Thanks to a wicked, Democratic-controlled gerrymander of Illinois's congressional districts, the path to a majority for House Democrats runs through my home state of Illinois.
Six districts are in play for the Democrats, five of which are held by Republican incumbents (IL-8, IL-10, IL-11, IL-13, IL-17), and one of which is held by a Democratic incumbent (IL-12).
I'll start with the one Democratic-held district that Republicans are making a play for, and that is the 12th District, which includes much of Southwestern Illinois. Democratic incumbent Jerry Costello is not seeking another term, and, after Brad Harriman won the Democratic primary, Harriman withdrew from the race for health reasons, and Democratic county chairmen slated Bill Enyart, a businessman and Adjunct General in the Illinois National Guard, as the replacement nominee. Unlike Enyart, Republican Jason Plummer, who narrowly lost the lieutenant gubernatorial race in 2010 to Democrat Sheila Simon, has been in this race the whole way. The 12th District is ancestrally Democratic, but many self-identified Democrats in the 12th District are moderate or even conservative. Expect this race to be a close one.
Now, onto the five pickup opportunities for Illinois Democrats...
Republican loudmouth Joe Walsh narrowly defeated Democrat Melissa Bean in the 8th District in 2010, and Walsh is running for a second term. This district is almost certain to flip back to Democratic control for several reasons: Walsh is a far-right loudmouth who berates constituents, owed $117,000 in back child support before finally paying up after being ripped apart in the media, plagiarized a legislative proposal from Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY), and claimed that his Democratic opponent, Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both of her legs after a Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting over Iraq was shot down, was not a "true hero", and redistricting made the 8th District much more Democratic than it was prior to redistricting, going from a McHenry County-based district to an Elgin and Schaumburg-based district. Tammy Duckworth, who I consider to be a true hero, is strongly favored to defeat Walsh in November. This is the strongest pickup opportunity for Democrats in the entire country.
Republican freshman Bob Dold narrowly defeated Democrat Dan Seals in a 2010 open-seat race in the 10th District, which is centered around Waukegan in Lake County. Redistricting made the already Democratic-leaning district even more so, and Dold will face Democrat Brad Schneider, who won a four-way Democratic primary, in November. Dold may have to outperform President Obama by double digits in order to win re-election, and, if any Republican can do it, it would be him, as he has the backing of teachers' unions, which normally back Democratic candidates, and Dold has tried to build a moderate reputation. This is going to be a close race, but Schneider appears to be very slightly favored.
Longtime Republican incumbent Judy Biggert now finds herself in the new 11th District, a Democratic-leaning district that includes Joliet and Aurora. Biggert has drawn a top-tier challenger in Bill Foster, a former U.S. Representative who lost the old 14th District in 2010 to Republican Randy Hultgren. Both Biggert and Foster have moderate reputations, so, given the Democratic lean of the district, Foster is favored to win, but he's going to have to put up a fight to do so.
Longtime Republican incumbent Tim Johnson found himself in the new 13th District, a swing district which includes much of Central Illinois, and, after winning the Republican primary, Johnson bailed out of the race, and Republican county chairmen selected Rodney Davis, a congressional aide, to replace Johnson as the Republican nominee. David Gill, an emergency room physician, narrowly defeated Greene County State's Attorney Matt Goetten in the Democratic primary. Both candidates are perceived as hard-liners within their respective parties, and the 13th District is a swing district, so expect this race to be close.
Republican freshman Bobby Schilling defeated Democrat Phil Hare, who ran probably the worst re-election campaign I've ever seen in my life, in 2010 in the 17th District, and Schilling is now running for re-election in an even more Democratic district than the old 17th District. Schilling's Democratic opponent is Cheri Bustos, a member of the East Moline City Council. This race could be closer than one would think based on the Democratic lean of the district, as Bustos's opinion poll numbers do not look good, however, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Bustos is slightly favored to defeat Schilling.