House Race Rankings
The Hotline‘s Tim Sahd Assesses Which House Seats Are Most Likely To Switch Party Control In 2010
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009
Continuing the trend from our most recent rankings, the top of this list is dominated by vulnerable Republican seats, while the bottom portion is stacked with endangered Democratic seats. The GOP’s recruiting efforts appear to be paying off, as the party is seemingly landing quality candidates by the boatload in Republican-leaning districts. So, while we’re a long way from November ’10, the party is setting itself up very well to catch a wave, if one is indeed forming.
1. Louisiana-02 Anh (Joseph) Cao (R)
With the strong Democratic tilt of this district, Cao will win only if Democrats again nominate a candidate as flawed as former Rep. William Jefferson. Even if state Reps. Juan LaFonta (D) and Cedric Richmond (D) — and undoubtedly others — bloody each other in a primary slugfest, either would be a prohibitive favorite against Cao.
2. Delaware-At Large Open Seat (R)
This week’s announcement that Rep. Michael Castle (R) was abandoning his House seat for the Senate race was no surprise. But it still comes as unwelcome news for the GOP, which will face two difficult barriers here. First, former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) will be no pushover. He’s raised big bucks so far and has statewide name ID from his previous job and from a failed ’08 gubernatorial run. The party also faces tough political terrain: Outside of Castle, very few Republicans have won statewide in the recent past. The GOP has interesting candidates on the bench, including state Rep. Tom Kovach and businessman Anthony Wedo, a potential self-funder. If a Republican catches fire, they have a chance with Castle at the top of the ticket. But right now, Dems hold an advantage here.
3. New York-23 Special Election (R)
We’ve moved this race up eight spots since July. Why the rapid ascent? It’s the fact that accountant and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman has made himself a serious contender. And that’s bad news for Republicans. We had our doubts that this virtual unknown would be a factor, but a big TV campaign along with the Club for Growth’s support (and $250K ad buy) convinced us. The latest independent survey shows Hoffman taking 16 percent — enough that he’s keeping Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R) from blowing the doors off this race. She still leads, 36-28 percent, and attracts strong support from Dems and indies, but she’ll need Hoffman to fade if she’s going to have a chance to defeat attorney Bill Owens (D) on Nov. 3.
4. Louisiana-03 Open Seat (D)
It’s been more than a month since Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) announced his Senate bid, but the field remains sparse. Still, Republicans look to be in the driver’s seat, considering John McCain took 61 percent here. One candidate to watch is state Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle, who is apparently considering whether to run as a Democrat or Republican, reprising the fight the parties had over Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright in Ala.-02. Whatever team Angelle chooses, he’ll face a deep bench on the other side, as both parties have many legislators who could run. In fact, state Rep. Nickie Monica (R) is already in the race.
5. Illinois-10 Open Seat (R)
The main GOP competitors appear to be state Rep. Beth Coulson and entrepreneur Dick Green. The field is pretty moderate, though, and should provide Republicans with a Mark Kirk-like candidate to go against either state Rep. Julie Hamos (D) or ’06/’08 nominee Dan Seals (D). With the support of EMILY’s List, Hamos had a blockbuster third quarter, raising nearly $550K. Seals, meanwhile, has strong name ID from his two previous runs. Dems may have the slightest of advantages in this race, but the GOP will have Kirk at the top of the ticket, which should help come Election Day.
6. New Mexico-02 Harry Teague (D)
When we met former Rep. Steve Pearce (R) earlier this month, he seemed primed for a race against Teague. Pearce has been traveling the district to talk to voters about the rising federal deficit and increased government spending. But it was Teague’s cap-and-trade vote that put Pearce in the race in this oil-and-gas district, and that’s the issue he says impacts voters the most there. Pearce expects his Q3 FEC report will pack a big wallop, and if it does, it’ll confirm our suspicions that this is one of the top pickup opportunities for Republicans this cycle.
7. Pennsylvania-06 Open Seat (R)
Republicans got a gift in physician Manan Trivedi (D), whose entry spoils former Philly Inquirer editorial writer Doug Pike‘s free pass in the primary. While Pike’s got a huge cash advantage, Trivedi appears to be winning support among the grassroots. Trivedi raised over $100K in his first month in the race, and he looks like he’ll have enough to at least make Pike spend a bundle winning the primary. On the GOP side, businessman Steve Welch was nudged by national and state Republicans out of the Pa.-07 race and into this one. He’s got plenty of cash, too, and may be the new front-runner over state Rep. Curt Schroder (R) and Chester Co. Recorder of Deeds Ryan Costello.
8. Virginia-05 Tom Perriello (D)
If Perriello thought his vote on cap-and-trade was difficult, his health care vote is going to be even more problematic. He says he wants to vote for the House bill but isn’t all the way there yet. In other words, he doesn’t want to get tied down to a position until he’s forced. Smart move. Still, with the GOP having the option to pick a nominee at convention — and avoid a bruising and costly primary — a strong nominee could be able to exploit Perriello’s weaknesses in this very Republican-leaning CD. State Sen. Robert Hurt is the likely choice now, although many others are still considering bids.
9. Florida-08 Alan Grayson (D)
“Die quickly” is how Grayson describes the GOP’s health care plan, but it may also apply to his ’10 election prospects if he doesn’t get his hands around the district. His outspoken liberal views may be appreciated by the netroots, but will they play well in this swing CD? Grayson has the personal cash to try to convince voters his brand of liberalism is what they want, but that’s not necessarily enough. Still, the GOP needs to offer an acceptable alternative. In that sense, they lucked out when Orange Co. Mayor Rich Crotty (R) decided against running. Crotty has a recent history that would be easily attacked by Dems — any number of other candidates would give Grayson a tough race.
10. Mississippi-01 Travis Childers (D)
Republicans are high on state Sen. Alan Nunnelee‘s chances, and so far, that confidence looks to be well-placed. Need confirmation? This week, he announced that his camp raised an impressive $220K in August and September, his first two months in the race. Nunnelee’s also got geography on his side, as he’s from Tupelo, which is a huge bonus here. In his ’08 special election win, Childers could claim that territory as his own because the GOP nominee was from the western part of the CD. That won’t be the case in ’10. And Nunnelee will have Childers’ votes on the stimulus to use against him.
11. Colorado-04 Betsy Markey (D)
In this conservative district, Markey has really not done anything to separate herself from the Democratic leadership, voting for cap-and-trade and the stimulus. State Rep. Cory Gardner (R) will focus on those votes, and not contentious social positions, like the woman Markey beat, former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R). Gardner is a solid candidate who can exploit Markey’s positions. That’s something Musgrave wasn’t credible enough to do.
12. Maryland-01 Frank Kratovil (D)
Republicans are high on ’08 nominee/state Sen. Andy Harris‘ chances, and he looks like he’s the early favorite here to take on Kratovil even though he’s very likely to get competition. We still can’t believe how badly Harris fumbled a CD that gave McCain 59 percent, but considering the environment, he still has a great shot at finally taking this seat.
13. Alabama-02 Bobby Bright (D)
Bright can do no wrong, at least not on any roll call votes. So far, he’s voted against his party on the stimulus and cap-and-trade and does not support a public option on health care. Of course, there’s that first vote he took — the one for House Speaker — that Republicans will attack. And they have a great candidate in Montgomery Councilor Martha Roby, who looks to be a more effective messenger than ’08 nominee Jay Love. Roby has shown she can raise the money needed to be competitive, but will Bright’s conservative-leaning voting record be the protection he needs to survive in this strongly GOP district?
14. Idaho-01 Walt Minnick (D)
Ditto for Minnick; he’s one of the few Dems who is a reliable “nay” vote when the rest of the party is voting “yea.” For the GOP, there just isn’t much to attack in his voting record. To further complicate matters, the party is looking at a very competitive primary featuring an outsider, Iraq vet Vaughn Ward, and an insider, state Rep. Ken Roberts. A contentious primary will leave the nominee weakened and likely broke. And against Minnick, who can put his own cash into the race if necessary, that’s bad news. Republicans still have a shot considering the landscape here, but Minnick won’t give them very many openings.
15. Pennsylvania-07 Open Seat (D)
Just six months ago, who would’ve guessed a suburban Philly seat would show up as a pickup opportunity for Republicans? But several ingredients have conspired to make this a very winnable race. Rep. Joe Sestak‘s Senate run has opened up this Democratic-trending seat, and Republicans have recruited former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan out of the race for governor and into this contest. Meanwhile, Dems are on the verge of hosting a nasty primary between state Reps. Bryan Lentz and Greg Vitali. This is a traditional GOP district, and the party still holds many offices in Delaware County. A win here wouldn’t be shocking, but it would be quite a change in direction for a CD that has been moving toward the Dems for several cycles.
16. Ohio-01 Steve Driehaus (D)
There hasn’t been much activity here for months, but since former Rep. Steve Chabot (R) got into the race, both he and Driehaus appear to be focusing most of their campaign time on fundraising. Chabot has been a very strong fundraiser the last two quarters, and when his Q3 numbers come out in a few days, we expect a similar performance.
17. Ohio-15 Mary Jo Kilroy (D)
If there are any Dems out there who will be hurt by President Obama‘s absence on the midterm ballot, Kilroy is one of them. Without support from Ohio State University, she likely would not have had enough votes to squeak out a 2,300-vote win in ’08. And in ’10, those casual voters are unlikely to come out in droves like they did a year ago. This is ’08 GOP nominee Steve Stivers‘ first quarter in the race, and he should post solid fundraising numbers when they come out in the next week.
18. Florida-24 Suzanne Kosmas (D)
The GOP has had a field day with Kosmas. First, she told Florida Today, “Within five years, we will no longer have a deficit.” Then, in an appearance that will likely show up in a GOP campaign ad, she seemed to have difficulty answering health care questions in front of the Orlando Sentinel‘s editorial board. But while Winter Park Commissioner Karen Diebel (R) looks to be the front-runner, two other state reps are also running. This primary has the opportunity to get very negative, so Kosmas has that benefit. But her missteps have made a CD where Republicans expected to struggle into a top-tier pickup opportunity.
19. Arkansas-02 Vic Snyder (D)
When you don’t face a difficult race, it’s considered admirable not to raise cash in an off-year. But when you find yourself in the opposing party’s crosshairs, it suddenly makes you very vulnerable. That’s the position Snyder’s in. Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin (R), who entered the race just 10 days before the end of Q3, raised $130K in that short period of time. If history is repeated for Snyder, he won’t have raised more than 1 percent of that. Add Snyder’s lack of fundraising and not-so-Blue Dog voting record to the very Republican lean of his district, and it means trouble for Dems.
20. New Hampshire-02 Open Seat (D)
Former Rep. Charlie Bass (R) formed an exploratory committee late last week, but if he runs, Bass — a moderate — will likely face ’08 nominee/radio host Jennifer Horn in a primary fight that will highlight the two very different wings of the N.H. GOP. If Bass can make it out of the primary, he’d give Republicans the best chance to win the seat since he lost it to outgoing Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in ’06. Still, Dems won’t give up easily and have a very deep bench. There are many potentially strong candidates considering the race, but activist Ann McLane Kuster is turning heads with her strong fundraising.