He is an entrenched Democratic incumbent whose district is not particularly conservative running in a year that is shaping up to be a strong one for Democrats. But the fact that he has not faced a competitive challenge for years has weakened his hold on the district and it might already be too late for him to save himself. Lou Barletta, the very conservative Republican candidate, is leading in most polls - and an independent survey released in September found the incumbent at a truly dismal 35%. Kanjorski's only hope is to ride the DCCC's money to discredit Barletta and eek out a narrow victory; the DCCC has indeed been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars for months now in attack ads against Barletta, and the most recent spots - hitting Barletta for supporting the privatization of Social Security - could be particularly damaging in this electoral climate. One important question is how the electorate will react to Kanjorski's leading role in crafting the bailout.
- TX-22 (Rep. Lampson, last updated October 5th): Lampson's hope for survival rests in the parties' financial disparities - if the DCCC spends heavily on his behalf and the GOP fails to answer, could he survive in what is a very heavily conservative district? Unfortunately for Lampson, Freedom's Watch is ensuring a Republican presence on the air.
Republican seats, Toss-up (18)
- AL-02 (Open, polls, last updated October 5th): Bobby Bright is perhaps the only Democrat who could have made this heavily conservative district competitive - perhaps because he is not a Democrat to start with. But competitive it is! The Montgomery mayor will also be helped by the endorsement of an important Republican mayor from the district, and his financial situation is boosted by the DCCC's investment.
- CA-04 (Open, polls, last updated October 5th): This is a heavily Republican district, and the GOP candidate is an important figure in the state's conservative circles. But the ethical trouble of outgoing Rep. Doolittle have given Democrats an opening, and their candidate Charlie Brown has already introduced himself to the district's voters (he got 46% of the vote in 2006). The GOP thinks it built an advantage by using footage of Charlie Brown in military uniform at an anti-war rally, but recent surveys have found a dead heat, with internal polls for both campaigns finding their candidates holding the edge and an independent survey giving a slight edge to Brown.
- CT-04 (Rep. Shays, last updated October 5th): As expected, this race is proving contentious. The only available poll shows the two tied, and they are on equal footing financially, and the DCCC's money is being outmatched by a big investment on Shay's behalf (more than $500,000) by the National Association of Realtors PAC.
- FL-21 (Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, polls, last updated October 5th): An early September SUSA poll found Democratic challenger Raul Martinez with a tiny lead, removing any doubt that this Southern Florida district is a prime pick-up opportunity. Diaz-Balart's hope for survival rests on the high negatives Martinez earned during his controversial tenures as the mayor of Hialeah. Diaz-Balart's ads have accused Martinez of using his office for financial gain and have hinted at his involvement in drug trafficking! Meanwhile, an independent Cuban-American group is hitting Diaz-Balart for adopting too strict a line on US-Cuba relations, and Patriot Majority is running spots on Martinez's behalf.
- FL-25 (Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, polls, last updated October 5th): The dynamics of the race are very similar to those of FL-21, as the second of the Diaz-Balart brothers also faces a challenge to his hold on Cuban-American votes. Polling has shown the race is tight, but the main difference plays to the Republican's disadvantage: Democratic candidate Joe Garcia isn't as controversial a figure as Raul Martinez, and that gives the GOP fewer openings.
- IL-10 (Rep. Kirk)
- IN-03 (Rep. Souder, last updated November 1st): This is not a district Republicans should worry about for a single minute. George Bush got 68% of the vote in 2004 - but Rep. Mark Souder only prevailed by 8% in 2006 against an underfunded opponent. This year, Democratic attorney Michael Montagano is attracting more attention and he is being helped by national Democrats. Both congressional committees have engaged in the district over the past few weeks, with the DCCC outspending its counterpart 2:1. It would be a true upset for Souder to lose, but two recent polls confirm that the race is now a dead heat and Montagano from Barack Obama's remarkable ground game in the Hoosier State. Who would have thought a Democratic presidential candidate could help down-the-ballot candidate in such a conservative district?
- LA-04 (Open, last updated October 5th): The primary was only held on October 4th (it was postponed because of Hurricane Ike) and the nominee of both parties will be decided in a runoff. The good news for Democrats is that Paul Carmouche, a DA with strong name recognition, is almost assured of winning his party's nod on November 4th as he got 48% of the vote yesterday; the Republican primary should be more contentious, as the top two candidates came within a few percentage points of each other. The general election will be held on December 6th, which should help Carmouche overcome the district's conservative lean.
- MD-01 (Open, last updated October 18th): The GOP primary between Andy Harris and Rep. Gilchrest appears to have left deep wounds that has given Democratic nominee Frank M. Kratovil a chance at a major upset in a very conservative district. Democratic internal polls are showing the race is a dead heat, and the GOP is not moving to contradict that. At the end of September, the DCCC decided to invest in the district - and they have already spent more than $900,000! Meanwhile, Harris is being helped by Club for Growth, which has spent more than $300,000 on his behalf. Democrats picking-up MD-01 would be the sign of a big blue wave.
- MI-07 (Rep. Walberg, polls, last updated October 5th): Not only are polls showing a tight race in this conservative-leaning district, but McCain's sudden and unexpected decision to pull out of Michigan leaves a void in the Republican ground game in the Wolverine State - and that could prove a huge headache for the state's down-ballot Republicans.
- MN-03 (Open, last updated November 4th): Barack Obama managed to avoid a racialization of the presidential campaign, but this House race has been marked by repeated controversies over the GOP's treatment of Aswhin Madia's ethnicity - first in statements by Republican officials about Erik Paulsen "fitting the demographics of the district" and then in a polemic over whether the GOP darkened Madia's skin color in a campaign commercial. While such controversies can certainly hurt Republicans, minority candidates rarely benefit when racial cues are injected in a race. Both parties have invested huge resources in the district, and the SEIU has also been helping Madia. SUSA's two latest polls have shown Paulsen erase a deficit and move into an edge, however, and the district has a slight Republican lean which Madia will have to overcome.
- MO-09 (Open, polls, last updated October 18th): This is one of those few districts the NRCC has invested in. That is both a sign that the party is worried about losing this conservative-leaning district and a sign that they think it is salvageable, putting the race right in the toss-up category. But the DCCC is making sure to significantly outspend the NRCC ($400,000 to $100,000). A further problem for Republicans: their nominee Blaine Luetkemeyer finished September with a stunningly low $43,000. That means that Luetkemeyer absolutely needs the national help he is getting just to stay financially viable.
- MN-06 (Rep. Bachmann, last updated October 25th): It is too early to tell whether Michelle Bachmann's anti-Americanism rant on MSNBC will prove to be her macaca moment, but it has seriously endangered her reelection chances. Two polls released over the past week showed Bachmann trailing within the margin of error, a remarkable turn of events in a race that until two weeks ago was considered to be relatively safe.And you can't accuse Bachmann of backing down easily. After standing her ground in the immediate aftermath of her comments, Bachmann is now airing an in which she asks voters to understand that “I may not always get my words right, but I know that my heart is right." Far from apologizing, Bachmann repeats her argument that liberalism stands in opposition to American values. "We could embrace government as the answer to our problems," she says. "Or we can choose freedom and liberty."
- NE-02 (Rep. Terry, last updated November 4th): GOP Rep. Lee Terry did not take the threat represented by Jim Esch seriously enough for far too long, while Esch has been campaigning for years now (he lost to Terry by 10% in 2006). Both parties have invested more than $500,000 in the district, but Esch will be able to rely on Barack Obama's organization in a district whose stand-alone electoral vote Obama is trying to win. Terry has been distributing mailers targeting "Terry-Obama" voters, a remarkable admission that Democrats are making gains in Omaha.
- NJ-03 (Open, last updated October 5th): Along with the two Ohio open seats, IL-11 and NJ-07, this is an open seat Democrats were once hoping they would win comfortably - but the only polls we have seen point to a dead heat, and the DCCC has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars. One key factor here is the candidates' own financial situation. Democratic candidate Adler has a significant fundraising advantage, and it is unlikely his Republican opponent can pull this out unless he benefits from the NRCC's help. This race could soon move back to the lean take-over column if the NRCC does not invest in the district.
- NJ-07 (Open, last updated October 5th): The situation in this Dem-leaning district parallels that of NJ-03: an open seat it should be winning more easily that the DCCC is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars in. Here again, spending disparities could make a difference: this is a very expensive district to play in because it falls in the New York City market, and that could prove all Democrats need to eek out a victory. However, Republican hopes rest on the high negatives Linda Stender earned from her 2006 race, when the GOP had played on the "pun" Stender/Spender to tag her as a "big spender." The Republicans are using the same strategy this year in a childish but effective ad campaign.
- OH-01 (Rep. Chabot, polls, last updated October 5th): Chabot barely survived in 2006, and he has just as difficult a race to deal with this year. More than in most House races, the result could depend on Barack Obama's coattails. This district has a substantial African-American population, and Obama's ground game will thus heavily target sporadic black voters here; any increase in the share of black voters would naturally boost House candidate Driehaus.
- WA-08 (Rep. Reichert, polls, last updated October 25th): Rematches tend to be the most brutal races, and the second match-up between Rep. Reichert and Darcy Burner is no exception. The latest salvos include both camps questioning their opponent's college degree, with the conservative Seattle Times taking care of the (now discredited) hit job on the Democrat. That said, Burner has significantly improved her poll numbers over the past two weeks; after two Democratic surveys found her ahead, SUSA and Research 2000 both confirmed that she had erased Reichert's lead.
- WY-AL (Open, last updated November 1st): Republicans were hoping that unpopular incumbent Barbara Cubin's retirement would guarantee that this very conservative district stays in their hand, but repeat candidate Democrat Gary Trauner is proving to be just as competitive as he was in 2006. Polls are showing Trauner and Republican nominee Cynthia Lummis are locked in a dead heat, though one worry for Democrats is that most undecided voters are Republicans. At the very least, Democrats have forced the NRCC to spend some of its limited resources in this district instead of in more obviously vulnerable seats. (The NRCC has spent about $350,000; the DCCC more than $800,000.)
Democratic seats, Toss-up (7)
- AL-05 (Open, last updated October 5th): Democrats thought that they had built a slight edge in the toughest open seat they are defending, but Republicans are now going all out against Parker Griffith. GOP candidate Wayne Parker has obtained an internal peer review from Griffith's radiation oncologist days. The document charges that Griffith under-radiated patients at his cancer treatment center in order to charge them more money; Parker is running an ad devoted to the issue, and Democrats have been forced on the defensive.
- GA-08 (Rep. Marshall, last updated October 5th): How will the politics of the bailout impact Marshall's reelection race? He is one of the rare vulnerable incumbents to have voted "yes" on both House votes, and he quickly went up with an ad explaining his decision. That is a clear sign that Marshall is worried his opponent (who came out in opposition to the bailout, though only after the first House vote) could make this into a powerful campaign issue.
- KS-02 (Rep. Boyda, polls)
- LA-06 (Rep. Cazayoux, last updated October 18th): Rep. Cazayoux became one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents when fellow Democrat Michael Jackson announced he would mount an independent bid. In this Republican a district, a Democrat needs to mobilize the African-Amerian vote, and Jackson’s candidacy threatens to divide a key constituency. Yet, Democrats have released two internal polls over the past few months showing Cazayoux crushing GOP candidate Bill Cassidy, with Jackson in single digits. I have trouble believing that two Democratic candidates could receive 30% more than the Republican nominee in a district that gave Bush 59% of the vote in 2004, but the GOP has not released an internal poll of their own. I might not (yet) moving LA-06 to lean Democratic, but it is clear that Cassidy does not have the edge I thought he would.
- NH-01 (Rep. Shea-Porter, polls, last updated October 5th): Former Rep. Jeb Bradley narrowly won the Republican primary and earned a rematch against Carol Shea-Porter. Recent polls have shown a horse race, with Shea-Porter trailing in UNH and leading by 1% in Research 2000. The outcome of this election will probably be decided by whether the GOP brand has improved among New Hampshire independents over the past two years. The DCCC has already poured in nearly $700,000 to help Shea-Porter.
- PA-12 (Rep. Murtha, last updated November 1st): The situation is getting worse by the day for Jack Murtha ever since he described Western Pennsylvania as a "racist" area. The comments have attracted a huge amount of attention in the local media, and the GOP is moving to make sure that every voter is aware of the controversy by Tuesday. A bombshell exploded today as it was revealed that the NRCC had bought $465,000 worth of air time to use against Murtha, guaranteeing that his comments continue to receive one play. Given that the NRCC has had to pull hte plug on a number of endangered Republican incumbents, for them to invest this much money in this seat means that they are very confident that Murtha's comments have been a game changer.
- WI-8 (Rep. Kagen, polls, last updated October 5th): This is the first Democratic-held district that the NRCC invested in, a sure sign that the GOP believes this is a true opportunity. The DCCC is helping Kagen, but they have not released their own polls of the race - something the GOP has been willing to do, pointing to a dead heat.
Republican seats, Lean retention (12)
- AZ-03 (Rep. Shadegg, last updated October 5th): Another stunning no one expected to be competitive this late in the cycle, but the DCCC's unexpected decision to dump more than $200,000 in an ad buy against Shadegg suggests that the veteran Republican incumbent is more endangered than commonly thought.
- CA-50 (Rep. Bilbray, last updated November 4th): Republicans are increasingly nervous about some of the districts they hold in California, as they fear that Barack Obama's coattails combined with weak Republican turnout could boost Democratic candidates in CA-03, CA-26, CA-46 and CA-50. The DCCC has invested in none of these districts, but an upset cannot be ruled out in any. CA-50 looks the most promising for Democrats; Rep. Bilbray barely prevailed in a high-profile special election back in 2006.
- KY-02 (Open, polls, last updated October 18th): This seat was the most chaotic of the cycle until NY-13 came around, and Democrats were excited that they had an excellent chance in this conservative a district. Polls taken throughout the spring and the summer suggested that state Senator Boswell had a slight lead. Yet, this is one the rare districts that have moved towards the GOP over the past few weeks. (SUSA has GOP candidate state Senator Guthrie gaining for the second month in a row to jump to a 9% lead, and the Boswell campaign’s internal numbers have the Democrat’s lead falling from 7% to 1%, with a lot of undecideds. This is an open seat in a conservative area, making it likely that undecideds would break towards Guthrie.) One possible explanation for Guthrie gains’ is that the DCCC’s involvement here has backfired: the committee’s attack ads were blasted as untrustworthy by the local media, putting Boswell on the defensive.
- NV-02 (Rep. Heller, last updated October 11th): Nevada Democrats are riding the momentum of big registration gains, while Republicans are being weighed down by the unpopularity of their governor, not to mention the GOP's national difficulties. That gives an opening to Jill Derby, who is back for a rematch in this conservative district. An independent poll recently found Rep. Heller leading but under 50% and in single-digits, so the race is certainly competitive.
- NY-26 (Open, last updated November 1st): While the race remains highly competitive, we can now say that Republican candidate Chris Lee has a slight advantage. Alice Kryzan's unexpected victory in the Democratic primary led hurts her party's efforts to win the seat, and, despite the DCCC spending almost $2 million in this seat, a recent independent poll shows Lee grabbing a double-digit lead. That might be overstating his advantage, as New York Republicans are an endangered species, but Democrats are no longer as optimistic as they were in the spring.
- OH-02 (Rep. Schmidt, last updated October 5th): Schmidt maintains a lead in recent polling, but she remains under 50% - dangerous territory for any incumbent. This confirms that she has been unable to solidify her position in what is a very conservative district. Yet, this is her first time she is running in a presidential year, and McCain's coattails might help. This is one district in which a third party candidacy could affect the final results.
- SC-01 (Rep. Brown, last updated November 1st): Republican incumbents in districts with a substantial African-American population are in grave danger of falling to the boost in black turnout that we have been already seeing in states like North Carolina and Georgia. This race was nowhere on our radar's screen at the beginning of October, and Rep. Brown certainly remains favored. But an upset by (openly gay) Democrat Linda Ketner is looking increasingly plausible. The DCCC has only invested limited resources in the district ($70,000), but that could be due to Ketner's ability to spend her own money.
- TX-07 (Rep. Culberson, last updated November 1st): The DCCC might not have spent anything in this district, but that is not necessarily because they don't believe it is competitive: Democratic challenger Michael Skelly is a wealthy business executive who has donated a lot of money to his own campaign and he entered October with more than $1 million of cash on hand. That might not be enough by itself to knock off a Republican incumbent in a conservative district, but it certainly contributes to making the race competitive. And while Bush obtained a huge percentage of the vote here in 2004, Texas Republicans are worried that their numbers will deflate now that their former Governor no longer is on the ballot.
- TX-10 (Rep. McCaul, last updated November 1st): This district might be ever so slightly less Republican than TX-07, but Bush got more than 60% of the vote in 2000 and in 2004 - underscoring just how difficult it will be for Democrats to score a shocking upset. But Democratic candidate and lawyer Larry Joe Doherty has raised enough money to be a credible contender and contest the district even without the DCCC"s help. Until we know the post-Bush state of Texas Republicans, Rep. McCaul has a target on his back and a Research 2000 poll released this week showed the incumbent leading by only 4% - and well under 50%.
- VA-02 (Rep. Drake, last updated October 5th): A recent internal poll for the Nye campaign suggests that Drake isn't as safe as the GOP was hoping she would be, but she does retain an edge. Obama's ground game in the Old Dominion could be very helpful for Nye to score an upset here.
- VA-05 (Rep. Goode, last updated November 1st): Rep. Goode is so entrenched in this district that he has run (and won) as a Democrat, an independent and a Republican. Now, he is finally facing a difficult re-election race in a state that is quickly shifting away from the GOP. The DCCC has invested more than $600,000 in the district over the course of three weeks, confirming that we should keep a close eye on this district. A victory by Democratic challenger Tom Perriello would no longer be a shocker.
- WV-02 (Rep. Capito, last updated November 1st): Capito is a perennial target in a state that remains Democratic at the local level, but the incumbent did not seem particularly vulnerable as the year started. The DCCC has made a late investment in the district, and Hillary Clinton has traveled to support Democratic candidate Anne Barth. That it no longer looks like Barack Obama will be crushed in the district should prevent Capito from riding presidential coattails.
Democratic seats, Lean retention (3)
- CA-11 (Rep. McNerney, last updated October 18th): When Rep. McNerney picked up the seat in 2006, the GOP was determined to make sure he served one term in what is a Republican district. But former state Rep. Dean Andal has not proved as strong a candidate as Republicans were hoping he would be. While he ends up in a competitive position financially as of the end of September, McNerney outspent him 8:1 in the second quarter, which allowed him to solidify his position - especially when you add the almost $1 million of television ads NARPAC is spending on McNerney’s behalf. Meanwhile, a recent SUSA poll gave McNerney an 11% edge.
- PA-04 (Rep. Altmire, last updated October 5th): This is a high priority district for the GOP, but the fact that the DCCC hasn't spent a dime to help Altmire for now is a good sign for the incumbent. A mid-September internal poll for the campaign of former Rep. Hart showed her trailing by 5%. That certainly means that Altmire is endangered, but for him to have a narrow edge in a Republican poll suggests he starts off with an edge.
- PA-10 (Rep. Carney, polls, last updated October 5th): This conservative district is one of the Republicans top targets, but the Democratic incumbent starts with a narrow advantage - as confirmed by the most recent polls. It is in districts such as these that Democratic gains in recent weeks could make themselves felt by immunizing Democrats against Republican attacks. Furthermore, the DCCC knows that Carney is endangered and is pouring in hundreds of thousands of dollars that the RNCC obviously cannot match.
Republican seats, likely retention (24)
- AL-03 (Rep. Rogers)
- CA-03 (Rep. Lungren, last updated October 18th): In what is a rematch of the 2006 race, GOP Rep. Dan Lungren has not been very worried about this re-election race (he only raised $190,000 in the third quarter) but Democrat Bill Durston no longer appears like the long-shot he was just two weeks ago. An internal Durston poll showed him within 3% of the incumbent; Lungren replied with two internal polls showing him with big leads - but under 50%.
- CA-26 (Rep. Dreier, last updated October 18th): Rep. David Dreier has been in office for 28 years in a GOP-leaning district. Should that not be enough to guarantee his re-election? Perhaps in another year, but Dreier is one of many Republicans who should be very careful in the coming weeks. Russ Warner is a credible enough candidate that he could be in a position of making the race unexpectedly competitive if there is a strong blue wave.
- CA-45 (Rep. Bono Mack, added November 4th)
- CA-46 (Rep. Rohrabacher, last updated October 18th): Rep. Dana Rohrabacher was nowhere on our radar screen, but Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook appears to have a chance at scoring a big upset. While we have gotten no hard numbers from the race, a Capitol Weekly article reveals that Republican internals have the race within the margin of error! Cook’s third quarter fundraising was good, but she ended September with only $30,284. She will need the DCCC’s help to make this any more competitive.
- FL-13 (Rep. Buchanan, last updated October 5th): Independent polls show Buchanan with a large lead over Jennings in this rematch of a controversial 2006 race. Complicating matters for Jennings is that Jan Schneider, the Democratic nominee in 2002 and 2004, will be on the ballot as an independent. She is expected to draw a substantial enough share of the vote to make the electoral math very difficult for Jennings to pull off.
- FL-15 (open)
- FL-18 (Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, polls, last updated October 5th): The third of the three Southern Florida districts, FL-18 is also the least competitive. Democratic candidate Annette Taddeo is a favorite of the netroots, but Ros-Lehtinen has simply shown little sign of vulnerability for now. The latest polls have her ahead by commanding margins.
- IA-04 (Rep. Latham, last updated October 25th): Rep. Latham is sitting in one of the least Republican districts held by his party, and that's not a good district to hold in a heavily Democratic year. Becky Greenwald is now in a position to score one of the year's biggest upsets, just as her party shockingly picked-up IA-02 out of nowhere two years ago. A just-released Research 2000 poll shows Latham leading by only 5%, and Barack Obama's strength in Iowa could further boost down-the-ballot Democratic totals in the state.
- IL-06 (Rep. Roskam)
- IL-18 (Open, last updated October 5th): Aaron Schock is on his way to becoming the youngest members of the 111th Congress. An internal poll for his campaign finds him ahead by 30%, and, while that might be an exaggerated lead, Democrats have not released an internal poll of their own that would contradict those results. Perhaps the best sign of Democratic desperation came when Democratic candidate Callahan released a remake of the Daisy ad.
- LA-07 (Rep. Boustany)
- MI-08 (Rep. Rogers, added on November 4th)
- MO-06 (Rep. Graves, last updated November 1st): This has perhaps been the most disappointing race for Democrats this year. Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes was one of their top recruits, but as other Democrats got more and more competitive, Barnes faded away. Perhaps this was due to Rep. Graves' quick hit on his opponent: his spring ad attacking Barnes' San Fransisco values provoked much controversy, will surely be remembered as one of the most memorable ads of the year and might have discredited Barnes. SUSA's latest poll has Rep. Graves jumping to a shocking 18% lead, and, in the surest sign that Graves has gotten himself out of trouble, the DCCC has dropped out of the district for the past two weeks. All of this said, if there is one year in which a Democratic challenger can beat all the odds and unexpectedly prevail, it's this one - so don't completely rule out an upset.
- NC-05 (Rep. Foxx, last updated November 1st): It seems insane to put this district on our radar screen, and frankly, it is insane. But in the current environment, no Republican incumbent who is facing a credible Democratic challenger can be entirely safe, particularly in a state like North Carolina where the electorate has so dramatically shifted blue.
- NC-10 (Rep. McHenry, last updated October 18th): Rep. McHenry has been mentioned as a potentially vulnerable Republican incumbent for months, but in a district that Bush won with 67% of the vote in 2004, a GOP candidate is allowed the benefit of the doubt. Yet, Democrats believe their candidate Daniel Johnson has a chance at offsetting the district’s Republican balance. Given how much progress Democrats appear to have made in the state, that is certainly possible. Johnson has been added to the Red to Blue program, and he will need DCCC spending to make this really competitive.
- NJ-05 (Rep. Garrett, last updated October 25th): Not that Rep. Garrett is sitting in an overwhelmingly Republican district (Bush got 57% of the vote in 2004, but only 52% in 2000), but he was not expected to face that competitive a challenge this year. Yet, Democratic gains have been the strongest in the Northeast, and that has put this seat on the Democrats' radar screen. Garrett's opponent is progressive candidate and netroots favorite Rabbi Dennis Shulman, a credible enough contender to benefit if voters are looking to reject Garrett. A just-released Research 2000 poll has a 7% race, and Garrett is feeling nervous enough about his chances to have released one of the most vicious ads we have seen this year, juxtaposing his opponent to Ahmadinejad.
- OH-07 (Open)
- OH-14 (Rep. LaTourette)
- PA-06 (Rep. Gerlach)
- PA-15 (Rep. Dent)
- PA-18 (Rep. Murphy)
- SC-02 (Rep. Wilson, last updated October 18th): This race is even more of a long-shot than SC-01 because Democratic candidate Rob Miller does not have the financial advantage enjoyed by Linda Ketner, but Rep. Joe Wilson should nonetheless be careful. This is a district where an increased share in black turnout could have a big impact, as a quarter of the district’s residents is African-American.
- VA-10 (Rep. Wolf)
Democratic seats, likely retention (13)
- AZ-05 (Rep. Mitchell, last updated November 4th): Democrat Harry Mitchell won a late-breaking race in 2006, and Republicans immediately put him on their target list. But the environment is simply too toxic for the GOP for Mitchell to be seriously endangered. Taking no risks, the DCCC has invested more than $1.3 million in the district, while Republican nominee David Schweikert has gotten no national help; the Club for Growth, which had endorsed him, has barely spent any money on his behalf.
- AZ-08 (Rep. Giffords, polls, last updated October 18th): Republicans had high hope for state Senate President Tim Bee, but Rep. Giffords looks too strong for the GOP to defeat in this Democratic year - not to mention that Giffords has been one of the strongest fundraisers among endangered Democrats. Now, the DCCC has canceled the rest of its TV reservations after spending more than $300,000 helping Giffords, a sure sign that national Democrats feel confident about Giffords’ prospects. The NRCC cannot come to Bee’s help, meaning that the two candidates are now on their own - and Giffords had far more cash on hand at the end of September than her opponent.
- CT-05 (Rep. Murphy)
- GA-12 (Rep. Barrow): Republican John Stone never caught fire in a district that tilts narrowly Democratic. Barrow barely survived in 2006, but he has had two more years to entrench himself since then.
- KS-03 (Rep. Moore): There isn't much action in this heavily conservative district that the GOP has been looking.
- IL-08 (Rep. Bean)
- IN-09 (Rep. Hill, polls, last updated October 11th): Republicans have not been able to gain as much traction as in past years for what is the fourth straight match-up between Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel. Hill won in 2002 and 2006, Sodrel won in 2004. Barack Obama's unexpected strength in the Hoosier State has undercut the GOP's hope that presidential coattails would carry Sodrel through the finish line as they did in 2004, not to mention that Hill will benefit from Obama's strong ground game while the McCain campaign has spent little time organizing Indiana. Recent independent polls have found Hill leading by double-digits.
- IL-14 (Rep. Foster)
- KY-03 (Rep. Yarmuth, last updated November 1st): What was expected to be one of the hottest races of the 2008 cycle has turned out into an easy re-election campaign for Rep. Yarmuth. Anne Northup, the incumbent who Yarmuth narrowly defeated in 2006, is poised to suffer her third high-profile defeat in as many years (she also lost the GOP's gubernatorial nomination in 2007). Recent SUSA polls show Yarmuth with a wide lead, and the DCCC has not bothered investing a dime in the district. Given how much money Democrats have, would they not have moved in this race if they thought Yarmuth was endangered?
- MN-01 (Rep. Walz, last updated October 5th): Walz leads by 18% in an internal poll released by his opponent. Enough said.
- MS-01 (Rep. Childers, last updated November 1st): Travis Childers won a high-profile special election in May, and it is rare for voters to fire an incumbent after only a few months. The DCCC has poured in more than $200,000 over the past few months, while the NRCC has not engaged. Childers should be boosted further by the surge in African-American turnout that is manifesting itself in Southern states that propose early voting.
- NY-20 (Rep. Gillibrand, last updated October 18th): Rep. Gillbrand has proved one of the strongest Democratic fundraisers, while Republican candidate Sandy Treadwell has been unable to get much traction - and is unlikely to do so without the NRCC’s help (which will not come). The district might be leaning Republican, but Gillbrand is strongly positioned to win re-election.
- OR-05 (Open, last updated October 18th): Once one of the Republicans’ top pick-up opportunities, the district is rapidly drifting towards Democrats. Republican candidate Mike Erickson has been involved in a series of (abortion and ethics-related) scandals that have prevented him from gaining any traction and truly endangering state Senator Kirk Schrader, the Democratic nominee. The DCCC isn’t even spending any money on the district, a testament to how comfortable Democrats are feeling about the race. A recent SUSA poll had Schrader leading by 13%.
- TX-23 (Rep. Rodriguez)