My main focus, however, has been on the House. There, we need a net gain of 15 for control, but the playing field is far larger and House Elections are affected far more by the national mood, which looks to be our biggest asset heading into 2006.
One month ago, I ranked 74 seats that we have the potential to win in 2006 based on various empirical data in order of chance to win. I did the same for 42 seats we are defending that the GOP at least has a theoretical chance to win. I did so largely without knowledge of or evaluating challengers.
Today, I update those rankings taking the challengers into consideration. I have added six GOP seats to that list based on challenger strength. Each of these challengers have already raised at least $90,000, and four are running in races that just missed the original list. Another is a statewide candidate in a state where the Dems have had success recently (Montana). The sixth is a huge longshot, but features an insane incumbent and a very energetic challenger who is already on the air with ads (Bryan Kennedy in WI-05). On the GOP side, only two challengers in races not on the original list have shown this kind of fundraising strength, and those two are challenging Reps. Danny Davis (IL-07)(Chicago Loop) and Barney Frank (MA-04)(Part of Boston and Brookline). Those two aren't losing under any circumstances. I'll deal with the GOP seats now; ours later.
I also drop from the lists races where there is no challenger as of yet. Recruiting is still going on, and if candidates surface, these races will be added back in. This, however, is how things stand today:
1. Iowa 01 (Prev. rank: 1) (Dix/Whalen/Kennedy (R) vs. Braley/Gluba/Dickinson (D))
This open seat features crowded primaries with well-funded candidates on both sides. The strongest candidates are probably State Rep. Bill Dix (R) and Attorney Bruce Braley (D). Braley is the leading fundraiser in the race ($306,000), and the seat leans Dem.
2. Colorado 07 (2) (O'Donnell/Paschall (R) vs. Perlmutter/Lamm (D))
This open seat is a classic swing district. The Dems have a competitive primary between two former legislators, Ed Perlmutter and Peggy Lamm. The GOP nominee will be either Colorado Higher Education Commission Chair Rick O'Donnell or Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Paschall.
3. Indiana 09 (3) (Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) vs. Former Rep. Baron Hill (D))
The third race between Sodrel and former Dem Rep. Baron Hill will be another marquee matchup. Hill won narrowly in 2002; Sodrel won by a ridiculously narrow margin last time. In a Dem year, Hill should win.
4. Connecticut 04 (5) (Rep. Chris Shays (R) vs. Westport Selectwoman & '04 Nominee Diane Farrell (D))
Shays barely escaped the first matchup between the two. In a Dem year, Farrell looks poised to finally oust Shays and capture this Dem-leaning district.
5. New Mexico 01 (16) (Rep. Heather Wilson (R) vs. New Mexico Atty. Gen. Patricia Madrid (D))
Wilson has won narrow races against second-tier opponents, often with assists from the Greens, since her first win in a 1998 special. This year she draws the top potential challenger with nary a Green in sight--and in a Dem year to boot. Say sayonara, nipplewoman.
6. Pennsylvania 06 (9) (Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) vs. '04 Nominee Lois Murphy (D))
This rematch of a 51-49 race from 2004 should only get better for our side with the improved fortunes of the Dems and with Ed Rendell and Bob Casey expected to romp here at the top of the ticket. Murphy has already raised $433,000 and has $350,000 on hand.
7. Connecticut 02 (7) (Rep. Rob Simmons (R) vs. Former State Rep. and '02 Nominee Joe Courtney (D))
Simmons sits in the most Democratic district held by a GOPer in the nation. He won in 2000 in a fluke and has been fortunate to see two GOP-friendly election cycles since. Courtney has raised $356,000 and has $308,000 on hand.
8. Illinois 06 (6) (State Sen. Peter Roskam (R) vs. Cegelis/Scott (D))
This is retiring douchebag Henry Hyde's seat, and Christine Cegelis is trying to build on her 44% in 2004, when she held Hyde to the lowest percentage of his career. First, however, she must defeat college professor Lindy Scott in the primary and then defeat well-connected and well-financed Hyde heir apparent Roskam. It remains to be seen what effect, if any, Roskam's ties to Tom DeLay will have. The Chicago suburbs are trending hard Dem.
9. Washington 08 (4) (Rep. Dave Reichert (R) vs. Burner/Gordon (D))
Reichert is a freshman who narrowly won this swing district when it was open last time. The Dem challengers, former Microsoft executive Darcy Burner and attorney Randy Gordon are unknowns who must build name recognition. Neither has had great fundraising (not bad, but not great). Still, you gotta figure that this one will be tight when all is said and done.
10. Wisconsin 08 (10) (Gard/McCormick/Lawrie (R) vs. Kagen/Wall/Nusbaum/Langan (D))
This open seat race is to replace Rep. Mark Green, who is running for Gov. This Green Bay district is traditionally GOP, but the Dems won it the last time it was open, in 1996. The fact that it's a Dem year will help. Gard is the state House Speaker and the clear favorite on the GOP side. Kagen (a doctor), Nusbaum (a former county executive and mayor of DePere), and Wall (a business consultant) all have had impressive fundraising totals, almost catching Gard and easily surpassing the other GOPers, including state Rep. McCormick.
11. Pennsylvania 08 (8) (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) vs. Murphy/Lang/Warren (D))
Fitzpatrick is a freshman incumbent who beat a weak Dem in this swing district in 2004. The three Dems include two veterans (Murphy and Lang), and a party-switching former GOP Bucks County Commissioner (Warren). Murphy is an Iraq war vet. None of the three have had much fundraising success thus far.
12. California 50 (14) (One of 8 GOPers vs. '04 Nominee Francine Busby (D))
This is the seat of retiring (and future jailbird) Rep. Randy Cunningham. The Cunningham scandal and a chaotic, bloody GOP primary have put this formerly noncompetitive San Diego County district firmly in play. The only GOPer who has reported any serious fundraising is State Rep. Mark Wyland, who has raised $252,000 to Busby's $248,000.
13. Minnesota 06 (15) (Krinkie/Knoblauch/Bachmann/Esmay (R) vs. Tinklenberg/Mortensen (D))
This open seat was held by Mark Kennedy, who is running for the Senate. 2004 nominee Patty Wetterling ran a great race here last year, but she, too, opted for the Senate race and may well face Kennedy again, this time statewide. The GOP has a fight among three state legislators and a rich guy; the Dems have a classic battle between a moderate, established pol (Tinklenberg) and an underfunded more liberal outsider (Mortensen). Tinklenberg is the favorite and should match up well against whoever emerges on the GOP side.
14. North Carolina 11 (20) (Rep. Charles Taylor (R) vs. Former NFL Quarterback Heath Shuler (D))
In addition to being something of a celebrity, Shuler is looking like a pretty damn good candidate against an incumbent with baggage who we came somewhat close to defeating the last few times. Plus, Dems did very well in Asheville (biggest city in the district) yesterday. Shuler has nearly caught Taylor in fundraising and actually has a rare challenger cash-on-hand advantage.
15. Indiana 08 (42) (Rep. John Hostettler (R) vs. Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D))
This race is one of the biggest movers, partly because I put it too low to begin with, partly because of events, and partly because of fundraising totals. As noted on the front page a couple days ago, Hostettler is one of seven to vote against the Katrina aid package; Ellsworth has been front and center in responding to the recent tornado. The contrast is a juicy one, and one I expect the campaign to highlight. Ellsworth also has both outraised Hostettler and has a cash-on-hand advantage of over 4:1. While Hostettler never raises or spends much on his campaigns, this is a big discrepancy even for him, especially this early.
16. Texas 22 (59) (Rep. Tom DeLay (R) vs. Former Rep. Nick Lampson (D))
The biggest mover on the list, for obvious reasons. Every indication is that the indicted DeLay actually intends to run for re-election. This has all the signs of the 1994 Dan Rostenkowsi-Michael Flanagan race on Chicago's North Side. The only difference, Lampson is a helluva lot better candidate than Flanagan (who lost by 28% to Rod Blagojevich in 1996) ever was.
17. Florida 09 (12) (State Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R) vs. Rublee/Mitchell/Busansky/Taylor (D))
Retiring Rep. Michael Bilirakis is attempting to hand off the seat to his son. The Dems are all unknowns at this point, but Rublee has a good moderate profile (and has raised $76,000) and Busansky is a former county commissioner. This race has the potential to be top tier because of the fairly balanced nature of the district (slight GOP lean), but may not get there.
18. Iowa 02 (13) (Rep. Jim Leach (R) vs. College Professor David Loebsack (D))
Like Iowa 01, this is a lean Dem district (even more so). Unlike, the 1st, the GOP has an incumbent. Also unlike the 1st, the Dems do not have either a top-tier candidate who is already known or a strong fundraiser with the potential to get known. Loebsack has raised $49,000 to date. While Leach never raises or spends much, Loebsack needs to step it up to put himself in a position where the tide can pull him over the top.
19. Florida 22 (35) (Rep. Clay Shaw (R) vs. State Sen. Ron Klein (D))
On-again off-again target Clay Shaw has his hands full this year. He largely escaped notice last time after the GOP gerrymander shored him up and made his swing district more GOP, but now likely faces the Democratic Leader in the state Senate, who has raised a whopping $968,000 to date, with $840,000 on hand. Klein has outraised the prolific fundraiser Shaw. It should be noted that Klein faces primary opposition from veteran John Glassie and college professor Robert Watson.
20. Ohio 18 (23) (Rep. Bob Ney (R) vs. Chillicothe Mayor Joe Sulzer (D))
This race may jump up much higher depending on what happens with the Abramoff investigation; Ney is in it with Abramoff up to his eyeballs. Even if nothing changes, Sulzer is a strong candidate (the only top-tier challenger the Dems have in Ohio as of this writing).
21. Connecticut 05 (19) (Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) vs. State Sen. Chris Murphy or Waterbury Bd. of Alderman Pres. Paul Vance (D))
Although this is the most Republican seat in Connecticut, it still leans Dem overall. While Johnson is a strong incumbent without any real baggage, Murphy (assuming he gets the nom) is the strongest candidate she's ever faced other than Rep. Jim Maloney in 2002. Murphy has already raised $253,000 and has $234,000 on hand.
22. Colorado 04 (27) (Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) vs. State Rep. Angie Paccione (D))
Musgrave is a lightning rod for controversy who has narrowly won what should be a GOP seat. Can she survive in a non-GOP year? The Dems recruited a strong challenger for the third time in a row, and the signs are that funding will not be a problem this time.
23. New York 29 (Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) vs. Former Navy Officer Eric Massa (D))
Kuhl won an open seat contest in 2004 in this upstate district which is arguably the most GOP in the state (which isn't saying that much). Kuhl has a lot of baggage, and Massa is a much better candidate than Sam Barend, the '04 nominee. The upset in the Corning mayor's race by a Dem that Massa publicly supported is a good sign. Massa's fundraising has been fairly impressive ($96,000).
24. Nevada 02 (24) (Gibbons/Heller/Angle (R) vs. State University System Regent Jill Derby (D))
This is the district that's basically all of Nevada except Las Vegas and its suburbs. This race is as high as it is because Derby is a strong recruit and because open seats tend to go to the party with the national wind at their back. Nonetheless, the GOP has a top notch field here--Gibbons and Angle are state Reps. And Heller is the Secretary of State. Additionally, Gibbons is the wife of outgoing Rep. (and Gov. candidate) Jim Gibbons.
25. Indiana 02 (29) (Rep. Chris Chocola (R) vs. '04 Nominee Joe Donnelley (D))
This is a swing district formerly represented by Dem Tim Roemer. Donnelley did respectably in the GOP year (especially in Indiana) of 2004 and is positioned to give Chocola a tougher rematch. He's raised $186,000 and has $160,000 on hand.
26. New Hampshire 02 (22) (Rep. Charles Bass (R) vs. '04 Nominee Paul Hodes (D))
This is another swing district trending Dem, and Hodes has the name rec built up in his initial run. His fundraising has been so-so so far.
27. North Carolina 08 (25) (Rep. Robin Hayes (R) vs. Iraq War vet Tim Dunn (D))
This race could move up if the "fighting Dem" thing takes off. Thus far, Dunn seems like a decent candidate, but the fundraising numbers were low. The Dems held this seat until Hayes won it in 1998. He beat back strong challenges in 2000 and '02. The jury is still out on Dunn, but a strong campaign could bring down Hayes in a Dem year.
28. Michigan 11 (38) (Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) vs. Radio Talk Show Host Tony Trupiano (D))
The entry of Trupiano has Dems excited about taking the most winnable GOP-held seat in Michigan. While this gerrymandered district will present a challenge, McCotter has never seen a strong opponent. This is exactly the type of race we can win with a tide.
29. California 48 (18) (special election 12/6/05: State Sen. John Campbell (R) vs. Attorney Steve Young (D) vs. Minuteman Jim Gilchrist (I))
This race dropped following Young's lackluster showing in the open primary; he almost failed to force a runoff. Still, if he can pick up moderate GOPer Marilyn Brewer's support and Gilchrist can cut into Campbell's right flank, Young could pull the upset in this heavily Republican Orange County district.
30. Florida 13 (40) (Buchanan/Hudson/Detert (R) vs. Jennings/Schneider/LaFevers (D))
This is Katherine Harris' seat (she's off to get trounced by Sen. Bill Nelson). Unlike many, I don't attribute the Dems' strong showing here solely to an anybody-but-Harris phenomenon; I think we can actually win with her out. The GOP has noone who stands out, and we have Christine Jennings, who is well-funded (although not as well as Buchanan or Hudson) or Jan Scneider, the '02 and '04 nominee. Still an uphill battle, but doable.
31. Arizona 01 (33) (Rep. Rick Renzi (R) vs. Jackson/Caccioppoli/McKerlie (D))
Though the 1st was drawn to be a swing seat, Renzi has had two easy wins courtesy of Dem blundering. This year, the Dems hope to reverse that with (most likely) Jack Jackson (the State Indian Affairs Commissioner). This is a winnable seat, but Renzi is tough.
32. West Virginia 02 (55) (Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) vs. former State Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Callaghan (D))
Callaghan looks to be a strong candidate for a seat the Dems held continuously until 2000. His candidacy is a new one, so we'll see how it progresses. This one could move a lot in either direction.
33. Minnesota 02 (43) (Rep. John Kline vs. Former FBI Agent Colleen Rowley (D))
Rowley is an intriguing candidate in this lean-GOP suburban seat. She's got a story to tell and has had decent fundraising. This one could move either way depending on whether Rowley catches on and on how her whistleblower role plays.
34. Virginia 02 (44) (Rep. Thelma Drake (R) vs. Iraq War Vet and '04 Nominee David Ashe or business consultant Troy Farlow (D))
This is a likely rematch of a hard fought open seat contest between Drake and Ashe. Ashe's problem then is his problem now: lack of funding; his fundraising has been poor so far. Still, Gov.-elect Tim Kaine's strong showing in Virginia Beach bodes well for the Dems here.
35. Michigan 09 (34) (Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R) vs. Attorney Rhonda Ross (D) or '04 Nominee Steve Reifman (D))
It remains to be seen how strong our candidates are here. What I do know is that this wealthy suburban Oakland County district is trending Dem, and that our top of the ticket in Michigan should do pretty well.
36. Pennsylvania 07 (45) (Rep. Curt Weldon (R) vs. Doctor and '04 Nominee Paul Scoles or Iraq War Vet Brian Lentz (D))
Weldon is an entrenched GOPer in an increasingly blue district. Dems look be in very strong shape in the Delaware Valley generally, so the upswell in support for Rendell, Casey, and the 6th and 8th District challengers should help here as well.
37. Florida 08 (67) (Rep. Ric Keller (R) vs. Stuart/Hartage/Murray (D))
This race moved a lot because of the quality of the Dems. Homer Hartage is an Orange County Commissioner, and Charlie Stuart (a marketing consultant) has outraised the incumbent. This is a winnable district; it was extremely close as an open seat in 2000.
38. Ohio 15 (36) (Rep. Deborah Pryce (R) vs. Attorney Mark Losey (D))
The crushing defeat of the RON measures means that 1) we don't get a more favorable map; 2) that the Dems are still an ineffectual disorganized lot; and 3) the GOP state scandals have not generally soured the electorate on the GOP (as opposed to hurting various individual politicians). None are good news for Losey, whose fundraising has been anemic. Still, this is Columbus and Columbus is trending our way.
39. New York 26 (37) (Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) vs. Businessman Jack Davis (D)
This is a rematch of an unexpectedly close 2004 contest. With Spitzer and Clinton at the top of the ticket, Davis may have a shot. It remains to be seen whether he will self-fund as aggressively as last time.
40. Illinois 11 (50) (Rep. Jerry Weller (R) vs. Attorney John Pavich (D))
This southwest suburban/exurban seat is winnable for Dems. Pavich is lesser known, but is off to a good fundraising start ($147,000 raised/$110,000 on hand).
41. Minnesota 01 (62) (Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) vs. Veteran Tim Walz or '04 Nominee Leigh Pomeroy (D)
Walz is another "fighting Dem" with a shot in 2006. His fundraising has been fairly good; Pomeroy's has been nonexistent. This is a winnable lean-GOP district.
42. Virginia 11 (48) (Rep. Tom Davis (R) vs. Attorney Andy Hurst or '04 Nominee Ken Longmyer (D))
With Dems' strong showing in Northern Virginia, Davis has to be running a bit scared. It remains to be seen whether either of these candidates can be competitive against him. I wonder if there's any chance Leslie Byrne would want to make a comeback challenge for this week after her near-Lt. Gov. miss; Byrne won this district 55-45 in that race.
43. Illinois 10 (49) (Rep. Mark Kirk (R) vs. Winnetka Park Board member Zane Smith (D))
Smith is a wealthy Dem whose profile fits this suburban district that has gone Dem in ever Presidential election since 1988. It remains to be seen how competitive he is against Kirk.
44. Montana at Large (not rated) (Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) vs. State Rep. Monica Lindeen (D))
Lindeen is a very strong challenger for a statewide seat in a state that has been trending our way. She has already raised $101,000 and Dems will be energized because of the Senate race.
45. California 11 (53) (Rep. Richard Pombo (R) vs. Filson/McNerney/Chacon (D))
Pombo has a carefully gerrymandered Northern Cali district that is winnable for the Dems on a good day. Veteran Steve Filson appears to present our best chance; he's raised $105,000 and has $101,000 on hand.
46. Pennsylvania 18 (51) (Rep. Tim Murphy (R) vs. Veteran Tom Kovach (D))
This is a lean-GOP seat outside of Pittsburgh. The Dems looked to have top tier candidate Barbara Hafer, but she backed out. Kovach has strong potential, but he is a new candidate; we'll know more about how competitive he makes this race as time goes on.
47. Florida 24 (not rated) (Rep. Tom Feeney (R) vs. Veterinarian Andy Michaud (D))
This is a gerrymandered district in central Florida that just leans GOP. Feeney drew it for himself and won it in '02 and '04. Michaud looks to be a strong candidate. He has raised $120,000 so far and could be poised for an upset.
48. New Jersey 05 (57) (Rep. Scott Garrett (R) vs. '04 Nominee Anne Wolfe or Consultant Paul Aronsohn (D))
This is a GOP seat, but it is New Jersey. The Dems have had some decent showings here. Wolfe's fundraising is so-so.
49. Pennsylvania 10 (61) (Rep. Don Sherwood (R) vs. Veteran Chris Carney (D))
This is a heavily GOP seat, but Sherwood has some baggage; he just settled a civil lawsuit for alleged assault against his much junior former mistress. It remains to be seen whether Carney can win over moderates and conservatives with his military background.
50. Pennsylvania 04 (69) (Rep. Melissa Hart (R) vs. Maufacturing Exec. Georgia Berner or Ex-Hospital Exec. Jason Altmire (D))
This is a GOP seat, but both Berner and Altmire are off to good fundraising starts. Dem Ron Klink held substantially the same seat until he left to run for the Senate in 2000.
51. New York 19 (not rated) (Rep. Sue Kelly or Log Cabin GOP Official Jeff Cook (R) vs. Aydelott/Rigger/Shuldiner (D))
Attorney Aydelott's strong fundraising ($185,000), with teacher Shuldiner at a respectable level as well, propelled this suburban and exurban New York district onto the list. Kelly's primary challenge can't help her much, either.
52. California 45 (not rated) (Rep. Mary Bono (R) vs. David Roth (D))
Roth looks like a decent challenger in a district that just missed the original list. He's raised $94,000.
53. New York 20 (not rated) (Rep. John Sweeney vs. Attorney Kirsten Gillibrand or Stockbroker Morris Guller (D))
Gillibrand was another challenger that looks strong in a district that just missed my list. There are no safe GOP districts in New York.
54. Pennsylvania 03 (47) (Rep. Phil English (R) vs. '04 Nominee Steve Porter (D))
English has held this lean-GOP seat comfortably since a close scare in 1996. Porter has had almost no fundraising.
55. Ohio 03 (52) (Rep. Mike Turner (R) vs. Veteran David Fierst (D))
This is one of the Ohio seats that could be competitive, but the jury is still out whether the underfunded Fierst can make it so.
56. Ohio 04 (73) (?)
Rep. Mike Oxley's retirement announcement will generate activity on both sides. This is the most GOP district in the state, however, so a win here would be a longshot.
57. Ohio 14 (71) (Rep. Steve LaTourette (R) vs. Meteorologist Palmer Peterson (D))
See analysis for Ohio 03.
58. Wisconsin 05 (not rated) (Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R) vs. '04 Nominee Bryan Kennedy (D))
This is the longest of longshots in a district I wouldn't wish on anyone, but Kennedy is aggressive and Sensenbrenner has made numerous missteps. Still, a win here would be the biggest upset in modern political history and would signify the absolute demise of the GOP as we know it.