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Race Ratings: Wisconsin GOP Likely to Keep Majority

Redistricting in Wisconsin is unlikely to help Democrats win back the two House seats in the state that they lost last year, and with 14 months to go, Republicans are favored to maintain their 5-3 majority in the Congressional delegation.

The redistricting map, drawn by Republican state legislators and signed into law in August by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, put incumbents in all eight of Wisconsin’s newly drawn districts in no immediate political danger.

Overall, there are only two potentially competitive districts, both seats newly held by Republicans: Reps. Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble. They are the top two targets, but Democrats would also love to unseat Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, whose loss would be a symbolic victory for the party.

Ryan has become a lightning rod for Democratic criticism as the architect of a budget plan that overhauls Medicare, and his name is being uttered in every competitive district across the country. But Ryan’s district picked up Republican voters on the new map, making him even more difficult to beat than he was in the past decade.

Duffy, who won the seat of former Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D), was also a benefactor of redistricting. Still, his is the toughest district for a Republican in the Badger State, and the freshman could have a real race on his hands next year.

1st district

Incumbent: Paul Ryan (R)
7th term (68 percent)
Rating: Likely Republican

Democrats are touting Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban as a strong candidate to take out Ryan, but the reality is the Republican “young gun” with a national profile will be nearly impossible to beat.

Ryan has never won re-election with less than 63 percent, and his district added Republican voters and is now more favorable than it’s ever been. On top of that, Ryan starts out with a heavy fundraising edge, reporting more than $3.8 million in the bank at the end of June.

In the second quarter, Zerban raised $100,000 and loaned his campaign $120,000, ending with about $200,000 in cash on hand.

2nd district

Open Seat
Rating: Safe Democratic

With Rep. Tammy Baldwin running for Senate, there will be several Democrats looking to take over this strongly Democratic seat.

State Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys announced their candidacies the morning after Baldwin made her Senate bid official, and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach was taking a look at the seat as well. The winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored to hold this Madison-based district.

3rd district

Incumbent: Ron Kind (D)
8th term (50 percent)
Rating: Likely Democratic

Like the 2nd district, if Kind opts to run for Senate, there will be a rush of Democrats looking to win this seat.

After redistricting, the 3rd became more Democratic. Kind survived a close race in a tough year for his party, but the new lines may entice him to stay in a safer seat. There are currently no Republicans in the race.

4th district

Incumbent: Gwen Moore (D)
4th term (69 percent)
Rating: Safe Democratic

This Milwaukee-based district is the most Democratic in the state, and Moore should have no trouble winning a fifth term. A telling detail is that her lowest winning percentage was last year.

5th district

Incumbent: Jim Sensenbrenner (R)
17th term (69 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

The shape of this district changed, but its Republican edge did not. Sensenbrenner has never faced a close election and likely won’t again in 2012.

6th district

Incumbent: Tom Petri (R)
16th term (71 percent)
Rating: Safe Republican

This district got slightly more Republican and should not give Petri, who hasn’t had a close election in 20 years, cause for concern.

7th district

Incumbent: Sean Duffy (R)
1st term (52 percent)
Rating: Leans Republican

One of two top targets for Democrats, Duffy received the biggest boost from redistricting, as his district shed some Democratic areas that would have made it better territory for his rivals.

Democratic presidential candidates carried Duffy’s current district in 2004 and 2008, but under the new 7th district lines, President George W. Bush would have won it with 51 percent.

The district remains tough, though, and Democrats have recruited as their candidate Pat Kreitlow, a former TV anchor who served one term in the state Senate before being defeated last year. He had raised less than $100,000 through the end of June, compared with Duffy’s more than $600,000.

This race has the potential to become competitive, and both national parties are paying close attention. But with Duffy’s head start on fundraising and the district moving in the right direction for him, Duffy has the early advantage.

8th district

Incumbent: Reid Ribble (R)
1st term (55 percent)
Rating: Likely Republican

Ribble, who defeated two-term Rep. Steve Kagen (D) last year, so far has yet to garner a Democratic challenger. One insider said Kagen was still considering mounting a comeback bid for his former seat, but Ribble beat him by 10 points last cycle and Kagen has reported no fundraising so far this year.

Democrats think the freshman Congressman is beatable. But in a favorable district with no challenger, Ribble at this point is likely to win re-election.

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