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New England

Connecticut

Filing deadline: June 10
Primary: Aug. 12

House

2nd district
Incumbent: Joe Courtney (D)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Courtney is on track to win re-election this fall. This district might have been the scene of the closest House race in the country in 2006, but it doesn’t look like it will be much of a nail-biter in 2008 because of a disappointing GOP candidate.

When former Rep. Rob Simmons (R), whom Courtney defeated in 2006, turned down a rematch for a top job in the governor’s administration, winning became infinitely more difficult for Republicans in this blue district. It’s a difficult climate for any Republican — except maybe Simmons — to win this one.

Although Republicans initially hyped retired naval officer Sean Sullivan as a proper opponent to Courtney, his lackluster fundraising has left lingering doubts. Sullivan had only $129,000 in the bank at the end of March, compared with Courtney’s $1.2 million.

4th district
Incumbent: Christopher Shays (R)
11th term (51 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Shays is the candidate with nine lives. He keeps coming back every cycle to defeat new Democratic challengers, each one better-funded than the one before.

This cycle Democrats recruited Greenwich Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jim Himes, who is particularly well-connected financially from his time as a Goldman Sachs investment banker.

And so far, those money connections are showing. Himes had $1.1 million in cash on hand at the end of March — almost as much as Shays had in the bank.

But numbers aside, this race is not getting the attention it received in the previous cycle at this time. It’s possible that Democrats missed their chance to take down Shays when their big blue wave hit New England in 2006 and knocked out every other moderate Republican in the region.

Then again, Himes has the presidential turnout working against Shays, who is an avid supporter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). If Connecticut goes as Democratic as it has in the past few presidential cycles, Himes could get the extra boost to win the honored title of the Democrat who finally took down Shays.

5th district
Incumbent: Christopher Murphy (D)
1st term (56 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

Murphy, one of the youngest Members of Congress, took this district away from a longtime Republican Member in 2006 by much larger margins than many expected. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine anyone who could take this seat back from Murphy, with the possible exception of the woman he ousted, ex-Rep. Nancy Johnson (R) — who is not running.

Republican leaders have tapped state Sen. David Cappiello, a social moderate with a semifamous name for his family’s jewelry store, to run for this seat.

But Cappiello comes with some ethical baggage, and the local press stories to show it. Connecticut is no stranger to corruption, but it remains to be seen whether his involvement with a local garbage executive will cause political damage.

What’s more, Cappiello faces a primary with former state Rep. Tony Nania (R).

Maine

Filing deadline: Passed
Primary: June 10

Senate

Incumbent: Susan Collins (R)
2nd term (58 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican

In what could become the most contentious Senate race in the nation, an incumbent Democratic House Member is challenging a moderate Republican Senator. But Rep. Tom Allen (D) has yet to budge any of the publicly released polls against Collins. Six months until the election, he’s still looking at a 20-point spread.

Neither candidate has hit the airwaves yet, which leaves lots of room for the race to shift substantially before November. In the meantime, watch for outside groups to dump cash into this race and buy up airtime.

While Collins is not as popular as her senior counterpart, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R), she has earned a reputation during her 12 years in the Senate for being a moderate, with attention to detail — and the homefront.

Allen might possibly be the best recruit the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee could want in the state, but have Mainers made up their mind on Collins? So far, it looks like the answer might be yes. But if Allen can successfully tether Collins to President Bush and his unpopular policies, like the Iraq War, things could change.

House

1st district
Open seat: Tom Allen (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Democratic

It’s an all-star Democratic field in the 1st district, where everyone and their mother is running for the Democratic nomination in June. By most standards, the frontrunner is 2002 Democratic Senate nominee Chellie Pingree, who left the state to run the good government group Common Cause after losing to Sen. Susan Collins (R) that year.

Behind Pingree, state Sen. Ethan Strimling (D) waits in the wings and could pull an upset in June. When Pingree left for Washington, D.C., Strimling created quite the Maine following as a liberal leader in Portland and Augusta.

On the next tier, former state Senate Majority Leader Michael Brennan, Iraq War veteran Adam Cote and York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence are also running. Next to Strimling and Pingree, Cote has raised the most money — a surprising feat given he does not have the political money connections that his opponents do.

Because of the expected low turnout this June, this primary is all about ground game. If the expected 50,000 or so people show up that day, it will work to Pingree’s advantage because she already has the name identification in the district.

Two Republicans are running, though it’s hard to envision a scenario in which either of them wins Portland in November. The 1st district, after all, is the more Democratic-leaning of Maine’s two House seats. The GOP candidates are businessman Dean Scontras and 2004 nominee Charlie Summers, a Naval Reserve officer who is currently in Iraq and relies on his wife to campaign for him.

Massachusetts

Filing deadline: May 6
Primary: Sept. 16

Senate

Incumbent: John Kerry (D)
4th term (80 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

This cycle, Republicans have mustered not one, but two challengers for the 2004 Democratic White House nominee after letting him win re-election easily last time.

National Republicans prefer retired Air Force Col. Jim Ogonowski, who fell a few points shy of winning the 5th district special election last fall and becoming the first Republican Member from the Bay state in a decade. Former CIA officer and one-time House candidate Jeff Beatty is also running for the GOP nod.

It’s almost impossible for Kerry to lose his seat, even without the $10 million or so he has in the bank ready to go. But if a wave of anti-incumbency sweeps the country in November, Ogonowski could give Kerry a good run for that money.

House

5th district
Incumbent: Niki Tsongas (D)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Tsongas won what likely will prove to be the most challenging election of her career last October, when she beat Jim Ogonowski (R) by a smaller-than-expected margin of 5 points in the special election to replace former Rep. Marty Meehan (D).

Ogonowski was rumored to be considering a rematch against Tsongas, who is the widow of former Sen. Paul Tsongas (D), but instead opted to run against Sen. John Kerry (D). Kurt Hayes, an Independent candidate in last year’s special election, was preparing to run as a Republican this November, but he dropped out in late April leaving the GOP with no candidate at all at press time.

New Hampshire

Filing deadline: June 13
Primary: Sept. 9

Senate

Incumbent: John Sununu (R)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Leans Democratic

For years, Democrats have dreamed of former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) defeating Sununu in a rematch of the 2002 election. And so far it seems their wish might could be granted.

Although Sununu keeps pace with his fundraising, it’s evident that he has not put together much of a campaign so far and is instead trying to use his powers of incumbency to win a second term.

But as Sununu crosses the state in his official capacity, Shaheen maintains momentum. She continues to poll considerably better than he does in almost every publicly released survey.

Republicans maintain that the 2002 match between these two Granite State titans also started out with Shaheen ahead and that Sununu ultimately won by 4 points. After voters are reminded of Shaheen’s gubernatorial record, Republicans say, they will think differently about her.

So if that’s the case, is Sununu storing up cash so he can remind voters about Shaheen in August? That could work. But 2008 promises to be a much more Democratic year than 2002 was, and New Hampshire has become a much more Democratic state.

If Sununu doesn’t turn things around soon, he might earn the dubious title of the Rick Santorum of 2008.

House

1st district
Incumbent: Carol Shea-Porter (D)
1st term (51 percent)
Outlook: Tossup

Former Rep. Jeb Bradley (R), who was ousted by Shea-Porter in 2006, is back for revenge, but first he must get through a competitive Republican primary. Former state Health Commissioner John Stephen (R) comes at Bradley from the right, with a significant amount of in-state support.

Nonetheless, Granite State Republicans could favor Bradley, who has the benefit of strong name identification from his previous two terms in Congress.

Shea-Porter has standard, but not impressive, fundraising numbers. But she didn’t win office in the previous cycle on her fundraising abilities anyway. Instead, she pieced together a strong grass-roots operation that upset not only Bradley but the preferred candidate of national Democrats in the September primary.

And whoever faces Shea-Porter this year will have a complicated mission in a presidential cycle, with New Hampshire turning steadily more blue and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) currently favored to win the Senate race. Still, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, is well-liked in the state and has won it twice in Republican primary contests. And Shea-Porter, still smarting from the 2006 snub, refuses help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meaning she may not be as financially or politically secure as she ought to be.

2nd district
Incumbent: Paul Hodes (D)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic

At one point last year, it looked as if Hodes might get a free pass to a second term. However, over the course of the fall, he acquired four GOP opponents in the more left-leaning of New Hampshire’s two Congressional districts.

National Republicans prefer radio host Jennifer Horn because she presents a unique candidate profile for the Granite State. However, many state GOP activists are more comfortable with state Sen. Bob Clegg, a longtime member of the Legislature.

Grant Bosse, a former aide to Sen. John Sununu (R), and attorney Jim Steiner are also running, though so far attention has mostly focused on the Clegg-Horn matchup.

But unless one of these candidates can break from the pack with strong momentum, Hodes could win by an even larger margin than he did in 2006. He certainly has an overwhelming financial advantage right now, finishing March with $832,000 in cash on hand. Clegg had $86,000 and Horn just $31,000.

Rhode Island

Filing deadline: June 25
Primary: Sept. 9

Senate

Incumbent: Jack Reed (D)
2nd term (78 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Easiest. Re-election. Campaign. Ever.

House

2nd district
Incumbent: James Langevin (D)
4th term (73 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Although Rhode Island was perhaps one of the most interesting states in the 2006 cycle, this year brings nothing but predictability.

Langevin had a feisty primary challenger in the previous cycle but has no worries to speak of in 2008.

Vermont

Filing deadline: July 21
Primary: Sept. 9

House

At-large
Incumbent: Peter Welch (D)
1st term (53 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

It’s good to be Peter Welch these days. So far no one has filed to oppose him this fall, and it looks like no one is waiting in the wings either.

Welch beat Martha Rainville (R), the head of the Vermont National Guard, in 2006 to earn his first term. But despite the relative competitiveness of that race, it looks as if Welch can breathe easily this time.

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