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Where to Show Them the Money: More on Taking Back the House

By Alan Abramowitz

Based on the findings of the Abramowitz, Alexander and Gunning paper (see yesterday's post), in 2006 Democrats would be wise to target Republicans representing high-risk districts: districts that lean Democratic in presidential elections. Such districts account for a disproprtionate share of incumbent defeats and party turnover in House elections. For example, in 1994, 32 percent of Democratic incumbents in high-risk districts were defeated compared with only 7 percent of Democratic incumbents in all other districts. Although only 34 percent of all Democratic seats in 1994 were in high-risk districts, 70 percent of Democratic seat losses occurred in these districts.

So where are these high-risk Republican districts? There are currently 25 such GOP districts: Colorado 7; Connecticut 2, 4, and 5; Delaware AL; Florida 10 and 22; Illinois 10; Iowa 1 and 2; Kentucky 3; Nevada 3; New Hampshire 2; New Jersey 2, 3, and 4; New Mexico 1; New York 3, 13, and 25; Pennsylvania 6, 7, 8, and 15; and Washington 8.

There are certainly vulnerable Republicans in other districts, but the GOP Representatives in these high-risk districts deserve special attention. In order to maximize their gains in the 2006 midterm election, Democrats need to recruit strong challengers in these high-risk GOP districts and make sure that these challengers have the funds needed to wage competitive campaigns. That will take a lot of money, but Democrats showed in 2004 that they can compete financially with Republicans. We only need to gain 15 seats to regain control of the House. With a major effort and a little help from a Bush Administration that seems determined to cut social security benefits for future retirees, it should be possible.

Comments

Iowa 1 and 2 will be in play only if the incumbents vacate the seats. Jim Nussle, House Budget Subcommittee chairman, is unbeatable--we took a shot at him in 2002, but didn't even come close. He can bring home too much to the district, and he has a lot of support in the Dubuque area, where Dems would have to do well to win.

If Nussle leaves the House to run for Iowa governor in 2006, however, we would have a shot at that seat with the right candidate.

Iowa 2 is occupied by Jim Leach, one of the most liberal Republicans in the House (e.g. he has a pretty good environmental record, is pro-choice and voted against the Iraq War resolution). We took a shot at him in 2002 with a great candidate, but fell just short. He even carried the "People's Republic of Johnson County," home of Iowa City and the state's most liberal voters. There are too many people who don't understand that a vote for Leach is a vote for Tom DeLay running the House.

If Leach retires, this seat is very winnable--in fact, Dems would be favored given the way it is currently drawn. Otherwise, it will continue to be a heartbreaker.

It would be great to pick up one or both of these seats by 2010, because Iowa will lose a House seat and we need incumbents to have a prayer of winning one of the remaining four districts in the state.

History is important, but only to help learn what is needed to change the outcome the next time.

What you did in 2002 really isn't that relevant if you want to win. Develop a new game plan. And start now to do what's needed to win. I'm in MA and we've got a totally DEM Congressional delegation which is not at-risk for the foreseeable future. I've got the interest, motivation, and some resources, to direct toward turning Red House Districts Blue.

There must be hundreds of thousands of folks in the same situation. Mobilize them by turning each race into an Internet Drama.

I hate to say this, but the kind of thinking that you displayed in your post is what's going to keep the DEMs in permanent minority status.

Stop playing Washington's game and create a battle plan which can win in Iowa.

Speaking for the Illinois 10th, first term Congressman Mark Kirk would be the poster boy for Moderate Republicans. His equally centrist Democratic opponent 2 years ago, made them almost politically indistinguishable, in a close, but issues driven election.

This district is home to the affluent North Shore suburbs bordering Chicago, a natural constituent (and home to many employees) of the Chicago Tribune. Although the scandal torn state GOP is still under the 'silent partner' control of the Conservative wing - which solely can dictate the slating of Republican candidates - it is highly doubtful they would attempt to knock off Kirk in a primary, for obvious reasons.

Which poses a daunting dilemma for Democrats. They would be helped first, if they could possibly link Kirk in some way to the fringe element of the GOP, which is doubtful. Even if Kirk continues to support the Iraq Invasion, it is still not a liability. Because, many of these moneyed, Rockefeller Republicans held their noses and voted for Bush.

Which forces Dems to field a candidate with the gravitas of a Rahm Emmanuel, or dare I say, a Barack Obama.

By 2006, accountability will hopefully have caught up with the Bush administration, and some moderate Republicans may choose to insure he does no further damage by booting a likable sycophant.

It's interesting that 14 of the 25 seats listed are in the Northeast. This suggests that, while Democrats are justifiably concerned with their losses in the South, they should also be paying more attention to maximizing their strength areas. Just as Republicans have made tremendous gains down-ballot in the South, Dems should be focusing on increasing their domination of the Northeast Congressionally and legislatively. If they can do it to us in Georgia, we can do it to them in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.