As we noted earlier, this is not a good year for Republicans. Yet, somehow, the GOP faithful just don’t see it.
Let’s look at the United States House of Representatives.
In early August, the State of Sunshine wrote about the prospects for House takeover. At the time, we noted that Florida could be a battleground state. In preparing this analysis, the State of Sunshine uses the Rothenberg Political Report, the Cook Political Report, and the New York Times’ Election Guide. While Congressional Quarterly’s proejctions were not used, it largely agrees with the other three sources.
In the House, Republicans hold a 230-202 majority. Democrats need to flip 15 seats. Rothenberg is predicting a “…Democratic gain of 18-25 seats, though we think that a significantly larger Democratic gain, in excess of 30 seats, is quite possible.”
Rather than analyzing every possible seat, Cook shows 27 Republican “Toss Up” seats, Rothenberg has 15 and the New York Times has 16. All three agree that 11 seats are pure toss up seats.
None of the sources show any Democrats as toss ups or leaning Republican. However, Cook, Rothenberg and the New York Times show four Republican seats leaning to Democrats — one of them is Mark Foley’s seat, Florida 16. Six of Cook’s 27 seats are shown by both the Times and Rothenberg as leaning Democratic. Four more of Cook’s 27 are shown to be leaning Democratic by either the Times or Rothenberg. Only six of the 27 seats are shown to be leaning Republican by either the Times, Rothenberg or both.
This puts Democrats just a handful seats away from a majority in the U.S. House. Starting with the fifteen-seat minority, add the four seats that all three sources believe will switch, and add the six seats where two of the three sources believe there will be a change, and the Democrats are only five seats down.
Let’s explore the four seats shown to be a toss up by two sources and the elevent seats defined as toss ups by all three sources.
1. Connecticut 2 – Incumbent Republican Congressman Robert Simmons faces Democrat Joseph Courtney for the second time in four years. In 2002, Simmons won 54-46 but recent polls show the race a dead heat. Less than three weeks before Election Day, the poll by UConn’s Center for Survey Research and Analysis gives Simmons a 2 point lead over Courtney among likely voters, 46 percent to 44 percent. The poll’s margin of error is 3.5 percentage points. The numbers are especially ominous for Simmons, a three-term incumbent from Stonington who beat Courtney by 8 percentage points in 2002. This time, only 50 percent approve of the job he’s doing and nearly 70 percent believe the country is on the wrong track. (Hartford Courant)
2. Connecticut 4 – A few years ago, incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Shays was known as an independent thinker. Now he faces a 2nd challenge from Democrat Selectwoman Dianne Farrell, whom he beat 52-48 in 2004. (Sidebar: Selectwoman is a local government office). The race between incumbent Republican Chris Shays and Democrat Diane Farrell for Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District is now tied and is being driven more than ever by the war in Iraq, according to a new poll commissioned by The Courant. The poll found each candidate with 43 percent support among likely voters, reflecting a gain of 2 percentage points for Farrell and a loss of 3 percentage points for Shays since a similar poll in early October when violence in Iraq began to escalate. (Hartford Courant)
3. Illinois 6 – Republican Congressman Henry Hyde is leaving his seat. Republican State Senator Peter Roskam is fighting Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran. A recent Chicago Tribune poll showed Roskam, a state senator, leading Duckworth 43 percent to 39 percent, but 17 percent of those surveyed still were undecided. … A conservative state senator from Wheaton, Roskam has cast himself as the local choice for voters and has complained about Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran, being the hand-picked candidate of Clinton White House operative and Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the DCCC. (Belleville News-Democrat)
4. Minnesota 6 – Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy is Democrat Patty Wetterling, who became a child safety advocate after her son was kidnapped, is challenging Republican State Senator Michele Bachmann. DFLer Patty Wetterling leads Republican Michele Bachmann 48 to 40 percent in the hot race for Congress in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, according to the latest Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. … The poll, conducted Oct. 6-12, may have been influenced by the Mark Foley congressional page scandal, which brought attention to Wetterling because of her work as a child-safety advocate. (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
5. New York 26 – After the Mark Foley scandal, Republican Conressman Thomas Reynolds, head of the Republican Conressional Campaign Committee and chair of the House Page program, found himself in trouble. Democrat Jack Davis, who lost to Reynolds 44-56 in 2004, has found new life – a recent Zogby poll has him up by 15 points. [Canisius College political science professor and local political talk radio host Kevin] Hardwick argues that the Foley scandal brings about an odd dynamic for the veteran politician. Typically, powerful politicians like Reynolds, who chairs the committee charged with overseeing the re-election efforts of all GOP congressmen occupy “safe” districts and have access to corridors of power and wield influence that can benefit their home district. (The Amherst Record)
6. New York 24 – Republican State Senator Raymond Meier is facing Oneida County Democrat District Attorney Michael Arcuri for outgoing Republican Conressman Sherwood Boehlert’s open seat. Experts who follow congressional elections regard the contest between Democrat Michael Arcuri and Republican Raymond Meier in New York’s 24th District as a tossup. But just how close is it in a race that could help determine control of Congress in the Nov. 7 election? Internal polling by the candidates early in the campaign hinted that a tight race for the central New York seat was indeed developing. (Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin)
7. North Carolina 11 – Republican Congresman Charles Taylor is facing Democrat Heath Shuler for this western North Carolina district. Yes, Florida Gator fans, the same Heath Shuler who played quarterback at the University of Tennessee. Taylor, seeking a ninth term representing a conservative district in the state’s western mountains, is being challenged by moderate Democrat and former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler. Even though many observers call the race a toss-up, that Bush wouldn’t travel to Asheville to stump for Taylor may not be all that surprising. Taylor generally avoids reporters from outside his district and has never made a point of being seen with the president. (Greensboro News-Record)
8. Indiana 9 – Republican Congressman Mike Sodrel is fighting off former Democratic Congressman Baron Hill are in their third contest since 2002. That year, Hill held onto his seat by more than 9,400 votes. Sodrel defeated Hill by fewer than 1,500 votes out of 287,000 cast in 2004. With 49.5 percent of the vote, it was the year’s smallest winning percentage among congressional candidates.Polls show Hill leading Sodrel in their third rematch… (Fort Wayne News Sentinel)
9. New Mexico 1 – Incumbent Congresswoman Heather Wilson, a Republican, is in a tough battle from Democrat Attorney General Patricia Madrid. Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid and incumbent Republican Heather Wilson are about even in the race for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District seat, according to a new poll. The survey of 503 registered voters in the district who said they are likely to cast ballots in the Nov. 7 general election found 45 percent support Madrid, the state’s attorney general, while 42 percent favor Wilson. Another 9 percent said they are undecided and 4 percent said they would not vote for either candidate, the Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday in a copyright story. (Santa Fe New Mexican)
10. Wisconsin 8 – In the race to succeed outgoing Republican Congressman Mark Green, Democrat Doctor Steve Kagen is challenging Republican Assembly Speaker John Gard. The most closely watched political race in Wisconsin outside of the state is for Congress in Wisconsin’s 8th District, and one proof of its importance was McCain’s visit to a downtown Appleton hotel Tuesday to stump for Assembly Speaker John Gard in his bid to keep the seat in Republican hands. Democrats think they can recapture Congress in November, and the open seat in northeastern Wisconsin is one of their top targets. Polls show an extremely close race between Peshtigo resident Gard and Democrat Steve Kagen, a millionaire allergist from Appleton. … A poll conducted last week by the Washington, D.C., consulting firms RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics found that 48 percent of the 983 voters polled favored Kagen, while 46 percent favored Gard, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. (Madison Capital Times)
11. Pennsylvania 6 – Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach is facing trouble from Democrat Lois Murphy for the second time. The race, one of the most competitive House contests in the country, is a rematch of 2004, when Gerlach narrowly defeated Murphy. Voters in the district supported Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. … Recent independent polls have shown Gerlach and Murphy running neck-and-neck. … Last month, a Keystone Poll conducted by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster showed 44 percent of likely voters supporting Gerlach and 41 percent supporting Murphy. Since the 3-point difference was within the poll’s 5-point sampling error margin, it was considered a tie. (Wilkes Barre Times-Leader)
12. Ohio 15 – Like other Ohio Republicans, Congresswoman Deborah Pryce is in a struggle with her Democratic opponent, County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy. Pryce, who represents most of Columbus and who ranks fourth in the House GOP leadership, was forced to respond to criticism that she didn’t do enough to stop Foley because she once said in a magazine interview that he was one of her close friends in the House. … Polls show that Pryce, a moderate who was first elected in 1992 and won with 60 percent of the vote in 2004, is now fighting for her political life. (Houston Chronicle)
13. Virginia 2 – Virginia Beach Democract Commissioner of Revenue Phil Kellam is challenging Republican Congresswoman Thelma Drake. [Second] thoughts about Iraq have helped make traditional Republican turf like Virginia’s 2nd District an unexpected battleground in the November 7 elections, when Democrats must pick up 15 seats to claim control of the House. First-term Republican Rep. Thelma Drake and Democratic challenger Phil Kellam are running neck and neck in polls in the conservative district that President George W. Bush won easily with 58 percent of the vote in 2004. (Washington Post)
14. Florida 22 – Democrat State Senator Ron Klein is fighting Republican incumbent Clay Shaw, but Shaw may be pulling back ahead. Incumbent Shaw was favored by 48 percent of respondents while Klein was chosen by 43 percent, according to a poll for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The poll, conducted by telephone on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Undecided voters may hold the key to the race. Eight percent of those polled reported they had not decided who to vote for. Republicans represent the highest percentage of undecided voters at 12 percent, while only 4 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of independents reported not having made up their minds, according to the poll. (Florida Times-Union)
15. Florida 13 – In the race to replace Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris, Republican car dealer Vern Buchanan is facing Democratic banker Christine Jennings. The race for Congress has become so unexpectedly competitive that even President George W. Bush is trying to step in to prevent Democrats from winning a seat many thought a year ago was a lock for Republicans. Bush is scheduled to come to the Sarasota-Bradenton area Oct. 24 to headline a rally for Republican Vern Buchanan, who concedes he is trailing Democrat Christine Jennings in his own internal polling by 3 percentage points, with early voting starting in less than a week. (Sarasota Herald Tribune)
These are the fifteen races we believe are the true battleground races. As these go, so goes Congress.
The State of Sunshine predicts the Democrats will take at least the fifteen seats needed to take control of the House. The final margin is still unknown, but could be anywhere from one to twenty seats, or more.