November House rankings: How many more Republican retirements?
by LeftistAddiction, Fri Nov 23, 2007 at 02:51:47 PM EST
Just when the GOP is starting to catch some small breaks in the Senate, the situation in the House is rapidly deteriorating. As many had predicted, a growing number of Republican representatives do not find the prospect of life in the minority appealing and are calling it quits. Unfortunately for Republicans, a large majority of them represent competitive districts. The latest retirement were particularly shocking because they were completely unexpected -- especially Rep. Ferguson's in NJ-07. Democrats have golden opportunities to pick-up all of these seats, especially if the environment continues to favor them. But this also means Republicans will be forced to play defense and will not be able to contest that many Democratic-held seats, no matter how vulnerable they might be.
The full ratings is available here, at Campaign Diaries.
The situation is made much worse for Republicans by the awful financial situation they are in. As of the end of October, the NRCC is still a million in debt, while the DCCC has 27 million dollars. That's nearly a 30 million dollar gap, which will have a significant impact on next year's results. The RNC will have to concentrate on the presidential elections and will have a limited ability to help the NRCC out. This means that the DCCC has the ability to play offense in many seats, expand the map, and protect its own seats -- while the Republicans will probably end up having to concede some of their open seat and choose which select Democratic seats they are going after.
As a result, many of the freshmen Democrats who looked very vulnerable last year are likely to survive, though the GOP will no doubt be able to claim some of its very conservative seats back, starting with FL-16 and TX-22; they also got some good news this month when the Democratic challenger in MT-AL withdrew, as unpopular Rep. Cubin retired in Wyoming, and as they made Indiana's 7th district much more competitive. But six of the seven race that are rated more vulnerable this month are Republican, underscoring the steady stream of bad news for the GOP.
I have only written full descriptions of seats that have made news over the past month. For detailed descriptions of the other races, check last month's rankings. Only a few seats saw their rating change in the past month. I indicated upgraded or downgraded next to them to indicate whether they became more vulnerable or less vulnerable for the incumbent party. Here is the quick run-down:
- Less vulnerable: CT-2, NY-19, WY-AL
- More vulnerable: AK-AL, IL-06, IL-11, IN-07, KY-02, NJ-07, OH-05
The October ratings are available here.
Republican seats, Lean take-over (5)
- AZ-1 (Open)
- CA-4 (Rep. Doolittle): Republicans might finally be getting what they want here, as some rumors are starting to circulate that ethically (very) challenged Doolittle might be finally ready to announce his retirement. If he does, this race will significantly drop down the rankings; but if Doolittle stays in the race, this is a sure a pick-up for the Democrats' Brown.
- IL-11 (Open, upgraded): The filing deadline has already passed in Illinois (it's the first in the country), and Republicans did not manage to recruit a top-tier candidate. They are fielding the Mayor of New Lenox and an ex-Bush White House official; both could be good candidates and make the race competitive, but Democrats have to be considered slightly favored since they convinced a reluctant Debbie Halvorson, the State Majority Leader, to run.
- NM-1 (Open): 2006 nominee Patricia Madrid announced she would not run again, making Albuquerque councilman Heinrich the likely Democratic nominee. Republicans are confident that their nominee, sheriff White, is strong and will run much stronger than other Republicans would. If that is confirmed by independent indicators and polls, the race will be downgraded, but the fact that the district is naturally competitive (it narrowly went for Kerry in 2004) combined with the sour national environment for Republicans makes Heinrich the early favorite.
- OH-15 (Open): The GOP finally got some much needed good news in this race. Democrats had united behind their 2006 nominee Mary Jo Kilroy, but all Republicans who might have made this race competitive declined to run one after another, making this the top pick-up opportunity in the country for Democrats. But the GOP finally convinced a strong candidate who had initially passed on the race to get in: state Senator Steve Strivers. They ensured that the race remains competitive; but given that OH-15 is very tight in the first place, that the environment is toxic for the GOP and that Kilroy came within a few thousand votes of unsitting an entranced incumbent in 2006, Democrats are still favored.
Democratic seats, Lean take-over (1)
- FL-16 (Rep. Mahoney)
Republican seats, Toss-up (14)
- AK-AL (Rep. Young, upgraded): A new poll shows just how disastrous Young's approval rating has become as he is involved in a corruption probe that has claimed many other Republican congressmen. Democrats have a few candidates, and an October poll showed former state Senator Ethan Berkowitz leading Young.
- CO-4 (Rep. Musgrave)
- CT-4 (Rep. Shays)
- IL-10 (Rep. Kirk): A recent primary poll has Dan Seals crushing Footlik in the Democratic primary for the right to take on Republican Kirk, who sits on a very competitive district. Seals got 47% in 2006 with the national party paying little attention, but he will receive lots of help from the DCCC this time.
- MN-03 (Open):
- NC-8 (Rep. Hayes)
- NJ-03 (open): In the first New Jersey surprise, Rep. Saxton announced he would not run for re-election in early November giving a major opening to Democrats in a district that Bush won by only 3% in 2004. Democrats were already excited about this race before Saxton's retirement, and they believe that state Senator John Adler is a very strong candidate who will carry the district. Republicans do have a solid bench here though, and are looking to get state Senator Diane Allen in.
- NJ-07 (open): Rep. Ferguson's retirement was perhaps the biggest surprise of this year's House cycle. He opens up a very competitive district that Bush won with 49% in 2000 and 53% in 2004. Democrats appear united behind state Assemblywoman Linda Stender who came within a point of beating Ferguson in 2006. The GOP is having a harder time at recruitment, as its three top choices (especially Tom Kean Jr.) announced they would not run within a few days of Ferguson's retirement. Republicans better find a good candidate fast, or they will be looking at a certain Democratic pick-up.
- OH-1 (Rep. Chabot)
- OH-16 (Open):
- NY-25 (Rep. Walsh)
- PA-6 (Rep. Gerlach)
- VA-11 (Rep. Davis): Whether or not Tom Davis retires, this race is sure to be very competitive. Davis's wife Jeannemarie massively lost a re-election race to the state Senate last month in a contest that cost millions of dollars, proving that Davis will have a very tough fight on his hand next year if he runs again in a region that has been rapidly trending their way. If Davis retires (and he was supposed to run for Senate and leave the seat open until about a month ago), this will automatically jump up to the top of the Democratic pick-up list. Does his wife's loss make him more or less likely to run again?
- WA-8 (Rep. Reichert): Democrats are clearly confident they can take Reichert down in a rematch of the 2006 race against Demcorat Burner. They recently filed an FEC complaint over Reichert's fundraising, hoping to get the incumbent in ethical trouble. They did not manage to tie him quite enough with the GOP brand in 2006.
Democratic seats, Toss-up (11)
- CA-11 (Rep. McNerney)
- GA-8 (Rep. Marshall)
- IL-8 (Rep. Bean)
- IN-7 (Rep. Carson, upgraded): This is a very Democratic district, that Kerry carried with 58%. But Rep. Carson has had health problems and has rarely been in the House in the past few years -- nor has she campaigned very actively. Her 2006 re-election was surprisingly narrow, and Republicans have recruited state Rep. Jon Elrod, who they believe will be the ideal candidate to take down Carson. This race could be an unlikely pick-up for the GOP if Carson runs for re-election; if she retires, it could be easier for Democrats to hold.
- IN-09 (Rep. Hill): Rep. Hill and Republican Sodrel are running against each other for the fourth straight time. Voters know both of them at this point, and there is little they can do this early to change the dynamics.
- KS-2 (Rep. Boyda)
- NH-1 (Rep. Shea-Porter): Republicans are preparing for a primary between ousted 2006 congressman Bradley and the former HHS commissioner; but if Shea-Porter won last year with no money and no national attention, how vulnerable could she be now as an incumbent.
- OH-18 (Rep. Space)
- PA-4 (Rep. Altmire)
- PA-10 (Rep. Carney)
- TX-22 (Rep. Lampson): This race is deemed by many the most vulnerable seat held by a Democrat. But the strongest Republicans passed on the race, giving at least some pause to those who have long predicted Lampson is a one-timer. They might very well be right, but we shall wait until the GOP field yields its nominee to reassess the situation.
The race of the rankings, including all the "lean retention" and "potentially competitive" rated seats, is available here, at Campaign Diaries.