Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sabato's Crystal Ball sees more House changes

For the first time this year, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball is moving Democratic-held seats into the Likely Republican category. In seven open seat races, the Democrats are withdrawing resources to concentrate on other districts where they believe they have a better chance of winning. As a result, Sabato has moved those races from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. The seven include four districts in which Gov. Palin has endorsed the GOP candidate: AR-2, IN-8, KS-3, and TN-6.

Sabato is also moving two more seats from Toss-Up to Leans Republican status. One of the two is in a district where Gov. Palin made an early endorsement:
The open seat contest in WI-7, where Democrat David Obey had served for over 40 years before announcing his retirement, also seems like an increasingly likely prospect for a GOP takeover. A recent nonpartisan poll from The Hill newspaper had former Real World cast member and current Republican nominee Sean Duffy leading Democratic legislator Julie Lassa by a 44%-35% margin with voters disapproving of Obama by roughly the same margin, despite the district’s usual Democratic tilt in presidential election years. Lassa’s own polling had earlier shown her trailing only slightly, while NRCC polling had suggested a double-digit lead. However large the lead, all sides now seem to acknowledge it belongs to the GOP.
The Crystal Ball's list Toss-Up races is getting longer, as nine races featuring Democratic incumbents have been moved from Leans Democratic to Toss-Up. Gov. Palin has endorsed in four of those races:
* AZ-8 is a race that Democrats insist is salvageable, as incumbent Gabrielle Giffords has received some support from conservative sources and faces a political newcomer with Tea Party ties in Jesse Kelly. Kelly’s huge fundraising haul and energized supporters, however, show that he is not to be taken lightly. This will be a closely contested race on slightly Republican turf, and given Gifford’s slim wins in heavily Democratic years, this may be her toughest challenge yet.


* The CO-3 race demonstrates a trend we are seeing across the country as a rematch of a recent race may now go the GOP’s way given the different dynamics of this year. In 2006, Democrat John Salazar easily defeated Republican Scott Tipton, winning 61% of the vote. Now Tipton has the backing of the Tea Party—which did not even exist during his round one defeat—and an endorsement from Sarah Palin—who was still campaigning for the Alaska governorship at the time. In this very different landscape, Salazar is unlikely to repeat his large margin of victory and may end up with no victory at all.

* The PA-10 contest remains deadlocked even as GOP nominee Tom Marino is facing questions over his questionable ties and subsequent resignation as a U.S. Attorney. As the press explores the record, the DCCC is already running ads targeting Marino while the NRCC tries to focus attention on Democratic Rep. Chris Carney and his stimulus and bank bailout votes he cast alongside Nancy Pelosi. Voters will have to decide for themselves whose ties are more objectionable.

* The Republican-leaning district of TX-23 saw a 17% swing towards Democrats between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections. With the rare mid-decade redistricting in Texas and a big boost in turnout among Democrats in 2008, the true nature of the district is far from clear. Republicans, however, feel like they will have a leg up this year with very different turnout and a mood swing from voters. Republican nominee Quico Canseco has released two internal polls showing him with the lead, but that is the only polling available so far. Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez has already been booted from Congress once—from the 28th District following a heated post-redistricting race—and there are no assurances that he will not suffer the same fate again.
Finally, Sabato's analysts add four new Democratic-held seats to their competitive races chart, moving them from Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic. Among the four is one district where Gov. Palin has made an endorsement:
* Raul Grijalva in AZ-7 is the trendiest dark horse GOP pick-up opportunity this week. Grijalva is a liberal Democrat, chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who represents a district that went 57% for both Obama and Kerry during their respective presidential runs. How is he endangered? One word: boycott. Following the Arizona legislature’s adoption of a controversial immigration measure in April, Grijalva signed onto the call for a national boycott of Arizona. It was a popular move among liberals, but not among Arizonans, hampered as all states have been by the tough economic times. His Republican opponent, Ruth McClung, has garnered a Sarah Palin endorsement, sure to bring national attention but also a degree of skepticism from the district’s less conservative voters. If Democrats lose here, it will be a truly needless fumble.
Sabato now projects that the GOP will pick up 47 seats in the U.S. House. Things are going from bad to worse for the Dems.

- JP

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