What a difference a year makes. Not a single name on Roll Call’s first edition of this cycle’s 10 most vulnerable House members graces the final list before Election Day. The reasons are plenty: some retired, some won primaries, others lost.
Just three Republicans made the final list — and every one has personal political problems. It’s a difficult year to be a Democrat, and the remaining seven members on the list are running in competitive or conservative districts.
This list could easily have been extended to include several more members: Reps. Ron Barber, D-Ariz.; John Barrow, D-Ga.; Timothy H. Bishop, D-N.Y.; Julia Brownley, D-Calif.; Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y.; Scott Peters, D-Calif.; Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn.; and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.
Here are the 10 most vulnerable House members, ranked in order of likelihood to return next Congress:
1. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Ill.
Democrats spent millions on the television airwaves to dub Enyart’s challenger, GOP state Rep. Mike Bost “Meltdown Mike.” They used footage of Bost’s outbursts on the state House floor to paint him as an unhinged legislator who “would make Washington worse.”
But Bost turned that message on its head, saying his passionate outbursts were his way of showing frustration with the Democratic status quo.
Rating: Tilts Republican 2. Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.
Public polling from the final weeks of this race paints a grim picture for Terry’s re-election.
Millions in advertising from Democrats blasting Terry’s ill-advised comments during the government shutdown have taken their toll.
What’s more, a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage in Nebraska is likely to boost turnout from voters unlikely to back Terry, creating the perfect storm for Democrats to take Terry down — even in a good year for Republicans.
Rating: Tilts Democratic 3. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla.
Garcia’s re-election was always a concern for the national party, but his bid took a rough turn in 2013, when two former staffers garnered horrific headlines amid a voter fraud scandal.
For a most of the cycle, Garcia seemed to stabilize the situation with his powerhouse fundraising, and Republican challenger Carlos Curbelo did himself no favors when he compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme.
But as national Democratic operatives poured over October internal polling, Garcia’s name rocketed to the top of their “worry lists.”
In the end, operatives from both parties say that Garcia’s saving grace may be GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s anticipated down-ballot drag in Garcia’s South Florida district.
Rating: Tilts Republican 4. Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, D-W.Va.
A decade ago, Rahall racked up 2-to1 margin landslide victories. Those days are over.
Romney carried the 3rd District by a 32-point margin in 2012, his biggest spread of the Mountain State’s three House seats.
Since the winter, GOP outside groups were all-in this year behind Republican Evan Jenkins, making this race a nearly year-long war of attrition.
But the fact that the bottom has not fallen out on Rahall is a testament to his retail talent . This is why “Nicky Joe” ranks no higher than No. 4 on our list.
Rating: Tossup 5. Rep. Steve Southerland II, R-Fla.
Democrat Gwen Graham waged a fierce campaign against Southerland, and he had no room for error this cycle.
Even so, both national parties are downplaying expectations in north Florida.
6. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif.
In recent weeks, GOP outside groups dumped millions into this Sacramento-based district to boost former Rep. Doug Ose, who represented a large chunk of this district for three terms in the early 2000s.
For Republicans, the district marks a bright spot of opportunity among a handful of California House contests. Democrats say they see promise in Bera’s turnout operation — the same one that helped him win here in 2012 by a 1-point margin. And operatives from both parties say Ose has a high negatives in polls, thanks to Democrats’ ad barrage.
Nonetheless, in such an evenly divided district — Democrats and Republicans have an equal percentage of voter registrations — and in a year projected to see record-low turnout in the Golden State, that might not be enough.
Rating: Tossup 7. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill.
Democrats say their millions in ad spending to show former Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill., as an extreme tea party Republican will push Schneider to victory. That label is unpopular in this independently minded district located in suburbs and towns north of Chicago.
But Republicans say GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner has dumped millions into a ground game that gives Dold an advantage.
Either way, the rematch is expected to be one of the closest races in the country.
Rating: Tossup 8. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.
She’s on top of the GOP’s list of incumbents they want to oust Tuesday — and it shows.
Republican outside groups have spent millions spent attacking her on television. But these groups had to, because Republican nominee Andy Tobin didn’t win the primary until September. He’s not a great fundraiser, either.
Kirkpatrick, a perennially underestimated campaigner since she lost in 2010, shocked Republicans with her 2012 comeback. This is hostile territory for her, but it’s the ballot that most weighs on her campaign: Unlike 2012, there will be no Libertarian spoiler to siphon votes from Tobin.
Rating: Tossup 9. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn.
Nolan faces Stewart Mills, a Republican with a prominent name in the Midwest thanks to his family’s chain of popular farm equipment and sporting goods stores.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent hefty sums to show Mills’ family largess puts him out-of-touch with this blue-collar district. Privately, Republicans said Mills didn’t answer with a rebuttal swiftly enough, allowing the DCCC’s TV ads to showcase a negative image of him for too long.
But a Green Party candidate on the ballot could take just enough of the left-leaning vote to doom Nolan’s re-election prospects anyway.
Rating: Tossup 10. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La.
It’s been a helluva year for McAllister. First elected in a December special election , he was dubbed the “Kissing Congressman” after getting caught on camera kissing a married staffer in his district office.
On Tuesday, he’ll fight for one of two spots in a likely December runoff in the Pelican State’s 5th District.
Polling shows Democrat Jamie Mayo in the lead, leaving McAllister in a tight race for second place with several GOP candidates, including Zach Dasher and Ralph Abraham. McAllister has spent more than $800,000 of his own personal fortune to convince voters he deserves a full term.
But Dasher has the support of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Club for Growth and “Duck Dynasty” — the reality show clan that catapulted McAllister into office. The reality show stars cut two ads for Dasher , who is the nephew of the family’s patriarch.
GOP operatives say that might just be enough to doom McAllister’s re-election.
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