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South Region Roundup

All Eyes on Florida for November’s Elections








Gov. Robert Bentley (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 9
2008 Presidential Vote:
McCain 60%/Obama 39%


6th district | Incumbent: Spencer Bachus (R)

10th term (Uncontested) | Outlook: Safe Republican

Bachus, chairman of the powerful Financial Services Committee, had a big scare during his primary. But he also had a big bankroll and used hundreds of thousands of dollars to comfortably beat back a challenge from a state Senator. He is now set to cruise to his 11th term.


Gov. Mike Beebe (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 6
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 59%/Obama 39%


4th district | Open Seat: Mike Ross (D) is retiring.

Outlook: Safe Republican

The primary candidate who national Democrats hoped would win didn’t, while Republicans nominated a superstar. Republican Tom Cotton is almost certain to be the next Congressman from this district. The 35-year-old is a member of the Army Reserve and a former consultant for McKinsey & Co. Insiders see him as a leader who will make his mark on the 113th Congress.


Gov. Rick Scott (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 29
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 51%/McCain 48%


Incumbent: Bill Nelson (D)

2nd term (60 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

Nelson would appear to be in a vulnerable position as a Democrat in a conservative-leaning presidential swing state. But the Republican nominee, Rep. Connie Mack IV, isn’t the candidate to capitalize on Nelson’s possible vulnerability. For months, GOP insiders across the state put on a brave face publicly that they might finally — finally — be able to knock off Nelson, who beat unimpressive opponents in 2000 and 2006.

But now, privately, the GOP mood about the Senate race falls somewhere between roiling frustration and deep despair. With public polls showing Mack down by double digits, multiple strategists in both parties used the phrase “cooked” to describe the Republican nominee’s campaign — as in, stick a fork in him, he’s done.

Mack hasn’t proved to be a particularly adept fundraiser or campaign tactician. There’s a huge amount of opposition research on Mack, too, from missed votes to a bar brawl in his younger days. Democrats have been quick to exploit all of it.

And Nelson, while burdened by votes for the health care law and other Obama agenda items, manages to be politically amorphous in Florida: liked, but not well-defined. Insiders from both parties expect him to outperform the top of the ticket, probably significantly, no matter whether the president wins or loses the state.

If there’s any glimmer of hope for the GOP, it would be millions of dollars from outside groups.


2nd district | Incumbent: Steve Southerland (R)

1st term (54 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

Redistricting made this Panhandle district more favorable to a Democratic candidate and thus a top target for national operatives hoping to knock off Southerland, a freshman. But Democrats’ favored candidate lost the primary. The Democratic nominee is Al Lawson, a folksy, incredibly affable former state Senator who is a talented storyteller. He was never the kind of fundraiser he needed to be, but he’s been on TV, which is cheap here, and with some outside help he could unseat the incumbent. A long shot now, watch this race during the next month. It could get competitive quickly.

3rd district | Open Seat: Cliff Stearns (R) was defeated in the primary.

Outlook: Safe Republican

Ted Yoho was among the biggest surprise primary winners this cycle. Yoho upset Stearns in the multicandidate August GOP primary, where the Congressman’s biggest threat was believed to be a state Senator. Yoho, a veterinarian for large animals, will have no trouble dispatching Democrat J.R. Gaillot in November, and he is expected to join the 113th Congress next year.

6th district | Open Seat: John Mica (R) is running in the 7th district.

Outlook: Safe Republican

Ron DeSantis, a retired Navy JAG officer and current Navy reservist, easily bested a crowded GOP primary field. The 34-year-old is on track for an easy victory in this comfortably Republican coastal district.

9th district | New Seat

Outlook: Safe Democratic

The honcho of hyperbole and chief pooh-bah of provocation is poised to come back to the 113th Congress. It’s Alan Grayson time.

The former Congressman, who lost to Rep. Daniel Webster (R) in 2010 by an embarrassing 18 points, is running in a comfortably Democratic district against a very weak GOP opponent, Todd Long.

10th district | Incumbent: Daniel Webster (R)

1st term (56 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

Former Orlando Police Chief Val Demings is a great candidate in a pretty bad district for a Democrat, running against a Republican incumbent who has been a consistent winner in Orlando-area politics for a long time. All of which is to say, she’ll probably come up short next month. Still, Demings has been up on television and has a good message. But the chances of it breaking through enough to matter seem pretty slim.

16th district | Incumbent: Vern Buchanan (R)

3rd term (69 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

Allegations of ethical impropriety against Buchanan originally made this race look like it might be competitive, even though the district favors the incumbent. But those allegations didn’t really pan out, and now Buchanan looks in good shape to come back to Congress.

He came out a big winner in redistricting: He got to keep almost all of his current constituents in his newly numbered seat. And with no wave breaking for Democrats, he appears to have the resources and the campaign infrastructure to handily beat his opponent, former state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald (D).

18th district | Incumbent: Allen West (R)

1st term (54 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

There are two sides to Allen West. One is the version viewers of cable news see: the partisan firebrand who called Rep. Debbie
Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) “vile, unprofessional and despicable” and said 78 to 81 Members of Congress were communists. But the other is a sober, thoughtful, substantial, data-driven convincer who speaks to crowds with vim but no vitriol, numbers but no name-calling.

In many ways, this race is a referendum on which West swing voters will see. In his positive TV ads, the retired Army lieutenant colonel is less strident than he is in his handful of YouTube moments. And in one ad, he acknowledged his reputation and framed it as principle.

“Some say I push too hard, that I ask too much,” West said in one of his ads. “My response: I’m just getting started.”

Democrat Patrick Murphy is a credible challenger. But the largely unknown candidate faces a real difficulty in introducing himself to voters before West frames him negatively — something the Congressman has already begun to do with a huge number of potent attack ads.

There have also been copious attacks on West from Murphy and outside groups — not just on things he’s said, but the way he’s voted.

A month out, the race favors West, but the final outcome looks likely to be close.

19th district | Open Seat: Connie Mack IV (R) is running for Senate.

Outlook: Safe Republican

This is one of the safest GOP districts in the state, so Republican nominee Trey Radel should cruise to victory.

22nd district | Open Seat: Allen West (R) is running in the 18th district.

Outlook: Likely Democratic

By the numbers, this should be an easy win for Democrats and former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel. The reconfigured district would have voted about
57 percent for Barack Obama in 2008; it’s more Democratic than the one West won in 2010. But if there’s one Republican who has a shot here — if long — it’s ex-Senate candidate and former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner.

Strangely for a Democratic-leaning district, he is a conservative Republican, but not the kind that turns off moderate voters. In fact, on the trail, he is quite charming and manages to connect with a lot of swing voters. And he’s gotten some real help, to the tune of more than $400,000, from a third-party pro-Republican group.

Still, Frankel is a hard worker and a very strong fundraiser. Internal Democratic polls show her in comfortable shape. Anything other than a victory from Frankel at this point would be a surprise, especially with the top of the ticket trending Democrats’ way in Florida.

26th district | Incumbent: David Rivera (R)

1st term (52 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

It will take some kind of political miracle for Rivera to win. Reported federal investigations into his campaign activities, toxic local media coverage, no active support from the national party and the potential legal action looming over him all contribute to his electoral challenge.

The funny thing about Rivera: He’s a political miracle-maker. Republicans with long histories in the state caution never to write him off.

“David Rivera could be standing in a burning building, the executioner could have a gun to his head and then a nuclear bomb could go off and you think, ‘He’s done,’” Sunshine State GOP strategist Rick Wilson told Roll Call last month. “Next thing, David walks out the back door and asks if you want to go grab lunch.”

Rivera is in a rematch with Democrat Joe Garcia, who ran and lost Congressional races in 2008 and 2010 in Miami-area districts. Garcia can be pleasant and thoughtful, but he has made his share of enemies in top Florida Democratic political circles. This is not his race to win or lose though.

It’s the drumbeat of bad news reports about Rivera — one more over the top than the next — that gives Democrats hope.

“I think Joe’s gonna win, as crazy as that sounds,” one Florida Democratic operative said. “You don’t even need ads. It’s a Cuban soap opera on the front page of the Miami Herald every day.”


Gov. Nathan Deal (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 16
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 52%/Obama 47%


9th district | New Seat

Outlook: Safe Republican

This new district is anchored in Hall County in the northeastern part of the state. It’s home to the governor, lieutenant governor and state Speaker and was drawn to be one of the most Republican districts in the country. State Rep. Doug Collins (R) will be the 9th’s first Congressman after winning a competitive primary and runoff.

12th district | Incumbent: John Barrow (D)

4th term (57 percent) | Outlook: Tossup

The lines of this district were meant to be a kill shot to Barrow’s political career. It is an exceedingly tough race, but the affable, crafty politico might dodge another electoral bullet. He faces state Rep. Lee Anderson, seen as folksy but inarticulate and still recovering from a bruising primary battle. Republicans have hung President Barack Obama, unpopular in the district, around the neck of Barrow, but he seems to be holding his own. One thing is certain: The final margin here will be very, very close.


Gov. Steve Beshear (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 8
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 57%/Obama 41%


4th district | Vacancy: Geoff Davis (R) resigned.

Outlook: Safe Republican

Lewis County Judge Executive Thomas Massie, affiliated with the tea party and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), won a brutal primary in this district over the more establishment-backed candidates. Massie, who is cerebral and poised, should easily win in November in this Republican district.

6th district | Incumbent: Ben Chandler (D)

5th term (50 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic

Chandler faces a rematch with Lexington attorney Andy Barr (R) and, despite a slew of ads from Barr and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Chandler appears to be in good shape to return to Congress. The reconfigured 6th is slightly more favorable to Chandler than the district in which he beat Barr by 647 votes in 2010, but it will still vote comfortably for Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket next month. Republicans in the state remain deeply skeptical about Barr’s chances.

If the anti-Barack Obama wave in the Bluegrass State is strong enough, this could be a race that breaks late in the Republican candidate’s favor, but probably not.


Gov. Bobby Jindal (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 8
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 59%/Obama 40%


3rd district: Member Vs. Member: Charles Boustany (R) and Jeff Landry (R)

4th term (unopposed); 1st term (64 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

This one’s going to be a bruiser in the bayou. Landry and Boustany were drawn into the same district during redistricting. The majority of the new seat is territory Boustany currently represents. But that hasn’t stopped Landry, who is running as the tea party outsider, from making some inroads in the Boustany part of the district. Boustany, who is close with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the establishment, has a whole lot more cash than his opponent and was way up in a poll he released in July. But this could be a real race yet — and it might be the last one decided by voters this cycle.

Louisiana’s “jungle primary” and the fact that there are five candidates on the ballot means there could be a runoff, likely with Boustany facing Landry in the Dec. 1 election.

“Boustany still has the advantage, but Landry continues to get his licks in,” said John Maginnis, the publisher of the nonpartisan and an analyst of Louisiana political trends.


Gov. Haley Barbour (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 6
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 56%/Obama 43%


Incumbent: Roger Wicker (R)

1st term (55 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

It’s good to be Wicker. The Senator, with views and votes that fit the state, will easily win re-election in November in this redoubt of Republicanism, easily wallopping his 82-year-old Democratic opponent, Albert N. Gore Jr., reportedly a distant cousin of the former vice president.


1st district | Incumbent: Alan Nunnelee (R)

1st term (55 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

Nunnelee beat former Eupora Mayor Henry Ross in the primary here and will be returning to Washington, D.C., in January from this very Republican district.

North Carolina

Gov. Beverly Perdue (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 15
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 50%/McCain 49%


7th district | Incumbent: Mike McIntyre (D)

8th term (54 percent) | Outlook: Tossup

McIntyre is hanging tough. Despite an unfavorable district, a credible though not particularly dynamic Republican opponent and millions of dollars dumped into the race from outside groups — much of it against the incumbent — McIntyre is holding his own. He’s had a number of strong ads on television and appears to be keeping a solid base of support among independents. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a close race with state Sen. David Rouzer (R); it will and the Republican could well win. But for a Member who looked in very bad shape after redistricting, McIntyre is faring well enough to leave a lot of Tar Heel Republicans feeling bearish on this race.

8th district | Incumbent: Larry Kissell (D)

2nd term (53 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

It’s just about curtains for Kissell, a former social studies teacher and textile mill supervisor.

The Congressman never had a particularly clear path to re-election. A GOP-led redistricting reconfigured the district to be significantly more Republican. And with recent news that national Democrats have canceled weeks of airtime, the window for Kissell to beat Republican nominee Richard Hudson grew a good bit narrower. The National Republican Congressional Committee has been on the air for weeks pounding Kissell and, without any cover from his national Democratic allies, he’s not likely to return to Congress.

When Roll Call asked Kissell in January whether he would be here for the long haul, working his way up the seniority ladder, the Congressman shook his head. “Long term, no, I’m not here forever,” he said.

That’s truer a month out than ever before this cycle.

9th district | Open Seat: Sue Myrick (R) is retiring.

Outlook: Safe Republican

Former state Sen. Robert Pittenger (R) is the overwhelming favorite in his race against Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts (D). Pittenger won a brawl of a primary and runoff and, unless he makes an epic fumble between now and Election Day, should be taking the oath in January.

11th district | Open Seat: Heath Shuler (D) is retiring.

Outlook: Likely Republican

Mark Meadows, the charismatic Republican nominee in this western North Carolina district, is just about certain to be the next Congressman here. Though it’s the most Republican district in North Carolina, Hayden Rogers, Shuler’s former chief of staff, looked to have a least a shot of winning. But there really doesn’t appear to be a path to victory for the Democrat anymore, North Carolina insiders said. And with national Democrats showing no indication of coming in to help, it looks like Meadows should win comfortably.

13th district | Open Seat: Brad Miller (D) is retiring.

Outlook: Safe Republican

Former U.S. Attorney George Holding is on his way to being the Congressman from this safe Republican seat. The way the GOP Legislature tweaked this district during redistricting doesn’t really leave Democrats a shot. Holding should be able to hold this seat as long as he wants it.

South Carolina

Gov. Nikki Haley (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 9
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 54%/Obama 45%


7th district | New Seat

Outlook: Safe Republican

The Palmetto State gained a seat in reapportionment because of population growth, and the Legislature placed it in the northeastern part of the state, anchored in Myrtle Beach and the Pee Dee region. Tom Rice, elected as Horry County Council chairman in 2010, won a contested primary and runoff battle. Although Democrats had originally hoped to compete here, their favored candidate was arrested and their second-tier candidate lost the primary. Rice should cruise to victory on Election Day.


Gov. Bill Haslam (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 11
2008 Presidential Vote: McCain 57%/Obama 42%


Incumbent: Bob Corker (R)

1st term (51 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

A former mayor of Chattanooga, Corker will easily win a second term against a handful of nonserious candidates.


3rd district | Incumbent: Chuck Fleischmann (R)

1st term (57 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

The freshman Member had a real race during the primary, in which he faced a dairy magnate and the son of a former Congressman. But he kept his head down, worked hard and won. He’ll come back to Congress with ease.


Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 13
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 53%/McCain 46%


Open Seat: Jim Webb (D) is retiring.

Outlook: Tossup

Polls for the past 18 months have shown little daylight between former Govs. George Allen (R) and Tim Kaine (D), and few close to the campaigns expect that to change before the election.

There is plenty more to come, but the millions already spent on negative advertising against each candidate by the national party committees and outside groups have not moved the needle. A couple of outlier polls released in mid-September that showed Kaine pulling out to a significant lead were quickly disregarded, at least publicly, by both campaigns.

Although governor would certainly be the top job they list on their respective résumés, messaging in this race has centered on what each did after their tenures as head of the state — Allen’s six years as a Senator and Kaine’s chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

Kaine has pitched himself in the mold of popular Sen. Mark Warner, a proud Democrat but someone more concerned with getting things done in a gridlocked Senate. Allen has said anyone who pays an electric bill, puts gasoline into their cars or wants a job should back him because he is for lowering government regulations on energy production and small businesses.

Whichever sounds better to the swing voters in the Richmond suburbs and exurbs of Washington, D.C., will likely be the deciding factor in this race.


2nd district | Incumbent: Scott Rigell (R)

2nd term (53 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Rigell, who knocked off Democratic incumbent Glenn Nye in 2010, has the edge, but this will be a district that both parties are watching closely on election night for clues about the two races above it on the ticket.

The outcome of this race for the Virginia Beach-based district will likely have more to do with what happens here in the presidential and Senate races. President Barack Obama and former Gov. Tim Kaine are counting on big Democratic turnout in this area to help offset Republican advantages in other parts of the state. How well they do will have an outsized role in whether Paul Hirschbiel, a businessman and friend of Sen. Mark Warner, comes to Congress next year. Both Rigell, who is close with Gov. Bob McDonnell, and Hirschbiel are able to self-fund, so money shouldn’t be too much of an issue despite the inflated media costs in one of the most saturated markets in the country.

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