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What the D-Trip’s Early Worry List Tells Us

The midterm House campaign kicked into the open this morning, when the Democrats’ campaign organization unveiled an initial roster of 26 incumbents who will get special organizational support and financial aid to boost their 2014 chances.

The early worry list is remarkable not because of who’s on it – mainly a predictable roster of lawmakers who prevailed after the tightest and hottest contests of last year – but because the roster is so long fully 21 months before Election Day. And so it only took 76 minutes after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s announcement before the House GOP’s campaign organization issued a statement crowing, in effect, that they could smell the flop sweat a mile away and were ready to capitalize on their rivals’ anxiety – and promising to mount an online advertising campaign by the end of the day in all the DCCC’s mentioned districts “letting voters know that even Democrats aren’t confident these members will be reelected.”

The Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to win control, but in reality the party is only working to stem its 2014 losses. (The president’s party almost always loses House losses in his second term midterm, because that’s the last way voters can take out their frustrations with his performance.)  In that context, it’s not great news that the DCCC sees twice as many obviously vulnerable incumbents now as it did at this point in the 2012 campaign.  It’s also a solid sign of Democratic operatives’ apprehension that three quarters of the people covered by the “Frontline Program” nonetheless represent territory President Obama carried in November.

On the other hand, the length of list can be seen as a reflection of the DCCC’s confidence that it will be able to sustain its solid initial fundraising clip, which has given it an early advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee. And the program has had a  very decent track record; of the 17 people who ended up as Frontline members last year, only one – Kentucky’s Ben Chandler – was defeated for reasons unrelated to redistricting. (Four Democrats were felled in territory redrawn with a much more GOP tilt.)

Seven in the “Frontline” group are House veterans who survived uncomfortably close calls last fall: California’s Lois Capps, Georgia’s John Barrow, Massachusetts’ John Tierney, North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre Utah’s Jim Matheson and New York’s Tim Bishop and Bill Owens.

The rest (including a special election winner and some who’ve just returned after a time away) are members of the freshman class who won only narrowly last November in districts with a close partisan divide:  Arizona’s Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema; California’s Ami Bera, Julia Brownley,  Scott Peters and Raul Ruiz; Connecticut’s Elizabeth Esty; Florida’s Patrick Murphy and Joe Garcia; Illinois’ Cheri Bustos, Bill Enyart  and Brad Schneider;  New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter and   Ann McLane Kuster , New York’s Sean Patrick Maloney and Dan Maffei; Texas  Pete Gallego, and Washington’s  Suzan DelBene.

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