House Republicans at risk? Districts where Democrats hope for upsets
Democrats are expected to lose House seats in Election 2010, but in districts where demographics are shifting their way they are working to upset Republican incumbents. California's Third District is one.
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Lungren's sub-50 percent showing in 2008 was just four years after he won with 62 percent. Elsewhere, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) of California and Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R) of Ohio have seen their vote percentages fall from the mid-60s earlier in the decade to 58 percent and 55 percent, respectively, in the last election. Neither Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) of Pennsylvania nor Rep. Dave Reichert (R) of Washington, meanwhile, has ever won with more than 53 percent of the vote, though their margins of victory have remained fairly constant.Skip to next paragraph
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The populations in 12 of the 17 districts have grown faster than the national average this decade, according to census data. Many of them have become younger and more ethnically diverse during that period. That data provided some of the rationale for the decision to target these seats.
Speaking of Lungren's district and others like it, Andy Stone, a DCCC spokesman, says: "The fact that Obama won there, the change in population, the different demographics … those are all factors that have made the district a target."
Republicans remain confident about holding each seat the Democrats are targeting, however. The downward trend line for Republican incumbents in these districts is tied to so-called "Democratic years" – when the Democrats were overwhelmingly popular compared with the Republicans, say GOP officials.
The situation is completely different this year, says Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Changing demographics cannot compete with the national mood, she says. Gallup puts Democratic approval ratings at 33 percent.
In California, for example, Lungren took 46 percent to Bera's 38 percent, with 15 percent of voters undecided, according to a Sept. 19 poll by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm.
"It's all about momentum, and I think there's no doubt that the Republicans have all the intensity at the time," Ms. Burgos says. The congressmen targeted by the DCCC Red and Blue program "just had two very difficult cycles for Republicans, and they were able to survive that."
In other words, if the Democratic Party could not defeat certain Republicans in "blue" years it can't take their seats this year, either.
That is essentially the view taken by Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. "You only need one hand to count the number of Republican incumbents who might lose in November, with a couple digits to spare," Mr. Gonzales says. Democrats "have credible candidates, but it's just a terrible time to run."
Still, though most predictions for the midterm election are dire for Democrats, the most reliable indicator – public opinion polls – are all over the map. A Sept. 20 Gallup poll found voters are virtually split, 46 percent to 45 percent, between Democratic and Republican supporters, respectively. An August NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (which also showed a statistical tie) shows that the drop in Democratic support over the past two years has come primarily in the South. Democrats could lose seats in the South and Midwest, but some GOP seats in other regions might be vulnerable as well.