Posted October 6, 2008 at 11:05am



Incumbent: Joseph Biden (D)
6th term (58 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

When Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) selected Biden as his running mate in August, a number of intriguing possibilities suddenly developed for what might happen to Biden’s Senate seat.

According to Delaware law, Biden can run for Senate while running for vice president, a situation akin to 2000 when Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID) did the same thing in Connecticut when he was Al Gore’s running mate.

And since Biden isn’t expected to resign from the Senate before November, if he wins re-election (which he’s widely expected to do) but loses his vice presidential bid, he can simply return to the Senate next year.

If Biden is elected vice president, he would have until Inauguration Day to relinquish his Senate seat. Then the governor would be responsible for appointing a replacement until a special election could be held.

Conventional wisdom has long been that Biden’s son, Beau Biden, who serves as state attorney general, would one day replace his father in the Senate. But Beau Biden’s Army JAG unit just deployed to Iraq for a yearlong tour. And though Delaware Democratic insiders argue that his obligations to his JAG unit don’t necessarily take Beau Biden off the table for the Senate job, it does mean that a placeholder Senator could be appointed to fill the post until a 2010 special election could be held. At that time, Beau Biden would be coming off an overseas deployment and could make an even more attractive candidate.

Such a move might also set the stage for a major political showdown if former Gov. and longtime GOP Rep. Mike Castle decides to toss his hat into the ring for the Senate job.

But, again, that would all have to wait until the 2010 cycle.


Incumbent: Mike Castle (R)
8th term (57 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican

Despite hailing from a very Democratic state, Castle, the state’s former governor, is a very popular moderate Republican who should keep the state’s only House seat in the GOP column as long as he runs.

But with the possibility that Sen. Joseph Biden (D) could be elected vice president in November, Castle could soon be the obvious choice for his party to run in a special Senate election. Castle would give any Democrat a tough fight, although moving to the Senate would mean that his Congressional seat would suddenly become a top target for a Democratic takeover.

For now, though, Castle is on course to win a 9th term in November and extend his record as the longest-serving House Member in state history.



1st district
Open seat: Wayne Gilchrest was defeated in the GOP primary
Outlook: Leans Republican

After fending off repeated primary challenges from the right in recent cycles, Gilchrest, one of the leading GOP moderates in the House, lost to conservative state Sen. Andy Harris in a bitter February primary.

Now Democrats feel they have their best shot in years to win this sprawling district that Gilchrest has held since 1990. To do so, the state and national party has rallied behind Queen Anne County State’s Attorney Frank Kratovil (D), a tough-on-crime environmentalist who is billing himself as the ideological heir to Gilchrest’s moderate mantle.

Kratovil got a huge boost in that effort in early September when Gilchrest officially endorsed the Democrat, a move that, though not entirely surprising, brought harsh rebukes from the state and national GOP.

Despite recent Democratic polling that showed the race to be tied, most observers still consider the contest to be an uphill battle for Kratovil. The 1st district is one of only two in the state to vote to send George W. Bush to the White House in 2000 and 2004. It did so both times by wide margins.

Since February, Republicans and Harris’ campaign have released polls that indicated the general election will not be competitive, but the national party also appears to be taking the race seriously by sending party bigwigs (such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney) in to raise money for Harris.

It appears that he’ll need the money. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved more than $1 million in airtime in the district and has already begun dropping ads attacking Harris.

Meanwhile, Harris, who was backed strongly by the conservative Club for Growth in his primary, is now reaching out to more moderate groups, such as the Republican Main Street Partnership, as he looks to November.

New Jersey


Incumbent: Frank Lautenberg (D)
1st term (54 percent; previously served three terms)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

After winning a resounding victory over Rep. Robert Andrews in a nasty Democratic primary, Lautenberg (D) should have an easy time dispatching former Rep. Dick Zimmer (R) in November.

Zimmer was tapped by party leaders after the state’s filing deadline had passed this spring. Republicans are hoping that a deep anti-incumbent sentiment this cycle will help them unseat the long-serving Lautenberg.

But the 84-year-old Senator is well-known and well-funded (he is the seventh wealthiest Member of Congress according to a Roll Call analysis). Though his primary with Andrews was expensive, Lautenberg still enjoyed a massive cash lead over Zimmer at the end of June. Indeed, Lautenberg’s advancing age, which polls have shown voters to be concerned about, may be his only real weakness.

Recent polls have Zimmer down more than 10 points with as many as 40 percent of New Jersey voters indicating that the Republican nominee is unknown to them.

Zimmer was the GOP Senate nominee in 1996, and he lost that race to Democrat Robert Torricelli by 10 points.


1st district
Incumbent: Robert Andrews (D)
10th term (unopposed)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Andrews pulled some fancy footwork in early September to jump back into the race for the House seat that he previously said he would relinquish at the end of his term.

Andrews ran and lost a quixotic primary challenge to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) this spring. During that campaign, he repeatedly said he would not run for his House seat again if he lost to Lautenberg.

In the meantime, Andrews’ wife, Camille, an associate dean at Rutgers University law school, won the Democratic primary to succeed him in the House, but she was mostly viewed as a placeholder whose spot on the ballot would allow local party bosses to hand-pick a replacement.

In early September, the Congressman suddenly reversed course and announced he wanted to seek an 11th term. Though Republican nominee Dale Glading and some Democrats in the state were outraged by Andrews’ flip-flop, it doesn’t appear likely to jeopardize his re-election in the heavily Democratic Camden-based district.

3rd district
Open seat: Jim Saxton (R) is retiring
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Saxton proved over the course of 13 terms in Congress that he could keep a battleground district — which President Bush won by about 8,000 votes in 2004 — safely in the GOP column.

But with the Congressman’s retirement, Democrats suddenly found themselves with a huge pickup opportunity in south- central New Jersey.

The Democratic nominee is state Sen. John Adler, who already was in the race before Saxton got out. Besides Adler’s high name recognition stemming from a long career in the New Jersey Legislature, the Democrat entered the race with an enormous campaign account that had grown to $1.5 million in cash on hand at the end of June.

But Republicans got a good candidate in Chris Myers, a Lockheed Martin executive and mayor of Medford. Myers was backed by Saxton before the Republican primary and an early September GOP poll showed the race to be a statistical tossup.

Myers’ biggest weakness might be a lack of campaign cash. Coming off an expensive primary fight in early June, he reported $155,000 in cash on hand at the end of the second quarter.

Republicans have been working hard to provide Myers with the money he needs and, in mid- September, President Bush made a trip to New Jersey to fundraise for Myers. Meanwhile, Freedom’s Watch, a conservative 501(c)(4), has already begun to spend money in the district in an effort to help Myers make up the cash gap.

But even with all of Adler’s cash, national Democrats are coming in with additional financial support for his campaign. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved more than $1.5 million in airtime in the district and had already dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars in independent expenditures in the district through late September.

5th district
Incumbent: Scott Garrett (R)
3rd term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

In three races against Garrett, no Democrat has taken more than 44 percent of the vote. And though state and national Democrats are high on their intriguing candidate, Dennis Shulman, there is little doubt that the open seats in the Garden State’s 3rd and 7th districts present better pickup opportunities this cycle.

Shulman is a Harvard-educated psychologist and ordained rabbi who has been blind since he was a teenager. He easily won his three-way primary in June and Democrats believe the anti-incumbent, anti- Republican environment this cycle could help push Shulman over the top despite the fact that the district gave President Bush a 14-point victory in 2004.

Shulman had $258,000 in cash on hand at the end of June compared with Garrett’s $649,000. And Shulman will probably have to make up the fundraising gap on his own as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hadn’t reserved any television time in this district and is likely to spend heavily in the state’s two open seats.

7th district
Open seat: Mike Ferguson (R) is retiring
Outlook: Tossup

After losing by just 1 point in her 2006 race against Ferguson, state Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D) is now running in an open-seat contest that Democrats are calling one of their best pickup opportunities of 2008.

Stender had $1.2 million in cash on hand at the end of June. And the national party is kicking in large amounts of cash in the 7th district race. National Democrats have reserved almost $1 million in airtime in the district leading up to Election Day and have already been spending heavily there.

Republicans, meanwhile, had a crowded and somewhat divisive primary this summer, but they emerged with a strong nominee in state Senate Minority Leader Leonard Lance, who supports abortion rights and gets strong support from environmental groups.

Lance essentially started from scratch in terms of available campaign funds after his primary, but he’s received fundraisinig help from party bigwigs including President Bush.

An August poll done for Stender’s campaign showed her with a 3-point lead over the state Senator, taking 36 percent to Lance’s 33 percent with two Independent candidates combining for 11 percent and 20 percent of voters undecided. But the poll had a 4.4-point margin of error. So, as many observers have predicted, the race continues to be too close to call.

New York


13th district
Open seat: Vito Fossella (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Everything that could have gone wrong for Republicans this cycle in this Staten Island- Brooklyn district — the only seat the GOP holds in New York City — did go wrong.

It started when Fossella was picked up for drunken driving in suburban Virginia in May. Within days, New York papers were reporting that Fossella had fathered a young daughter with a woman who was not his wife.

Although Fossella considered staying in the race, he finally concluded he could not win. But even in the city’s lone GOP stronghold, Republicans could not find a strong contender to run in his place. For a time, they were reasonably happy when a retired Wall Street financier got into the race, but he died suddenly of a heart attack in early summer.

Finally, Republicans were stuck with former state Assemblyman Robert Straniere, who secured the GOP nomination despite the fact that every party leader on Staten Island hates him.

Democrats, meanwhile, used Fossella’s troubles to place even more emphasis on this district than they had before, and once the Congressman dropped out, New York City Councilman Michael McMahon (D), who had resisted previous entreaties to run for the seat, entered the race.

Following some bizarre maneuvering to try to get Fossella back into the race in late September, Republicans now seem resigned to losing this seat. It’s hard to see the race turning out otherwise.

20th district
Incumbent: Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

This is a seat Republicans would dearly love to win back, after their ethically damaged incumbent lost in 2006. They got an A-list challenger in Sandy Treadwell, a genial former New York secretary of state and state GOP chairman who is personally wealthy and whose profile fits the upstate district well — fiscally conservative, socially moderate and strong on the environment.

But Gillibrand has proved to be a force of nature — ubiquitous in the district, a prodigious fundraiser, and, as a mother of two young children, able to connect with many of her constituents. She may be a little too liberal for her district on paper, but she has worked smartly to overcome that obstacle.

As of Aug. 20, Treadwell had put about $2.6 million of his own money into the race, and he had aired 11 TV ads through late September. But Gillibrand had almost $2 million in her campaign account at the end of August, and she seems poised to win.

If this cycle were looking a little more favorable to Republicans nationally, the dynamic of this race might be different, and Gillibrand will probably never be truly safe. But the way things look now, even if Treadwell completely empties the family vault, he will probably fall a little short.

21st district
Open seat: Mike McNulty (D) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Democratic

After emerging from a crowded and competitive Democratic primary, former state Assemblyman Paul Tonko seems poised to take over for McNulty in the Albany-area district. The Republican nominee, Schenectady County Legislator Jim Buhrmaster, is credible, but the district is simply too Democratic for him to have a chance.

The district has had just two Representatives in the past half century: McNulty and the late Rep. Sam Stratton (D). Stratton was 38 when he was elected, McNulty was 41. Tonko is 58, meaning he may not accrue as much seniority as his immediate predecessors.

24th district
Incumbent: Michael Arcuri (D)
1st term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Arcuri won a highly competitive open-seat race fairly convincingly in 2006, and it’s hard to imagine voters in this central New York district denying him a second term.

Still, he has an intriguing and potentially strong challenger in Richard Hanna (R), a wealthy construction company owner. Hanna is engaging and somewhat unconventional, and his politics are very much in the mold of Arcuri’s popular long-serving predecessor, moderate former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R).

But Hanna did not get into the race until May. Even though he’s spending a decent amount of his own money — $324,000 through Aug. 20 — there is a freewheeling, ad hoc quality to his campaign, and Republican leaders can only help but wonder what things might have been like if Hanna had started campaigning earlier.

Arcuri had $758,000 in the bank as of Aug. 20.

25th district
Open seat: Jim Walsh (R) is retiring
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Former Capitol Hill staffer Dan Maffei (D), who gave Walsh the political scare of his life in 2006, is favored to replace the Congressman now that the Republican is retiring.

The Syracuse-based district leans Democratic in presidential elections, and Maffei never really stopped running after his 2-point loss last cycle. It took Republicans an unusually long time to coalesce behind a candidate after Walsh announced his retirement. And while their nominee, former Onondaga Legislator Dale Sweetland, is a credible candidate with a solid record of public service, Maffei simply had too big a head start for this race to become truly competitive.

Through Aug. 20, Maffei had $578,000 in cash on hand after spending more than $1 million; Sweetland had $104,000 in the bank after spending just $90,000.

26th district
Open seat: Tom Reynolds (R) is retiring
Outlook: Leans Republican

Both parties are expressing confidence about the race to replace Reynolds, a true Western New York powerhouse and one of the savviest pols around.

The district’s demographics favor the GOP slightly, but if national Democrats and their interest groups pump enough money into the race, then the Democratic nominee, attorney Alice Kryzan, can be quite competitive.

Republicans nominated Chris Lee, a wealthy businessman who, wisely, turned to Reynolds’ political team to guide his campaign. He is a political unknown but is presenting himself as a fresh face and a political outsider, and he has more than enough personal money to run a high-grade political operation.

Lee also benefits because under New York’s quirky election law, he is on the ballot in three places in November: In addition to the GOP line, he is also the nominee of the Independence and Conservative parties.

Kryzan emerged as the surprise winner of a tough, three-way Democratic primary. She was the least bloodied of the three Democratic candidates, but she may be too liberal for the district, and she is way behind Lee in the fundraising department. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List — which pointedly did not endorse Kryzan in the primary — are prepared to narrow the cash gap.

This race should get rough in short order. It would not be surprising to see Kryzan win, but Lee must be considered the slight favorite for now.

29th district
Incumbent: Randy Kuhl (R)
2nd term (51 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Kuhl’s rematch with retired Navy officer Eric Massa (D) is at least as tight as last time, and it may even be closer. Kuhl seemed to sleepwalk through the first half of the cycle, at least on the fundraising front, and he seemed a little more vulnerable six months ago. But he picked up the fundraising pace, and he and Massa were about even in the most recent fundraising report. Through Aug. 20, the Congressman had $572,000 on hand and the challenger had $534,000.

The sprawling 29th district leans Republican in presidential elections, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) should do well there. But the overall malaise afflicting the New York GOP is undoubtedly a drain on Kuhl.

Massa is unvarnished in certain ways, but he appeals to many grass-roots voters, and he has become a much savvier candidate this time around, with a loyal following who may be able to put him over the top.



3rd district
Incumbent: Phil English (R)
7th term (54 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

English, who has never really faced a difficult challenge in this marginally Republican district, has steadily risen to become one of Democrats’ top incumbent targets this cycle. Businesswoman Kathy Dahlkemper (D) is challenging him.

National Democrats are already investing funds in the race, and public polls have shown a close contest so far.

As both candidates bombard the airwaves this month, it will be interesting to see if English’s tested formula for presenting himself as a labor-friendly moderate will still be effective in northwestern Pennsylvania. In fact, one of the reasons Dahlkemper might be so successful is that she is running on a business-friendly, outsider message — perhaps a winning formula of her own for the Rust Belt district.

But as a political novice and first-time candidate, Dahlkemper is untested and has some liabilities. Republicans have hit her on opposing the death penalty for Osama bin Laden and pressed her to release more of her tax returns. Dahlkemper can expect more of that in the final weeks before the election.

4th district
Incumbent: Jason Altmire (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Former Rep. Melissa Hart (R), whom Altmire defeated in 2006, has shown she is not afraid to go negative this cycle. After being reluctant to do so last time, she started out with an early TV advertisement hitting the freshman Democrat hard.

The last few weeks of this contest will likely feature the same tone, with Hart presumably attacking Altmire and national Democrats’ attempts to connect Hart’s time in Congress with President Bush. Whether Hart’s strategy will work and her ability to break through as a challenger in the suburban Pittsburgh district is questionable.

Though polls show Hart in a position to possibly take back the seat, she might not have the traction or national attention to carry her across the finish line. As an incumbent in 2006, her race was a priority for the national GOP. This cycle, House Republicans have very limited funds and challenger races are far down the list of spending priorities.

Altmire, meanwhile, will have all the funds needed to stay on television.

5th district
Open seat: John Peterson (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican

When Peterson suddenly announced his retirement in late January, nine Republican candidates emerged with no frontrunner in sight. A few days before the April primary, Peterson played kingmaker and endorsed Centre County GOP Chairman G.T. Thompson. It was enough momentum to carry Thompson across the finish line and into position to succeed Peterson.

The district votes Republican, and Thompson is expected to win in November with minimal effort.

6th district
Incumbent: Jim Gerlach (R)
3rd term (51 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

This fall, Gerlach will have an easier time campaigning than in past cycles when he’s had to defend his suburban Philadelphia seat against top-tier challengers. Democrats nominated businessman Bob Roggio to take on Gerlach this cycle, but so far his fundraising has been lackluster — especially considering he is running in the very expensive Philadelphia media market.

Democrats’ inability to topple Gerlach in the wave election of 2006 was one of the party’s biggest disappointments, and it made recruiting a top-tier candidate this cycle all the more difficult.

Roggio doesn’t appear to be someone who can knock Gerlach out. As of late September, Gerlach was not even on the TV airwaves yet — a sign the Congressman doesn’t seem to be grave danger of losing this swing seat.

8th district
Incumbent: Patrick Murphy (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Murphy appears to be on track for a relatively easy first re- election. Though Republicans touted retired Marine Corps Col. Tom Manion initially, his abundant fundraising slowed down by summertime. It’s hard to mount a credible challenge in southeastern Pennsylvania without having the bank account to back it.

What Manion does have going for him, however, is the Democratic presidential ticket. The district voted overwhelmingly for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) over Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the April primary, and perhaps Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) will do better in the district than past Republican presidential candidates have. The district voted Democratic in both the 2000 and 2004 contests.

Though Manion’s campaign could pick up speed as the election grows closer, it’s unlikely that Murphy will lose his seat this cycle.

10th district
Incumbent: Christopher Carney (D)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Carney now seems to be on more steady footing in a district that many Republicans argued he could not hold for a second term when he was first elected. Though in a competitive race with businessman Chris Hackett (R), Carney appears to have done everything he could to position himself for re-election.

Arguably no other freshman has separated himself or herself further from the national Democratic Party: Carney has not explicitly endorsed his party’s presidential nominee, he skipped the national convention to serve his time in the Navy Reserves, and he has yet to use the label “Democrat” in an advertisement. If Carney loses, it’s because the district is too Republican for any Democrat to keep the seat.

Hackett, on the other hand, brands himself in every television ad as a “conservative Republican.” Watch for Hackett to continue to play to the GOP base leading up to Election Day. Republicans are banking on the fact that more of their party’s faithful voters will turn out because it is a presidential election year and that many of those people stayed home in 2006 because they could not bring themselves to vote for scandal- embroiled Rep. Don Sherwood (R).

Democrats argue that Carney has established himself as an independent enough that some of those voters won’t mind splitting their tickets. We’ll see who’s right on Election Day.

11th district
Incumbent: Paul Kanjorski (D)
12th term (72 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

This should be a safe seat for Democrats, but Kanjorski has earned the dubious title of being one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents of the cycle. While none of the ethical concerns Kanjorski’s being hit with are new, the national climate of change and his high-profile opponent have put his re-election in grave jeopardy.

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who amassed a national cult following for enacting anti- immigration ordinances in his small town, has given Republicans one of their best pickup opportunities in the country. So far, most public polls show Barletta leading Kanjorski.

Barletta, who already has declined to support GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), will likely move further away from the national GOP in the weeks to come. He’ll likely want to present himself as a Washington outsider who produces results. Kanjorksi, on the other hand, will emphasize his longtime ties to the district and won’t be afraid to paint Barletta in a negative light.

15th district
Incumbent: Charlie Dent
2nd term (54 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Dent is expected to win re-election in this suburban Philadelphia district. His competition, Allentown Democratic Chairwoman Sam Bennett, does not appear to be gaining any traction in the Democratic-leaning district. Public polling for the race has been sparse.

Now reportedly on her third campaign manager, Bennett’s fundraising has also lagged. She had $354,000 in her campaign coffers at the end of June. And while Dent is not a fundraising machine with $687,000 in the bank at that same point in time, his campaign operation is in better shape and he has worked hard to build a moderate profile since first winning the seat in 2004.

18th district
Incumbent: Tim Murphy (R)
3rd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

Once thought to be a potential target, Murphy again appears to be getting a pass from Democrats — who have struggled each cycle to recruit a competitive challenger in this swing district. Their nominee, businessman Steve O’Donnell, originally put $355,300 of his own funds into the race but had only $114,000 in the bank by the end of June.

Murphy, on the other hand, is flush with cash: He had $1 million in the bank at the end of June. Even though this district could be competitive with the right Democrat, Murphy is in good shape to keep his seat for another term.

West Virginia


Incumbent: Jay Rockefeller (D)
4th term (63 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

A $3.3 million campaign account, a family fortune to back that up and no serious GOP opposition means Rockefeller won’t be losing any sleep over his re-election chances this cycle.

Two-time Senate candidate Jay Wolfe, a former state Senator, has decided to take up the GOP mantle once again this year for Republicans. Rockefeller beat Wolfe in 2002 by 26 points, and he shouldn’t have any trouble dispatching him again.

2nd district
Incumbent: Shelley Moore Capito (R)
4th term (57 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

A quick shuffle before the state’s filing deadline brought Democrat Anne Barth into the 2nd district race, and it’s been clear from the beginning that Barth’s biggest asset is her close ties to beloved home-state Sen. Robert Byrd (D).

Barth is a former top aide to Byrd, and despite the Senator’s continued health problems, he’s been relatively active in her campaign. Byrd has appeared at fundraisers on Barth’s behalf and has even cut a television commercial endorsing her and knocking Capito. Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has put the 2nd district race on its “Red to Blue” target list, but as of the end of September had not reserved any TV ad time in the district.

Perhaps that’s because Capito is popular, well-entrenched and well-funded. In fact, Capito was considered a potential contender for the Senate this cycle but decided against the move. She’d be the most likely GOP nominee for the Senate when a seat does become vacant.