We have recently modified our criteria as to which House Democrats we think are vulnerable. Previously, we used the following criteria:
(1) Whether the district voted 65% or less for Obama (our rationale explained here);
(2) Whether an incumbent was re-elected with 65% or less of the vote;
(3) An incumbent’s voting record with regards to the stimulus, “cap and trade”, healthcare reform, and raising the national debt ceiling.
We decided to further refine criteria #3 as follows: (a) if an incumbent Democrat voted mostly “No” on these four items, we believe he/she would be safe. Likewise, if an incumbent Democrat voted mostly “Yes”, we believe he/she would be vulnerable. And if he/she voted “Yes” as many times as “No”, the tiebreaker would be how the district voted for President. If McCain carried the district, the incumbent may be vulnerable, while he/she is probably safe if the district voted for Obama. Given these refined criteria, the data suggests a net GOP gain of 84 House seats (only a 40 seat gain is needed to retake control).
Latest News – Indiana
In the last post, we mentioned that there were two Democratic congressmen from marginal districts who were interested in the Senate seat vacated by Evan Bayh. Since then, Baron Hill has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination, leaving Brad Ellsworth as the likely nominee. This also means that we see his open seat (which he took from the GOP in 2006) as a likely GOP pickup.
Latest News – Filing Deadlines
This past week, candidate filing closed in Mississippi and Nebraska, with little surprises, although it is worth noting that neither party is conceding any House seats – there are Democratic, Republican, and (in some cases) third party challenges for each House seat. Later this month, 13 more states see their filing deadlines close (next week, filing closes in Arkansas, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.), which means that by March 31, we will know all possible candidates in 223 of 435 House races and in 16 of 36 Senate races, and we expect to see more last minute retirements before these filing deadlines pass.
Latest News – Retirements
On the note above, this past week was actually a very busy week in terms of retirements, as the following incumbents have decided not to seek re-election:
(1) Embattled Governor David Patterson (D-New York) declined to seek re-election amidst questions about whether he attempted to intimidate a witness involved in a domestic abuse scandal related to his (Patterson’s) Chief Of Staff;
(2) Two term governor Dave Freudenthal (D-Wyoming), who was mulling challenging the state’s term limits law;
(3) Two Georgia Republicans representing safe districts are retiring; John Linder will not seek re-election to a seat he has held for 18 years, while Nathan Deal (also an 18 year veteran) is immediately resigning to run for Governor. However, in Rep Deal’s case, he was the subject of two ethics inquiries, and there is some question as to whether those inquiries prompted his resignation;
(4) Representative Eric Massa (D-New York) declined to seek re-election to his Republican leaning district (incidentally, his initial election in 2006 was one of several dozen victories that year that enabled the Democrats to retake the House); there were allegations filed with the Ethics Committee that he sexually harassed a young male staffer.
(5) Representative Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts) declined to seek re-election to his (by Massachusetts standards) Republican leaning district; in his case, there was negative fallout regarding his not prosecuting Amy Bishop on a 20 year old case she was involved in when he was the District Attorney.
Latest News – Jumping In/Bowing Out
(1) Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) has been lagging in the polls lately, and faces significant Republican opposition. She now faces a formidable primary challenge from Lt Governor Bill Halter. In addition to holding elective office, the “net roots” and labor have coalesced behind Halter’s candidacy and will thus enable him to be financially and organizationally competitive with Senator Lincoln between now and the May 18 primary;
(2) Former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr (D-Tennessee) recently moved to New York and considered challenging the appointed Democratic incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. He recently, however, declined to make the race.
Latest News – Texas Primary and Lessons
Besides the fact that the formerly embattled Republican incumbent Rick Perry turned back a challenge from Texas’ Senior Senator in the primary and a Tea Party activist, the following can be considered the “talking points” from Rick Perry’s impressive 51-30% primary victory:
(1) It is not necessarily fatal to be a Congressional incumbent – in fact, the 32 incumbent Congressmen seeking re-election received at least 57% of the vote in the primary;
(2) What is fatal is for the voters to believe that a candidate has “gone Washington” – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has never been re-elected with less than 61% of the vote, and previously had never received less than 84% of the vote in a Republican primary. Yet when she refused to resign her Senate seat (after initially promising to do so), this action, plus her support of TARP legislation, were actions that Rick Perry used to define her as someone who forgot her Texas roots;
(3) While voters want new candidates, that doesn’t mean that a newcomer is guaranteed to win. Debra Medina’s insurgent campaign stalled in an instant when on Glenn Beck’s radio program, she refused to disassociate herself from those who believed the federal government was involved in the 9/11 attacks;
(4) In 2008 in Texas, as in many other states, the enthusiasm was clearly on the Democratic side; in 2010, the enthusiasm is clearly on the GOP side. To illustrate, in the 2008 Presidential primary, 4.2 million Texans voted, and 68% of them voted in the Democratic primary. In 2010, 2.2 million Texans voted in the gubernatorial primary (double the turnout of the 2006 primary) , and 69% selected a Republican ballot.
Latest News – Upcoming Primaries/Special Elections
So far, only Illinois and Texas have held primaries. Beyond that, there will be no other major statewide elections until May 4. However, while the 10 states’ holding primaries in May are worth watching, there are also three upcoming special Congressional elections scheduled in April and May which will test the extent of the “Obama plunge.” All three vacant House seats were held by Democrats, and in two of those races (in Pennsylvania and Hawaii) the Republicans have strong challengers.