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After my lengthy Senate and White House previews, I'm going to take a look at our chances of taking back the House by starting in the Northeast and then making three subsequent posts about our chances in the Midwest, South, and West.

But first to the Northeast, where Democrats are enormously strong. Except for New Hampshire, every Northeastern state has been won by a Democrat in the last four Presidential elections. The region is much more liberal than the nation as a whole and 15 of the region's 20 Senators are Democrats, with two Republicans on major defense this year. The region hates Bush and Bush has a 30% approval rating in the Northeast, with approval ratings as low as 22% in Rhode Island and as high as 40% in Pennsylvania. With numbers like these, it's no wonder Republican candidates are running away from Bush like he's radioactive.

But enough of the general picture, let's look at specific races. Without further ado, a state-by-state rundown:

Maine - Both Democratic incumbents here are super safe with Tom Allen and Mike Michaud facing extremely weak challengers and piling up huge cash totals. We're safe here.

Vermont - Rep. Bernie Sanders' ascension to the US Senate this year is a given, but his open House seat could be close. Adjutant General Martha Rainville is a strong Republican candidate and is giving State Senate President Pro Tempore and Democrat Peter Welch a surprisingly close race. In a state as liberal and Democratic as Vermont, it's hard to see Rainville winning, especially in a Democratic year, but Welch is not a shoo-in by any amount. This is one of the hardest seats we have to defend this year, but painting Rainville as too close to Bush and national Republicans should finish her off.

New Hampshire - Both GOP incumbents Jeb Bradley and Charlie Bass are facing strong Democratic challenges this year. Charlie Bass is facing Attorney Paul Hodes and Jeb Bradley will likely face State House Minority Leader Jim Craig in what should be two very competitive races. Craig and Hodes are raising money fast and while they will be outspent by the incumbents significantly, the Democratic wave could pull one or both of them in.

Massachusetts- The only state with a congressional delegation in the double digits that is controlled entirely by one party is Massachusetts and it will stay that way. One of the most Democratic states in the country, Massachusetts' ten Democratic incumbents are as safe as a bank vault. We'll keep every one with no sweat.

Rhode Island - Both Patrick Kennedy and Jim Langevin are extremely safe Democratic incumbents who will be easily renominated and reelected, even though Kennedy's run in with drug abuse and Langevin's pro-life position in a pro-choice state make them imperfect candidates.

Connecticut - While John Larson and Rosa DeLauro are extremely safe Democratic incumbents who will get over 70% of the vote, their three Republican colleagues in the House will face enormously strong challenges. Chris Shays is facing off for the second time against Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell. Shays's steadfast support of the War in Iraq and recent flip-flop to support a withdrawal timeline have given Farrell a great opportunity to slam Shays on the war. Farrell lost narrowly in 2004, 52% to 48%, and this district voted for John Kerry 52% to 48% as well that year. With Connecticut very unhappy with President Bush, this rich, suburban, NYC metro district should elect Diane Farrell very narrowly. Expect Shays to lose 53%-47%. North of Shays' district is hardline conservative and Republican incumbent Rob Simmons, whose district went for Kerry by eight points in 2004. Simmons is facing off against Joe Courtney for the second time after Courtney lost by eight points in 2002. Courtney is running a great campaign in the most Democratic district for a Republican incumbent in the country. Simmons is running away from his record fast and it looks like Courtney has an excellent shot at a landslide win, but put this one in our column. Finally, in Eastern Connecticut, incumbent Nancy Johnson is facing a really tough challenge from State Senator Chris Murphy in a 50-50 district that voted in nearly equal numbers for Bush and Kerry. Johnson is a good campaigner, not a hardline conservative, and has raised tons of cash, but the environment for the GOP this year is bad enough that she may be narrowly swept up in the tide. I wouldn't bet on this district, but it's close.

New York - With a 20-9 Democrat-Republican composition in the congressional delegation already, New Yorkers are trying to purge the last Republicans in the state. All the Democratic incumbents and open seats are extremely safe here, but at least six of the nine Republicans are very much in danger. The most vulnerable seat is the open seat of retiring incumbent Sherwood Boehlert in a 50-50 district. Oneida County DA Mike Arcuri (D) looks like the frontrunner for this seat against State Senator Ray Meier (R). With Bush unpopular and Democrats looking great this year and Senator Clinton and Eliot Spitzer winning their respective races for Senate and governor by huge margins, expect this seat to be swept up in the tide for Democrats. In the 29th district, freshman Republican incumbent Randy Kuhl is about to lose to Iraq war vet Eric Massa in a very narrowly Republican district. Massa is a great candidate, has raised money, and is targeting Kuhl's hardline record in a moderate district. Expect a win here. In other districts, incumbent Republicans Tom Reynolds, Vito Fossella, Peter King, John Sweeney, Jim Walsh, and Sue Kelly all look vulnerable to their Democratic challengers Jack Davis, Steve Harrison, Kirsten Gillibrand, Dan Maffei, and probably John Hall as they fight back the Democratic wave in a Democratic state in a Democratic year. While none of these incumbents other than Kuhl look headed for defeat, expect at least two of these six to go down. The only GOP incumbent who is safe in New York is John McHugh.

New Jersey - My great home state is a shame, as so many opportunities for Democratic pickups lay waste. While incumbent Republicans Chris Smith, Jim Saxton, and Frank LoBiondo all represent mildly Democratic districts, their challengers, Carol Gay, Rich Sexton, and Viola Thomas-Hughes are not receiving the cash necessary to beat them, even though they are all great candidates. While Tom Wyka is running an admirable race against Rodney Frelinghuysen in the 11th district, Frelinghuysen will easily win in this most Republican district in the state. But two challengers, Paul Aronsohn and Linda Stender, have excellent chances at unseating two hardline conservatives in moderate districts. In my home district, crazy extremist conservative Scott Garrett, who is anti-choice, anti-gun control, anti-gay, anti-environment, anti-education, anti-veteran, and anti-stem cell research in a moderate, socially liberal district, is facing Aronsohn, who is a former State Department official. While Aronsohn still needs more cash to make a race of this, he has a good chance. You can cover this race at my blog here. State Assemblywoman Linda Stender is running a very competitive race against incumbent Mike Ferguson in a district that is narrowly Republican. She is running on Ferguson's opposition to abortion and stem cell research and his steadfast support for the Iraq war, which is very unpopular in this NYC satellite district. Stender is a great candidate, is raising tons of cash, and is one of the top races in the country. Expect her to pull it out and beat Ferguson. All Democrats in New Jersey are 100% safe.

Pennsylvania - Every Democrat in this state is enormously safe and will be buoyed by Gov. Rendell's reelection and Santorum's landlside defeat to State Treasurer Bob Casey in the Senate race. And while most of the Republicans in this state are safe too, four Republicans face very tough races. Incumbents Mike Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach, and Curt Weldon, represent narrowly divided swing districts in suburban Philadelphia. All three are facing excellent challengers with huge amounts of cash. Iraq war vet Patrick Murphy, Attorney Lois Murphy, and Retired Vice Admiral Joe Sestak are very close to knocking off these Bush rubber stamps. Lois Murphy already ran against Gerlach last time and came within two points of knocking him off. Patrick Murphy is a stellar young candidate who is taking Fitzpatrick to task on the Iraq war, with credibility. Joe Sestak is taking on the unhinged Weldon on national security from a personal perspective. In Northeastern Pennsylvania, Don Sherwood is facing a strong challenge from Naval Reserve Officer Chris Carney after Sherwood only received 55% of the vote in his Republican primary after his challenger spent little money. Sherwood is clearly vulnerable, though not as much as the Philly Three. Expect two to four pickups here.

Delaware - Republican Mike Castle shouldn't be safe, but he is because Delaware Democrats can't find a competent challenger with access to cash.

Maryland - All incumbents, six Democrats and two Republicans are very safe here due to redistricting and gerrymandering, which gives each incumbent districts with at least 60% of their party's registrants.

All in all, we look very good for the House this year. The Northeast gives us our best prospects for taking back the House and in the Northeast, I predict 0-1 losses for Democrats, and I predict anywhere from 8-18 GOP losses here. With the Northeast as our anchor, Democrats look poised to pick the House as long as the rest of the country gives us at least 7 other pickups. The Northeast is going to be a bloodbath for Republicans this fall.


Ben said...

The Democrats are virtually a lock for taking back the House in November, and Republicans are virtually a lock to keep control of the Senate. I think at the most we pick up one or two seats.

In the House, there are 35 competitive races for Republican House seats, meaning they have about 196 safe seats as opposed to Democrats who have 9 competitive races, in effect having 192 safe seats. Given the shear number of Republican leaning/toss up seats, it would be difficult not to gain a majority in the House.