Friday, September 12, 2008

October ratings: Can Democrats keep up the 2006 parallel all the way to Nov. 4th?

In the first two weeks after the GOP convention, the party's brand looked to have improved enough to boost the prospects of congressional Republicans. At the very least, it seemed that the long-shot down-the-ballot races (be it the Kentucky and Georgia Senate races or the conservative open seats like MO-09 and AL-02) were getting out of reach for Democrats. But the Republicans' recovery was short lived.

The financial meltdown erased the GOP's early September gains, and the fundamentals once again favor Democrats. We are back to where we were after the spring's three special election: Democrats are in a position to score big gains on Election Day, and districts that would not be competitive in a neutral environment could now fall in Democratic hands.

It is no surprise, then, that Democrats are in a far stronger position in these new ratings. 10 GOP-held districts are now rated likely or lean take-over, and 24 more can best be described as toss-ups (that might reflect my shyness to give a more precise prognostic, but it is often difficult to better categorize competitive House races due to the dearth of polling data). However, it is highly unlikely that Democrats can pull off their 2006 feat, when they didn't lose a single seat of their own: 3 Dem-held seats are currently rated lean take-over, and 8 are toss-ups.

That said, the battle is clearly being waged on Republican turf - 34 GOP seats are highly vulnerable right now, versus only 11 held by Democrats. And the field of play is continuing to shift towards Democrats: 11 GOP-held seats have been upgraded to a more vulnerable category (versus only 3 for Democrats), and 10 Dem-heldhave been downgraded (versus only 2 for Republicans).

If the Republicans' situation does not improve over the next four weeks, there is no telling just how low the GOP could sink.

To make matters worse for Republicans, the financial disparity between the DCCC and RNCC is proving to be just as decisive as Republicans feared - and this is an advantage Democrats did not enjoy two years ago. Money counts for more in House races than in Senate and presidential contests, and the DCCC has already flexed its financial muscle by pouring in hundreds of thousands in dozens of districts.

They are strengthening vulnerable Democratic incumbents, and they are targeting many GOP-held seats, some of which are obviously competitive (IL-11, OH-15, OH-16, NJ-03...), some of which shouldn't even be on the map (MD-01, AL-02, KY-02, AZ-03...). Meanwhile, the NRCC has only been able to budget expenditures in two districts - WI-08 and PA-03.

Meanwhile, the Sunshine State has emerged as ground zero of the House battle. No less than Florida districts are currently rated lean toss-ups! One is held by Democrats (FL-16) and four by Republicans (FL-08, FL-21, FL-24 and FL-25); Democrats have an outside (though fading) chance in FL-13 and FL-18. It goes without saying that the state of the presidential race and the strength of Obama and McCain's ground game could have an out-sized effect on all of these House races. That Obama now appears to be inching ahead in this state should boost Democratic hopes of picking-up a number of these seats.

In fact, the trickle-down effects of the presidential race will be felt in most of the districts that are listed here. If McCain manages to bring independents back in the GOP's column and benefits from conservative turnout, it could save a number of seats that are now looking very endangered - but that is not where current trends are heading.

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As always, I have written full descriptions of seats that have made news since early June. I indicated upgraded or downgraded next to the seats that saw their ratings change to indicate whether they became more vulnerable or less vulnerable for the incumbent party. Here is the quick run-down:

  • Less vulnerable Democratic seats (10): CT-02, CT-05, IL-08, IN-07, IN-09, KS-03, MN-01, NY-19, PA-04, PA-10
  • Less vulnerable Republican seats (2): FL-13, IL-18
  • More vulnerable Democratic seats (3): NH-01, PA-11, WI-08
  • More vulnerable Republican seats (11): AK-AL, AZ-03, CO-04, FL-08, FL-21, FL-24, FL-25, ID-01, LA-04, MD-01, TX-10
  • Taken off the list: CT-02, IN-02, IN-07, NY-19

Outlook: Democrats pick-up 13-22 seats. My current prediction is a net pick-up of 17, for a 253-182 Democratic majority.

History of House ratings:

  • 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

Republican seats, Likely take-over (3)

  • NY-13 (open): 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): 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): The situation is the same as in NY-25, and the DCCC has spent some money here as well.

Republican seats, Lean take-over (7)

  • AK-AL (Rep. Young, polls): There was much riding on the GOP primary between incumbent Rep. Don Young and Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell. Alaska is conservative, and Republicans would have had an edge had they been able to get rid of their ethically challenged incumbent. It took three weeks for all ballots to be counted in an inexplicably slow process. Don Young finally prevailed by a few hundred votes - and that was great news for Democratic nominee Ethan Berkowitz, who leads Young in all recent polls. Young is an important figure of Alaska politics, and he could still make a comeback - perhaps fueled by Palin's coattails. That said, Ted Stevens' trial will remind Alaska voters of the corruption problem of state Republicans, and that is bound to hurt Young.
  • AZ-01 (Open): The GOP needed to field strong candidates to have a chance to hold on to these swing open seats, and Sydney Hay is not as strong a contender as Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick. The financial disparity between the two candidates will also make a difference.
  • CO-04 (Rep. Musgrave, upgraded, polls): 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.
  • IL-11 (Open, polls): In no GOP-held district has the DCCC spent as much money as in IL-11 - about $850,000 already. While this will go a long way towards helping Democratic nominee Debbie Halvorson, GOP nominee Marty Ozinga has deep pockets and could stay competitive financially without the NRCC's help. And considering that this seat seemed all but lost for Republicans a few months ago when they didn't even have a candidate, it is miraculous that they have managed to get Democrats to spend this much money here. Halvorson has been hurt by her belonging to the leadership of the state Democratic Party given the deep unpopularity of Gov. Blagojevich. Competing internal polls in late September showed Halvorson leading by 2% in Ozinga's poll and by 8% in her own.
  • NM-01 (Open, polls, upgraded): 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.
  • NV-03 (Rep. Porter, polls, upgraded): 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.
  • OH-16 (Open, upgraded): 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.

Democratic seats, Lean take-over (3)

  • LA-06 (Rep. Cazayoux): Newly representing a heavily Republican Southern district, Cazayoux has to rely on strong support from the district's black electorate but the independent candidacy of African-American lawmaker Michael Jackson complicates that equation. Cazayoux released a poll in September showing him leading by 16%, with 9% for Jackson, but it is difficult to believe that the combined total of two Democratic candidates in such a conservative district could be close to 58%.
  • PA-11 (Rep. Kanjorski, upgraded): 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): 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 (24)

  • AL-02 (Open, polls): 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, upgraded): 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): 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-08 (Rep. Keller, upgraded): This Orlando-based district is one of the most worrisome developments for House Republicans. Ric Keller was not expected to be so obviously vulnerable, but his weakness became evident in his primary, when he only received 55% of the vote against a weak opponent. Now, he is facing Alan Grayson, a wealthy Democratic businessman who recently released a poll finding him narrowly ahead of the incumbent (Republicans have not released a counter-poll). Keller hopes he can eek out a win because of Grayson's outspokenly liberal record, particularly his opposition to the Iraq War and his connection to Code Pink. But can a Democrat really suffer this year for having opposed the war?
  • FL-21 (Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, upgraded, polls): 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-24 (Rep. Feeney, upgraded): Whenever an incumbent feels the need to release an ad saying “I’m very sorry” a few weeks from Election Day, you can be sure that his internal polls show him in big trouble. Ever since lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been under the spotlight, Feeney has faced ethics questions over a 2003 golfing trip he took to Scotland and that was paid by Abramoff; and in mid-September, he took the dramatic (and rather desperate) move of airing a 30-second ad directly addressing this story and apologizing for the “rookie mistake” and for having “embarrassed” himself and his constituents. This forces an issue at the center of the political discussion, and it also means that Feeney (who was already being outraised by his opponent Suzanne Kosmas) is blowing a significant amount of his cash on hand for this ad. The DCCC is now up on air against Feeney, blasting him as "one of the most corrupt politicians." This doesn't look good for the incumbent.
  • FL-25 (Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, upgraded, polls): 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)
  • KY-02 (Open, upgraded, polls): Few people expected this district to be this competitive when Rep. Lewis announced his retirement at the beginning of the year, but there is no doubt that it has turned into a crucial battleground: polls have shown a dead heat for months, and the DCCC decided to invest in the district last week - a stunning development given how Republican this area is. However, the DCCC's first move backfired when local TV stations refused to air an ad attacking Republican candidate Guthrie, allowing him to claim the high ground.
  • LA-04 (Open, upgraded): 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.
  • MI-07 (Rep. Walberg, polls, upgraded): 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): The battle lines have been drawn for months in a district that is one of the ultimate battlegrounds of this year's House battle, and a recent SUSA poll showed the race within the margin of error. The local Republican Party has been justly denounced for running a racialized campaign, hinting that Indian-American Democratic candidate Ashwin Media does not fit "the demographics of the district" and even criticizing the young veteran of the Iraq War for not being married.
  • NC-08 (Rep. Hayes, polls): The DCCC's refusal to invest anything in this district in 2006 surely cost them one more pick-up, as Larry Kissell was about 300 votes away from unseating the incumbent. This year, the DCCC is taking this district seriously and is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking Hayes. Those ads appear to be taking their toll, as Hayes's own internal polls have shown him leading within the margin of error. Kissell's latest internal shows him with a comfortable lead.
  • NJ-03 (Open, downgraded): 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): 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.
  • NM-02 (Open, polls, upgraded): The Democratic candidate, wealthy oil executive (and self-funder) Harry Teague, looks surprisingly strong. A recent independent poll even found him with a narrow lead. Republican Ed Tinsley, who also has ties to the oil industry and who is also self-funding part of his campaign, is not able to rely on the district's strong Republican lean because Teague has a base of conservative supporters from his days as the county commissioner of a Republican area. The DCCC is helping Teague and has already invested more than a quarter-million dollars.
  • NY-26 (Open, polls): This has been one of the most eventful races over the past two months. When Tom Reynolds announced he would retire, Democrats sensed this was a big opportunity for them to continue their take-over of New York politics. But when the DCCC's favored candidate Jon Powers and multi-millionaire Jack Davis spent weeks hurling insults at each other, a third candidate, environment attorney Alice Kryzan, came out of nowhere to win the Democratic nod. But the DCCC is remaining committed to contesting the district and is now on air against GOP nominee Chris Lee; Kryzan is also being boosted by Emily's List. A recent independent poll conducted by SUSA found Lee leading by double-digits, but Democrats got good news recently when Jon Powers removed himself from the Working Families Parties party ballot line and will not play spoiler.
  • NY-29 (Rep. Kuhl): This race has been somewhat obscured in the fireworks of other New York contests (particularly in the 13th and 26th districts), but this rematch is likely to be very tight. An internal poll for the Massa campaign is the first numbers we have gotten so far, and it shows the Democrat narrowly ahead. Whatever you think of internal polls, an incumbent in the low 40s is clearly vulnerable.
  • OH-01 (Rep. Chabot, polls): 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.
  • OH-15 (Open): The district represents a disappointing situation for Democrats, who thought Mary Jo Kilroy would have a solid lead by now. Yet, (late entrant) state Senator Stivers is proving to a be a strong candidate, and Kilroy is suffering from the high negatives she accumulated in the 2006 race - negatives the GOP is doing its best to exploit. But the DCCC is pouring in big amounts of money (more than $800,000 so far) most of it devoted to running attack ads against Stivers, and that could very well make the difference.
  • PA-03 (Rep. English, upgraded): Who knew? While this district had long been on the list of vulnerable seats, few people expected English to be this obviously vulnerable months from the election. But not only does English now trail in an independent poll, he is also the beneficiary of the NRCC's first (and so far only) defensive ad buy. That is certainly welcome help for English, but it is also a testament to how weak his standing is. The GOP is hoping to move quickly to define Dahlkemper, but the DCCC is pouring in money of its own.
  • WA-08 (Rep. Reichert, polls)
  • WY-AL (Open)

Democratic seats, Toss-up (8)

  • AL-05 (Open): 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.
  • CA-11 (Rep. McNerney)
  • FL-16 (Rep. Mahoney, downgraded): Republicans nominated attorney Tom Rooney as their candidate, and everything points to a highly competitive race in Mark Foley's old district. Mahoney has never been a strong candidate for Democrats, but I am downgrading the race because Rooney's recent internal poll showing Mahoney with a 7% lead showed that I had gotten ahead of myself in rating the contest lean take-over.
  • GA-08 (Rep. Marshall): 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)
  • NH-01 (Rep. Shea-Porter, polls): 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.
  • WI-8 (Rep. Kagen, polls, upgraded): 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 (9)

  • AZ-03 (Rep. Shadegg, upgraded): 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.
  • ID-01 (Rep. Sali, polls, upgraded): In 2004, Bush got 69% of the vote in this district, but Rep. Sali is so hated by the state's Republican establishment that a Democrat actually has a chance of pulling a giant upset. Two internal polls for the Minnick campaign show him with a narrow lead over Sali. However, Minnick is in the low 40s in both polls - and the undecided voters are likely to be Republicans who can't yet get themselves to admit they will vote for Sali. And the DCCC has not invested anything in this race since a small media buy in early August.
  • MI-09 (Rep. Knollenberg): Just like Rep. Walberg in MI-07 (see above), Joe Knollenberg will have to overcome the organizational void left by McCain abandoning the state and taking money and staff with him. Knollenberg starts in a slightly strong position than his fellow Michigan Republican, though the economic downturn could prove a weight. Also, the incumbent is one of the bailout "flippers" - he opposed the bailout in the first vote but supported the second bill, giving his opponent an opening.
  • MD-01 (Open, upgraded): It seems incredible that such a conservative and gerrymandered district would be this competitive, but Democrats are sensing that the divisive GOP primary in which Andy Harris knocked off a moderate Republican incumbent is a golden opportunity for them to make a move and see if they can take advantage of GOP divisions. After all, outgoing Rep. Gilchrest endorsed Democratic candidate Kratovil. And the DCCC confirmed that they were taking this race seriously - and not just for spinning purposes - by unexpectedly starting to air ads in the district in late September.
  • MO-06 (Rep. Graves, polls)
  • MO-09 (Open, polls): This district remains conservative-leaning, and that should be enough to power Republican candidate Luetkemeyer to victory. Two independent polls conducted in September - during the GOP's short-lived recovery - suggest that Luetkemeyer has a relatively comfortable lead. But this is a district in which the financial crisis could have an effect. For one, it could immunize Democratic candidate Judy Baker from attacks on her liberal record; second, it has given the DCCC an opening to attack Luetkemeyer on Social Security, an issue that is always a winner for Democrats. That the DCCC is spending any money on this district is a story in and of itself, and will help Baker make up some of the district's Republican lean.
  • OH-02 (Rep. Schmidt): 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.
  • PA-04 (Rep. Altmire, downgraded): 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.
  • VA-02 (Rep. Drake): 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.
  • WV-02 (Rep. Capito)

Democratic seats, Lean retention (8)

  • AZ-05 (Rep. Mitchell)
  • AZ-08 (Rep. Giffords, polls)
  • IN-09 (Rep. Hill, downgraded, polls): This is the fourth consecutive match-up between Hill and Sodrel (who won in 2004), and it could be the easiest for Hill to win. Republican hopes to reclaim the district largely rested on the fact that this is a presidential year, and that McCain's coattails could drive Sodrel to victory. But Obama is running 20% ahead of Kerry in the Hoosier State, so the political situation is very different from what Republicans were hoping it would be. SUSA's monthly polling confirms that Hill is favored to keep his seat.
  • KY-03 (Rep. Yarmuth, polls)
  • MS-01 (Rep. Childers)
  • NY-20 (Rep. Gillbrand)
  • OR-05 (Open)
  • PA-10 (Rep. Carney, downgraded, polls): 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 (17)

  • AL-03 (Rep. Rogers)
  • FL-13 (Rep. Buchanan, downgraded): 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): 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.
  • IL-06 (Rep. Roskam)
  • IL-18 (Open, downgraded): 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)
  • MN-06 (Rep. Bachmann)
  • NV-02 (Rep. Heller)
  • OH-07 (Open)
  • OH-14 (Rep. LaTourette)
  • PA-06 (Rep. Gerlach)
  • PA-15 (Rep. Dent)
  • PA-18 (Rep. Murphy)
  • VA-05 (Rep. Goode)
  • VA-10 (Rep. Wolf)
  • TX-10 (Rep. McCaul, upgraded)

Democratic seats, likely retention (11)

  • CT-05 (Rep. Murphy, dowgraded)
  • GA-12 (Rep. Barrow, downgraded): 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, downgraded): There isn't much action in this heavily conservative district that the GOP has been looking.
  • IL-08 (Rep. Bean, downgraded)
  • IL-14 (Rep. Foster)
  • IN-08 (Rep. Ellsworth)
  • NH-02 (Rep. Hodes)
  • MN-01 (Rep. Walz, downgraded): Walz leads by 18% in an internal poll released by his opponent. Enough said.
  • OH-18 (Rep. Space)
  • PA-08 (Rep. Murphy)
  • TX-23 (Rep. Rodriguez)

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