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Mid-Atlantic: Pennsylvania Is Big Key to GOP House Majority



Open seat: Appointee Ted Kaufman (D) is not seeking election
Outlook: Likely Democratic

This will be among the best-remembered races this cycle, regardless of
the outcome.

Backed by the Tea Party Express, conservative pundit Christine O’Donnell
knocked off popular Rep. Mike Castle in the GOP’s Sept. 14 primary,
stunning political observers across the nation and all but gift-wrapping
for Democrats the seat long held by Vice President Joseph Biden.

O’Donnell’s victory is a nightmare scenario for the Republican Party,
which fought hard against her candidacy and largely assumed Castle, a
former governor and longtime Congressman, would cruise to victory against
New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D) in the general election.
Instead, Coons will face O’Donnell, a perennial candidate plagued by
personal financial problems and caught on video calling masturbation
infidelity and discussing a brief experimentation with witchcraft.

Even before Castle ruled out a write-in campaign, Coons and the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee began firing repeated attacks at
O’Donnell, trying to squash her general election candidacy before it got
off the ground. Look for the attacks to continue through Election Day.

But O’Donnell will have the resources to fight back down the

Having reported just more than $20,000 in her campaign account at the
end of the summer, she raised a staggering $2.6 million in the two weeks
after her unexpected primary victory, largely because of the public support
of the tea party movement and conservative personalities such as Rush
Limbaugh and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

O’Donnell used the money to reshape her campaign team with seasoned
professionals, including the firm producing television commercials for
California’s GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. And O’Donnell is expected
to spend heavily on TV in the campaign’s final weeks.

The Delaware race has already shown that anything is possible this year.
But in a state with a history of supporting moderates, and where
Republicans represent less than 30 percent of registered voters, the race
is Coons’ to lose.


Open seat: Mike Castle (R) lost a Senate primary
Outlook: Likely Democratic

This is a lonely bright spot for a Democratic Party that will see few
seats flip in their direction this cycle.

The First State’s lone Congressional seat should be one of them. And
Democrats think their task got easier when conservative real estate
developer Glen Urquhart, another tea party darling, narrowly defeated
deep-pocketed lawyer Michele Rollins in the GOP primary.

The strong favorite is former Lt. Gov. John Carney, who has been
campaigning for the seat for more than a year. At the end of August, Carney
reported a 5-to-1 cash advantage. And the only public polling released on
the race gives Carney a double-digit lead.

Urquhart is no slouch. He may struggle to persuade Delaware’s moderate
voters to embrace his conservative values. But he can spend enough money
(from his own pocket at least) to attack his opponent.

In a state that gave President Barack Obama a 25-point victory, however,
Urquhart has an uphill battle, to say the least.



Incumbent: Barbara Mikulski (D)
4th term (65 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

The political environment is certainly tilted in favor of Republicans
this fall, but it hasn’t tipped near enough to endanger Mikulski, who is
probably the most popular politician in Maryland right now.

Republicans selected physician Eric Wargotz (R) as their nominee, and he
has shown a willingness to put hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own
money into the race. But it won’t be near enough to compete with Mikulski’s
multimillion-dollar war chest. National Republicans will be too busy
targeting better opportunities around the country to aid Wargotz.

Mikulski will cruise to victory.


1st district
Incumbent: Frank Kratovil (D)
1st term (49 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

After finishing fewer than 3,000 votes behind Kratovil in their 2008
race, state Sen. Andy Harris (R) thinks he can finish the job this

Harris is two years removed from the brutal GOP primary that ended with
his victory over former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest. But it was a primary that
also left the party deeply divided. Many of those wounds have healed
(though Gilchrest, who threw his endorsement to Kratovil last cycle,
remains in the Congressman’s corner this year).

Harris will be bolstered by the strong Republican tailwind this cycle,
especially in a district that gave Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) an 18-point
victory in 2008. He has also kept pace with Kratovil in fundraising,
preventing the incumbent from building a big money lead.

Democrats are keen on holding the 1st district, especially because it
lies in the home state of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Chairman Chris Van Hollen. It will be interesting to see how much the DCCC
decides to put into the race. But Van Hollen has also warned that he will
be ruthless in cutting funds to unwinnable races in the final weeks. And
recent polling has shown Kratovil in peril.

As in 2008, Harris has an additional obstacle to overcome in the fact
that he lives in Baltimore County and not on the Eastern Shore. Harris has
made a concerted effort this cycle to reach out more to Eastern Shore
voters, but Kratovil has already worked to play up his own residence on the
Eastern Shore in television ads.

New Jersey


3rd district
Incumbent: John Adler (D)
1st term (52 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

This is expected to be New Jersey’s only competitive race in November,
showcasing a vulnerable Democratic freshman against a longtime National
Football League all-star.

A number of factors suggest Adler has the edge in this race, but he is
among the many Democrats this cycle who could fall victim to an
anti-incumbent wave.

Adler is among the most cash-rich Democrats in the nation, consistently
reporting more than $1.5 million in cash on hand. And while GOP hopeful
John Runyan accumulated considerable wealth over his NFL career, it remains
to be seen whether he’s willing to spend it to become a Congressman.

It’s unlikely Runyan will get much help from national Republicans in
this expensive media market, which includes Philadelphia and New York

Separate polls released near the end of September show that Adler’s lead
may be nearing double digits. Tea party favorite Peter DeStefano is
expected to earn from 4 percent to 6 percent of the vote as well, cutting
into Runyan’s base.

Regardless of the early indications, expect this race to be competitive
down the stretch. This is a district that President Barack Obama only
narrowly carried in 2008.

New York


Incumbent: Charles Schumer (D)
2nd term (71 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Schumer’s lead over businessman Jay Townsend (R) may have slipped to
just 20 points in late September, but don’t expect this race to close much

Schumer reported more than $23 million in his war chest at the of the
summer. Townsend had almost $11,000.

Enough said.

Incumbent: Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
1st term (appointed January 2009)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Gillibrand got a scare when a SurveyUSA poll in late September gave her
a lead of just 1 point over former Rep. Joe DioGuardi (R). That appears to
be the outlier among a host of public polls that gave the incumbent leads
of 6 to 26 points in that same month.

But with the unlikely success of conservative Republican gubernatorial
candidate Carl Paladino, Democrats aren’t taking anything for granted, even
in the Democratic stronghold that is the Empire State.

Gillibrand enjoyed a massive cash advantage at the end of the summer
($4.5 million to $946,000). Expect her to spend it.

DioGuardi should struggle to build momentum down the stretch, especially
without any help from conservative interest groups, who are spending for
House candidates across the state. And there’s no sign that anyone’s coming
to his rescue. Still, in a year like this, an appointee like Gillibrand
needs to be looking over her shoulder, even in New York.


1st district
Incumbent: Tim Bishop (D)
4th term (58 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Bishop faces Republican Randy Altschuler, who won the competitive GOP
primary last month. Another scenario might have created a three-way race
and all but assured Bishop would return to Congress for a fourth term.

In this scenario, Bishop is forced to face a well-funded Republican
challenger in an eastern Long Island district that only narrowly supported
President Barack Obama in 2008.

Polling suggests this race will be close. And the national climate
should help Altschuler, a wealthy businessman who has the ability to
self-fund if necessary in this expensive New York media market.

Look for Democrats, who consider Altschuler one of their “top 5 most
flawed challengers,” to pound the Republican for his connection to an
outsourcing company that sent American jobs overseas. Neither national
campaign committee is expected to spend here, evidence of the expensive
market but also a hint that Republicans don’t consider this seat among
their top targets.

13th district
Incumbent: Michael McMahon (D)
1st term (61 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Don’t expect McMahon to repeat his 2008 performance, where he trounced
his Republican opponent and claimed the only Republican-held Congressional
seat in New York City.

While he certainly has advantages, the political climate will work
against him this year. Especially in this Staten Island district.

This is a seat that Republicans believe should be theirs. Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.) won here by 2 points in the 2008 presidential primary, and
President George W. Bush cruised to victory by 10 points the previous

McMahon will face Michael Grimm, a former FBI agent and security
consultant who survived a late primary that bloodied his party.

The incumbent’s own poll numbers show he’s popular and in fairly decent
shape. And he remains the top of the field when it comes to fundraising,
but this seat is a target for national Republicans, who may spend some
money in the race.

15th district
Incumbent: Charlie Rangel (D)
20th term (89 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Don’t expect to see much of Rangel this fall.

While Republicans are pushing for an ethics trial before the elections,
Democratic leaders will do everything they can to keep him out of the
headlines this fall. And Rangel, 80, probably did his most intense
campaigning in August and September, when he was forced onto the campaign
trail to stave off attacks from a crowded primary field.

Rangel won handily, despite the rash of outstanding ethics charges.

In November, Rangel faces Harlem pastor and former Virginia Tech
All-American football player Michel Faulkner (R). But he has already vowed
not to go negative, instead accusing Democratic leaders of racism and
throwing Rangel “under the bus.”

19th district
Incumbent: John Hall (D)
2nd term (59 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

This lower Hudson Valley district has become the GOP’s top target among
the many competitive districts in New York.

Republicans will say Hall is too far to the left of this region that
narrowly favored President Barack Obama in 2008 and overwhelmingly
supported President George W. Bush in 2004. And Democrats will say that GOP
challenger Nan Hayworth is too far to the right.

Hayworth, an Ivy League-educated retired ophthalmologist, has proved to
be a solid campaigner and strong fundraiser.

And Hayworth led by 2 points in a September survey by the Democratic
firm Public Policy Polling.

Democrats acknowledge that some think Hall is a dead man walking, but
it’s difficult to write off a two-term incumbent facing a political novice
— at least not yet.

20th district
Incumbent: Scott Murphy (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Murphy is in a stronger position than many thought he would be, having
won the special election to replace Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand by about 700
votes in March 2009.

The only public polling on his general election matchup against Army
veteran Chris Gibson (R) showed the incumbent with a 17-point lead,
suggesting he is better-known and better-liked than his opponent.

But Republicans are far from conceding this seat, set in a right-leaning
region that President Barack Obama carried by just 3 points in 2008.

National Republicans plan to spend more than $700,000 in this district,
which includes the Albany media market. And Republicans maintain that
Gibson has been an aggressive fundraiser down the stretch, although he
reported just $526,000 on hand at the end of August, about a third of what
Murphy, a venture capitalist, had in the bank.

Democrats also pounced on recent news that Gibson’s campaign manager
left in favor of a job with the Republican National Committee. That’s not
exactly a promising sign for the challenger.

23rd district
Incumbent: Bill Owens (D)
1st term (48 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Could it happen again?

That’s the question circulating among frustrated Republicans who saw
this conservative upstate district fall into Democratic hands for the first
time in more than a century last fall. That’s when Owens benefited from a
divided Republican electorate, beating the moderate and tea-party-backed
candidates in a three-way race with just 48 percent of the vote.

To the delight of Democrats, this year’s ballot will feature three
candidates as well. The Republican is the wealthy investment banker Matt
Doheny, who eked out a primary victory against last fall’s tea-party
darling, Doug Hoffman. But Hoffman is again refusing to go away

After conceding defeat in the primary, he vowed to fight for victory on
the Conservative Party line.

Learning from last year’s debacle, the local tea party movement is
likely to support Doheny. The key question is how much support does Hoffman
need to play spoiler again.

Republicans concede it could be as little as 10 percent or 15 percent,
which should be well within the reach of this aggressive campaigner. And as
the right struggles with itself, Owens has been whacking away at Doheny,
tying the businessman to a company that laid off employees while giving
bonuses to executives.

The wildcard here is Doheny’s wallet. He loaned himself more than
$500,000 to win the primary.

24th district
Incumbent: Michael Arcuri (D)
2nd term (52 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

This will be another key battleground for Democrats, who expect to spend
heavily to defend their sophomore incumbent.

In a rematch of the 2008 contest, Arcuri faces businessman Richard Hanna
(R) in this right-leaning central New York district, which President Barack
Obama narrowly carried.

Arcuri survived a late charge from Hannah last time by just 4 points.
And while an independent poll gave Arcuri an 8-point lead in mid-September,
Democrats say they’re not taking anything for granted in an environment
that is much less favorable than last time.

Even though Arcuri reported a fundraising advantage at the end of the
summer, the DCCC has reserved more than $750,000 in the district, which
includes the Syracuse and Utica media markets.

Democrats think they’re in a good position, but they have a healthy
respect for Hanna and his bank account. The candidate has shown a
willingness to self-fund and is expected to do so down the stretch if
necessary. Look for national Republicans to get in on the action as

25th district
Incumbent: Dan Maffei (D)
1st term (55 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Democrats like the matchup in this Democratic-leaning district, but as
with candidates across the nation, the political climate will present
challenges for Maffei.

He faces Ann Marie Buerkle, a thinly funded former Syracuse councilor,
whose fundraising efforts trailed the incumbent by $1 million at the end of

But she’s not fighting alone. House Minority Leader John Boehner
(R-Ohio) helped her raise cash, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)
endorsed Buerkle’s candidacy, although it’s unclear how well the Palin
endorsement will play in a general election.

This is a district with a history of supporting Republicans, although it
has trended toward Democrats in recent cycles, having supported President
Barack Obama by 13 points in 2008.

The ethics problems of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) could come into play

A former aide under Rangel on the House Ways and Means Committee, Maffei
said he considers Rangel a friend and has refused to return Rangel campaign
donations from previous cycles that exceed $80,000.

29th district
Vacancy: Eric Massa (D) resigned
Outlook: Safe Republican

Democrats have little hope of retaining the seat that has been open
since Massa’s spectacular demise.

The general election matchup pits 29-year-old military veteran Matthew
Zeller (D) against former Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R), who had been gearing
up to run for this seat even before the Massa resignation.

National Democrats aren’t expected to help Zeller, a political novice
who reported just $50,000 in his campaign account at the end of August.

While there is scant public polling on the race, a Siena College survey
found that Reed led by 14 points in mid-September.



Open seat: Arlen Specter (D) lost in the primary
Outlook: Leans Republican

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) has shown signs of pulling away from
Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak in the weeks leading up to the general election
in a race once thought to be among the nation’s premier Senate

Look for that trend to continue, so long as President Barack Obama’s
popularity struggles in this largely blue-collar state where the health of
the economy may determine election outcomes as much as the candidates.

But don’t write off Sestak, who was once thought to trail Specter by
double digits in the weeks leading up to the Democratic primary. He trailed
Toomey by 5 to 8 points in various public polls released in late

Both campaigns will spend heavily in the race, which has attracted
steady attention from the president and third-party groups, such as the
Club For Growth, which Toomey led from 2005 to 2009.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is set to outspend its
Republican counterpart 3-to-1, if it follows through with its reserved TV

Toomey will fight the perception that he is too close to Wall Street.
And Sestak, like most Democrats in Congress, will fight to persuade
frustrated Democrats and independents not to abandon his party.

But as long as the president’s favorables hover around 40 percent, as
recent polling shows, Sestak may struggle regardless of his strategy.


3rd district
Incumbent: Kathy Dahlkemper (D)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Dahlkemper is a profile of the endangered Democrat of 2010.

She rode a Democratic surge to win her first Congressional election in
2008, but she did so by only 2 points in a Republican-leaning district in
rural Pennsylvania.

This year, the former landscape company owner enjoys the traditional
advantages of incumbency ­— strong name recognition and a healthy
campaign account. But she faces an anti-incumbent wave and the
deep-pocketed car dealership owner Mike Kelly, who is trying to prove that
Dahlkemper’s first victory was a fluke.

Kelly has the momentum going into the final weeks.

He led the incumbent by 6 points in a late September Franklin &
Marshall College poll. And while he has trailed in the money race, Kelly
loaned his campaign more than $400,000. It’s likely that he will dig deeper
if he has to down the stretch.

National Democrats will spend here to protect this seat, but Republicans
­— who also plan independent expenditures in the final weeks ­—
are growing more confident.

4th district
Incumbent: Jason Altmire (D)
2nd term (56 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Very few Democratic incumbents in marginal districts have easy
re-election contests this cycle.

But Altmire might be one of them. He is running in the suburban
Pittsburgh district that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried by 11 points in
the 2008 presidential election.

Democrats think the sophomore centrist is relatively well-positioned to
return to Washington, D.C., for a third term.

He has dominated Republican challenger Keith Rothfus in fundraising for
most of the cycle. And he has worked hard to remind voters of his moderate
positions that gave him the 10th lowest “party unity” score in his first

Rothfus, an attorney and former federal homeland security official,
trounced his GOP primary opponent by more than 30 points — winning a
surprise upset over the candidate preferred by national Republicans.

Republicans believe that this race, especially because of the makeup of
the district, could break in their favor late.

6th district
Incumbent: Jim Gerlach (R)
4th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Likely Republican

In any other year, Democrats think Manan Trivedi could walk into

He is a polished, aggressive campaigner who served as a combat medic
with the first soldiers to invade Baghdad. And his fundraising efforts have
kept up with Gerlach.

But this is not any other year. And Democratic strategists think Trivedi
will struggle in November.

Gerlach was supposed to be among the few vulnerable Republican
incumbents this cycle. He shocked the local political establishment by
abandoning a bid for governor in the spring, deciding instead to run for a
fifth term in a district that gave President Barack Obama 58 percent of the
vote in 2008.

In Trivedi, Gerlach faces a Democrat who has embraced the progressive
wing of his party in a year where most politicians are running away from
the left. It’s a strategy that worked in the Democratic primary. And if
Democrats turn out in large numbers this fall, it could work then as

But few believe that will be the case.

7th district
Open seat: Joe Sestak (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Tossup

The race to replace Sestak will be among the closest watched this

Never mind the profile of the candidates, the contest has already
attracted a flood of money from independent groups that see this suburban
district west of Philadelphia as a symbolic and high-profile battleground.
The conservative groups Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Job
Security plan to spend nearly $450,000 combined before November.

Pat Meehan is considered one of the GOP’s top candidates this cycle. He
is a former U.S. attorney and prolific fundraiser. He faces Bryan Lentz, an
Iraq War veteran and state Representative from Swarthmore who flashed his
political prowess in 2006 by unseating a longtime incumbent.

Republicans are quietly confident in Meehan’s prospects, who has
consistently outraised his opponent and who they say has strong appeal to
the independents and moderate Democrats expected to vote in this district.
President Barack Obama earned 56 percent of the vote here in 2008, slightly
more than the 53 percent for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.

But internal polling released by the Meehan camp over the summer
suggested he has the edge. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign
Committee, as of early October, had yet to commit to spending here, while
its Republican counterpart has already committed.

Democrats, meanwhile, say the composition of the district will help
Lentz, as will a competitive Senate race that features hometown favorite
Sestak at the top of the ticket.

10th district
Incumbent: Christopher Carney (D)
2nd term (56 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

This should be a top pickup opportunity for Republicans.

But it remains to be seen whether GOP candidate Tom Marino can overcome
fundraising challenges and a rash of negative press in the early fall to
unseat Carney.

Marino’s chances look good on paper.

He is a former U.S. attorney with relatively good name recognition in
this sprawling rural district in the heart of Amish territory. The voters
here are conservative and support Republicans, having voted for Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.) by 9 points in 2008 and President George W. Bush by 20
points in 2004.

But Marino has struggled to raise money. (“I’d rather take a butt
kicking than go out and ask people for money,” he told Roll Call in
August.) He was slowed by a serious car accident earlier in the year and
showed little sign of gaining momentum as he recovered. And he faced
increasingly difficult questions throughout September regarding his
involvement with a casino license applicant during his tenure as a U.S.

Marino will be helped by outside spending. The conservative advocacy
group known as the 60 Plus Association has already spent nearly $450,000 on
TV time that should benefit Marino.

Carney, meanwhile, has a profile that has played well here in his first
two elections.

A member of the Navy Reserve, he plays a personal role in combatting
terrorism regularly by piloting predator drones for the military. And as a
Blue Dog Democrat, his positions are far more moderate than some of his
House colleagues.

Polling has suggested that Carney will have the advantage going down the
stretch, although he has yet to crack the 50 percent mark.

11th district
Incumbent: Paul Kanjorski (D)
13th term (52 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Kanjorski is among the most endangered Democratic incumbents in a state
of endangered Democratic incumbents.

He survived his last election by just 4 points, even as President Barack
Obama trounced Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) here by 15 points. And this
November, Kanjorski will face the same opponent, Hazleton Mayor Lou
Barletta (R), under very different circumstances.

While Barletta, who gained some national attention for his hardline
stance on immigration, has consistently trailed the 13-term incumbent in
the money race, a late September poll gave Barletta an 11-point lead.

The money disparity will likely be offset by outside spending. The
Scranton-area district, like several others in this battleground region,
has attracted a flood of independent expenditures.

The conservative advocacy group the 60 Plus Association has already
spent more than $460,000. The National Republican Congressional Committee
is pouring in more.

And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, having already
spent more than $110,000, acknowledged in the early fall that it would
scale back its effort. That’s not a good sign for Kanjorski, who needs all
the help he can get.

One of the only things keeping us from moving this race more in favor of
Republicans is the fact that Kanjorski was thought to be on his political
death bed last cycle and ended up winning. This year’s environment is
obviously very different, but it’s for that reason that we aren’t quite yet
willing to bet Kanjorski is a goner.

12th district
Incumbent: Mark Critz (D)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

Republicans think Critz largely lucked into a Congressional seat in

In a special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. John Murtha,
Critz benefited from a strong Democratic turnout in the high-profile Senate
primary. But Critz, a former Murtha aide, won the special election by more
than 7 points.

The Republican hypothesis will be tested fewer than six months after
Critz’s first victory in a rematch against Republican businessman Tim

Despite Murtha’s long reign here, suburban Pittsburgh is a challenging
region for Democrats; this may be the only district that supported Sen.
John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 and then Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a
Democratic wave four years later.

Republicans say Critz’s special election victory gives them another
advantage in November. It will be far easier to connect a sitting
Democratic Congressman to the unpopular Democratic Congressional
leadership. There’s the potential for a barrage of advertising to that
effect down the stretch.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved television
time, but at this point, it’s not clear the Republicans are all that
serious about playing here again.

15th district
Incumbent: Charlie Dent (R)
3rd term (59 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

In a year of disappointments for Democrats, this could be their

Democrats thought they scored a huge victory after persuading Bethlehem
Mayor John Callahan (D) to challenge Dent. It was among their best, and
few, realistic pickup opportunities.

Further, the race will include a third-party candidate Jake Towne, a tea
party favorite who was expected to siphon off some of Dent’s

But polling released in late September suggest that Dent leads Callahan
by double digits.

Look for Callahan, who is well-funded and well-respected as a
pro-business Democrat, to close the gap down the stretch. But Dent’s
profile as a centrist and his overall popularity may be too much in a year
that isn’t expected to offer many advantages for downballot Democrats.

17th district
Incumbent: Tim Holden (D)
9th term (64 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Republican plans to target Holden this year appear to have fizzled.

Having represented this district for nearly two decades, he has largely
cruised to victory over relatively little-known challengers in recent
cycles. He faces state Sen. Dave Argall in November, a Republican who
survived a competitive May primary.

But Democrats are quietly confident about this seat, and they cite a
weak early fundraising performance by Argall. Further, they think Holden’s
Blue Dog credentials have earned him the respect of the electorate in the
conservative district.

Through late September, the race hadn’t attracted any independent
spending by outside groups — not a great sign for the underfunded Argall.
But Republicans maintain that this seat could flip if the
anti-establishment wave is large enough.

West Virginia


Open seat: Appointee Carte Goodwin (D) is not seeking election
Outlook: Tossup

In the wake of the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D) in June, all eyes
immediately turned to popular Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin, whose Senate
ambitions were no secret in the state. After a special election was set for
November, Manchin officially announced for the race, and over the summer,
the highly popular governor was seen as the prohibitive frontrunner. But
the national political environment is so bad for Democrats that a Manchin
victory is no longer a sure bet.

Wealthy businessman John Raese, who lost to Byrd in 2006, is the
Republican nominee, and he’s doing his best to tie Manchin to President
Barack Obama. Obama was never a popular figure in West Virginia and became
even less liked in the Mountain State after he pushed an energy policy that
many view as a direct attack on West Virginia’s large coal industry.

Favorable polling, including a survey from a Democratic firm in
mid-September that showed Raese with a slight lead, has spurred national
Republicans to turn their attention to the race.

Republicans hope to draw a distinction between “West Virginia Joe,” who
continues to earn strong approval ratings for his leadership in the state,
and “Washington Joe,” who is a yes man for national Democratic

In a sure sign that they are suddenly worried about the seat, national
Democrats have begun attacking Raese for being an out-of-touch rich
businessman and political opportunist. Manchin is still favored in the
race, but he will have to find a way to blunt the momentum that Raese has
picked up over the month of September.


1st district
Open seat: Alan Mollohan (D) lost in the primary
Outlook: Tossup

State Sen. Mike Oliverio’s victory over Mollohan in the Democratic
primary probably gave the party a more electable candidate in this northern
district. Mollohan’s ethical issues would have been heavy baggage to carry
into the general election in a district that gave Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.) his largest margin of victory in the state.

The 1st district has been sending Democrats to the House for more than
40 years. But Oliverio has his work cut out for him if Democrats want to
keep it that way.

The Republican nominee is David McKinley, a former state legislator and
West Virginia GOP chairman. He is partly self-funding the race, and
conservative third-party groups have also ensured that Democrats won’t
simply be able to buy the race with overwhelming resources.

McKinley has worked to make his matchup with Oliverio a referendum on
the Obama administration and the policies of the Democratic leadership,
including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

Oliverio’s opposition to abortion, gun control, the health care law and
a climate change bill, as well as his efforts to distance himself from
Pelosi, should make it difficult to link him to national Democrats.

3rd district
Incumbent: Nick Rahall (D)
17th term (67 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

The fact that Rahall has to worry this year is a testament to just how
bad the cycle is for Democrats. Since he was first elected in 1976, Rahall
has taken less than 60 percent of the vote just once. He has a massive
campaign war chest and holds the chairmanship of the Natural Resources
Committee, which holds a lot of sway in coal-rich West Virginia.

But Rahall can’t simply ignore his challenge this cycle from former
state Supreme Court Justice Spike Maynard.

Maynard is running on one issue: coal. He says he will fight for coal
and won’t stand idly by as thousands of local jobs are threatened by
President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.”

Maynard is underfunded, but he’s taking some tough swings at Rahall,
blasting the Congressman for Democratic policies that he says helped create
jobs in China while Americans were out of work.

If Republicans are able to knock off Rahall, Democrats are surely in for
a very long night on Nov. 2.

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