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Top 5 Races to Watch in the Midwest

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Midwest continues to be the land of competitive House races.  

The open-seat Senate race in Michigan and Republicans’ challenge to Sen. Al Franken continue to be third-tier GOP opportunities. But a quartet of House races provide a glimpse into the broader political landscape in 2014.  

A couple of races dropped off the regional top five watch list since last summer . Democrat Mike Obermueller’s second race against GOP Rep. John Kline just isn’t coming together in Minnesota’s 2nd District. And Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski starts the general-election sprint in surprisingly solid position against Democrat Joe Bock.  

Here are the top five races to watch in the Midwest this fall: Illinois’ 10th District. Former GOP Rep. Bob Dold and Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider are locked in a tight rematch of 2012. Sen. Mark S. Kirk represented the area in the House for years, but Schneider took it last cycle after Democratic redistricting efforts. The district leans Democratic, but Dold starts the general election with higher name identification. This is one area where President Barack Obama’s Israel policy could push some disaffected Jewish voters into the GOP column and make a difference in the race. The Rothenberg Political Report /Roll Call rating: Pure Tossup .  

Illinois’ 13th District. Former Madison County chief circuit judge Ann Callis was one of the first Democratic recruits of the cycle, but GOP Rep. Rodney Davis is proving to be an extremely formidable foe. A competitive primary forced Callis to ramp up her effort early, but she hasn’t reached the higher gear that even some Democrats believe she needs to defeat the incumbent. In addition, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is running for re-election and is very unpopular outside of the Chicago area. (You can read more about the Quinn dynamic in Emily Cahn’s recent story from her trip to Illinois .) The Rothenberg Political Report /Roll Call rating: Leans Republican .  

Minnesota’s 8th District. The race between Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican challenger Stewart Mills III offers one of the starkest contrasts of any race in country. The Democrat is in his second stint in Congress after previously serving in the late 1970s. Mills is the wealthy, first-time candidate whose family owns a chain of popular outdoors stores. The district has some moderate Democrats on the Iron Range that don’t line up perfectly with Nolan or Obama’s views, making the race worth watching. The Rothenberg Political Report /Roll Call rating: Leans Democratic .  

Illinois’ 12th District. Democrats tend to discount Republican Mike Bost because of a YouTube video that shows the legislator throwing papers in a tirade during a speech on the state House floor. But he is waging a competitive challenge to Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart. The congressman has not solidified himself and is not regarded as an agile campaigner. Bost isn’t lighting the world on fire either, but he is a credible candidate who could take an advantage of an opportunity — should Enyart and Quinn give him one. The Rothenberg Political Report /Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilts Democratic .  

Wisconsin Governor. Republican Gov. Scott Walker was never going to coast to re-election in a competitive state such as Wisconsin, but he always appeared to have the slight upper hand. Now, Democrat Mary Burke has established herself as a credible candidate, and Democrats will pound Walker with his past campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term, which hasn’t come to pass. The Rothenberg Political Report /Roll Call rating: Pure Tossup .  

What races would you add to or subtract from the list?  

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the race rating in Minnesota’s 8th District.
Note: This is the third in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch. The Midwest Region includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The previous regions: Mid-Atlantic, New England.

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