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Midwest Region Roundup

Illinois Republicans Face Uphill Battle for Seats After Redistricting

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Illinois’ new Congressional map put Reps. Randy Hultgren and Joe Walsh (above) in the same district. The race should be interesting because the two men have different styles: Hultgren is understated and established in the district, while Walsh is an outspoken and unpredictable freshman who defeated a Democratic incumbent by fewer than 300 votes last year.

ILLINOIS | INDIANA
MICHIGAN | MINNESOTA
OHIO | WISCONSIN


Illinois

Gov. Pat Quinn (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 20
2008 Presidential Vote:
Obama 62%/McCain 37%

House

2nd district | Incumbent:
Jesse Jackson Jr. (D)

8th full term (81 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic

Jackson has had a rough couple of months, and it might only get worse for the South Side Chicago Democrat.

First, his new district isn’t exactly what he’d hoped for under a new map, even though it’s still a majority-minority district. It extends south past Chicago to two exurban counties that are unfamiliar territory for Jackson.

Second, two Democrats may challenge Jackson in the primary: Former Rep. Debbie Halvorson is already in the race, and Alderman Anthony Beale is thinking about a bid. Halvorson, who has clashed with Jackson going back to her days in the state Legislature, probably could not defeat Jackson on her own. But with another black candidate like Beale splitting the primary vote, it’s a competitive race.

Finally, the House Ethics Committee resumed its investigation into Jackson’s activities during former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s (D) attempts to sell the president’s former Senate seat.

Jackson insists he’ll be vindicated, but the taint of the investigation quickly dried up his fundraising. At the end of September, Jackson only had about $259,000 in the bank, just $49,000 more than Halvorson.

All of this makes for a tough cycle for Jackson, one that could be his last in Congress.

Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R) lives in this heavily Democratic district. But as long as the new map stands up in court, Kinzinger will run in the 16th district instead.

8th district | New seat

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Democrats masterfully carved out this new seat in the northwest Chicago suburbs, and two prominent local Democrats are running for it. In fact, the Democratic primary between former Illinois Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth is expected to be one of the more expensive in the country.

Duckworth has the upper hand because she’s so well-known from her high-profile loss to now-Rep. Peter Roskam (R) in 2006. Her own polling shows that her name identification is through the roof in the area.

But both Democrats are running aggressive and smart campaigns. The winner of the primary will likely win the seat next November, even if the primary gets nasty.

DuPage County Superintendent of Education Darlene Ruscitti (R) indicated she’s interested in running. But it’s doubtful that national party groups can financially support her in this Democratic district when the GOP has so many other seats to defend in the state.

10th district | Incumbent: Robert Dold (R)

1st term (51 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

Dold rightfully earned a place on our Top 10 Most Vulnerable Members list. He represents the most Democratic district in the country currently held by a GOP Member.

The freshman Republican won in 2010 by a mere 4,500 votes in the best year for Illinois Republicans in decades. Democrats have since redrawn the district to make it worse for Dold by removing his home base, affluent Winnetka.

Dold is a strong fundraiser and is politically savvy, but it’s hard to imagine that any Republican could keep this seat in 2012, especially with home-state hero President Barack Obama on top of the ballot.

Now here’s the good news for Dold: Democrats don’t have a top-tier candidate here, although they probably won’t need one given the district’s heavy Democratic lean. Three Democrats have announced bids here so far: former MoveOn.org organizer Ilya Sheyman, businessman Brad Schneider and Air Force reservist John Tree.

Sheyman is backed by Howard Dean and a few progressive Members of Congress. But even in a Democratic primary, he might be too liberal for a district that elected a moderate Republican to Congress for three decades.

Schneider is the local party favorite and had a $417,000 war chest at the end of September. But the district’s liberal base isn’t too excited about him yet. In any case, either Democrat could beat Dold next year.

11th district | Incumbent: Judy Biggert (R)

7th term (64 percent) | Outlook: Tossup

Biggert has not confirmed she’ll seek re-election in this district as the GOP waits for its pending court case on the new map to be resolved. But she’s already circulated petitions to run here.

There’s a reason Biggert is leading the charge on the GOP lawsuit. Democrats carved up her current Naperville-based district and spread the territory across several districts. Biggert’s home is in the heavily Democratic 5th district, but almost 50 percent of her current district is in the redrawn 11th.

Former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his seat in the GOP wave last year, announced he’ll seek this seat, too. He represented about a quarter of this district during his short tour in Congress.

Biggert will have the race of her career next year. She is better known here, but it’s still very unfriendly territory for Republicans. If she wins, it will be an incredible upset and a coup d’etat for Republicans emboldened by the controversial map gerrymandered by Democrats.

12th district | Open seat: Jerry Costello (D) is retiring

Outlook: Tossup

Costello’s departure creates one of the few bright spots for Illinois Republicans this cycle. The district marginally favors Democrats but will likely feature a competitive race.

Democrats are having a tough time settling on a candidate here. Some of the more obvious successors to Costello, including his son, waved off interest. Former state Rep. Jay Hoffman flirted with running here instead of the 13th district before deciding to seek another term in the state House instead.

That leaves local Democrats searching for a candidate with the early December filing deadline approaching quickly. Party operatives mention former St. Clair County Regional Schools Superintendent Brad Harriman as a likely contender, but he has not formally announced a campaign yet.

Republicans already have candidates lined up to run, including 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer, former Belleville Mayor Roger Cook and nurse Theresa Kormos.

Plummer is not the most eloquent candidate around. A widely circulated clip of a local public affairs show interview last year showed Plummer dumbfounded and grasping for words to answer a simple question. But his high name identification from his prior run and his personal financial means make him a solid recruit. The 12th district is pricey because of the St. Louis media market, and Plummer’s deep pockets could help him down the stretch if he decided to help self-fund his campaign.

13th district | Incumbent: Timothy Johnson (R)

6th term (64 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Johnson could have his first tough race in a decade thanks to the Democratic redraw, if party strategists can find a candidate to run here. Even though Democrats crafted this district to be competitive under the new map, the party has had problems finding a challenger.

Democrats thought they had their man in former state Rep. Jay Hoffman. But he suddenly announced in October that he would run for the state Legislature instead. Other candidates, such as Greene County State’s Attorney Matt Goetten, also eschewed a bid.

Democrats aren’t high on emergency room physician David Gill, who is the only Democrat to file for the race. They’re going to keep looking for a Johnson challenger.

If they can find a solid recruit, Johnson will have a contest to keep his seat. But with the filing deadline less than a month away and not a single potential candidate in sight, it’s looking less likely.

14th district | Member vs. Member: Randy Hultgren (R) and Joe Walsh (R)

1st term (51 percent); 1st term (48 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

The Democratic-led redraw moved freshmen Walsh and Hultgren into the same district, and the result is one of the most sensational primaries of the cycle.

The gloves quickly came off after Walsh’s September announcement that he would run here. Hultgren responded by accusing Walsh of abandoning his own district “to run against me in a primary.”

Walsh has said there are “healthy differences” between the two men. That’s an understatement: There probably aren’t two more different freshman Republicans.

Hultgren’s style is understated, and he is more established in the district based on his decade-long tour in the state Legislature. He defeated two strong candidates in the primary and general election last year, including the son of former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R).

Walsh has emerged as one of the most outspoken and unpredictable freshmen. No one thought he could defeat Rep. Melissa Bean (D) last year, and he won by fewer than 300 votes.

In Congress, Walsh made a name for himself on cable news with his sharp criticism of the president. He’s also fought local reports that show he could owe more than $100,000 in child support back payments.

The district includes some new territory for both GOP Members, but Hultgren has a slight advantage. He has represented about 40 percent of the redrawn 14th, while Walsh has represented about 30 percent.

16th district | Member vs. Member: Adam Kinzinger (R) and Don Manzullo (R)

1st term (57 percent); 10th term (65 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

There’s no other race that illustrates the changing of the guard in Illinois GOP politics like this one.

Manzullo, 67, and Kinzinger, 33, will run against each other in what is expected to be a lively, competitive fight for the Republican nod.

At the outset, Manzullo has an advantage because he has represented a hefty portion of the district for a long time. But he is not the best fundraiser, despite his plush assignment on the House Financial Services Committee. He also hasn’t had a tough race since 1992.

Kinzinger has exhibited more political acumen. He defeated then-Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D), a skilled campaigner, by 15 points last year. But Kinzinger is not as well-known or politically experienced as Manzullo.

The winner of the GOP primary will likely keep the seat. Democratic cartographers moved Rockford, a Democratic base, into another district under the new map.

17th district | Incumbent: Bobby Schilling (R)

1st term (53 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

Schilling’s bid for a second term is going to be much harder than his first attempt. That’s why he’s one of two Illinois Republicans to make Roll Call’s list of Top 10 Most Vulnerable Members.

Democrats redrew this district to make it much more competitive, folding in the city of Rockford and parts of Peoria.

Democratic candidates quickly lined up to challenge Schilling, including state Sen. Dave Koehler, Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp and East Moline Alderman Cheri Bustos.

Bustos and Koehler are heads above the rest of the Democratic field in terms of fundraising and are the only challengers to boast six-figure bank accounts. Either would be a formidable Schilling challenger, and whoever wins the nod will have an advantage over the freshman in the general election.


Indiana

Gov. Mitch Daniels (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 11
2008 Presidential Vote
Obama 50%/McCain 49%

Senate

Incumbent: Dick Lugar (R)

6th term (87 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

Lugar remains one of the most vulnerable GOP Senators up in 2012, even though this seat is likely to remain in the Republican column. But in the past three months, his campaign has shown significant signs of life.

The veteran Senator is showing up on the campaign trail more often than he has in decades. And thanks to his $3.8 million war chest, Lugar is prepared to aggressively hit TV airwaves well ahead of the May primary.

But state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) also improved his campaign game this summer. National conservative groups, such as FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Express, finally started to line up behind Mourdock. The Club for Growth paid for a big anti-Lugar TV ad buy, although it has not formally endorsed Mourdock yet.

But Mourdock’s fundraising continues to be subpar, and he only had $302,000 in the bank at the end of September.

It’s looking as if this primary won’t be a slam dunk for either candidate. To make matters more complicated, polling has been scarce. The state’s unique robocall ban prevents some of the better-known public polling firms from taking the temperature of primary voters.

But even if reputable pollsters surveyed the primary, it’s doubtful the results would be too revealing. Indiana has an open primary, and Lugar’s campaign is counting on crossover support from independent voters and even some Democrats.

Lugar’s mainstream appeal is also the reason the presumptive Democratic nominee, Rep. Joe Donnelly, has a very slim chance of winning if the Senator makes it to the November ballot. Donnelly’s chances improve if Mourdock is the nominee, but it will still be an uphill slog for the Democrat in a presidential year.

House

2nd district | Open seat: Joe Donnelly (D) is running for Senate

Outlook: Leans Republican

Democrats don’t have a good chance of holding on to this seat after Republicans redrew it earlier this year. Even Donnelly chose the Senate race over seeking re-election here.

Democrats have high hopes because they recruited a strong candidate, Iraq War veteran Brendan Mullen.

But Republicans are optimistic about former state Rep. Jackie Walorski. The district is tailor-made for Walorski, and the only strike against her is that she couldn’t beat Donnelly in the previous cycle.

Nonetheless, it’s a tougher district for Democrats than it was in the previous decade. The new 2nd district no longer includes Kokomo, a town with a strong union base that consistently performed well for Donnelly. The new district also lost another Democratic stronghold, Michigan City, to the 1st district.

Mullen raised more than Walorski in the previous quarter, bringing in $163,000 to her $131,000. But she ultimately won’t have a problem coming up with the finances she needs. Mullen will have a much harder sell convincing national party groups that this is a race worth funding.

Mullen might be a strong candidate, but this will be a difficult district for Democrats to keep in 2012.

5th district | Incumbent: Dan Burton (R)

15th term (62 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

Over the past couple of cycles, several GOP candidates unsuccessfully tried to oust Burton. The veteran Republican won with an abysmal 30 percent in the 2010 GOP primary against six lackluster challengers.

This cycle, several GOP candidates have lined up to challenge him, including two top-notch challengers. Former Rep. David McIntosh, former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks, lawyer Jack Lugar and former Marion County Coroner John McGoff, who challenged Burton the previous two cycles, are all running.

McIntosh and Brooks will be Burton’s strongest competition, and either has a good shot at defeating him. Both Republican challengers raised more than twice Burton’s $125,000 last quarter.

Meanwhile, Democrats are excited that state Rep. Scott Reske entered the race. They cite changes to the district, such as the inclusion of the Indianapolis suburbs and Madison County, an organized labor stronghold, as beneficial to Reske. But even after a contentious GOP primary, Democrats will have a tough time here against Burton or whoever wins the GOP nod.

6th district | Open seat: Mike Pence (R) is running for governor

Outlook: Safe Republican

This district’s geography changed as a result of redistricting, and now it stretches to the state’s southern border. But the partisan lean of the district, a safe GOP seat, has not changed much.

For that reason, it didn’t take long for several Republicans to announce their bids after Pence announced he was leaving.

Candidates include former Indiana Republican Party Executive Director Luke Messer, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Dan Burton in the 5th district’s 2010 GOP primary; real estate investor Travis Hankins, who ran in the GOP primary in the 9th district in 2010; John Hatter, a former aide to Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.); and financial adviser Don Bates, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2010.

The large field creates a classic free-for-all primary, with Messer boasting a slight advantage. All of the candidates except for Hatter have some name recognition left over from their previous bids. But Messer is winning the money race with almost $250,000 in the bank, more than five times the war chest of any of his GOP competitors.

Two Democrats, businessman Brad Bookout and Jefferson County Democratic Chairman Jim Crone, have announced campaigns for Pence’s seat. But it’s a tough district for any Democrat, and it’s unlikely either could beat the GOP nominee.

8th district | Incumbent: Larry Bucshon (R)

1st term (57 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

Bucshon easily won his first term by 20 points last year in an open-seat race. It won’t be that easy for him this cycle.

This district became more friendly for Democrats as the result of redistricting, although just slightly so. But over the years this district has become known as the “bloody 8th” because of the closeness of its contests and its propensity to switch party hands.

Three Democrats have announced bids so far: former state Rep. Dave Crooks, lawyer Terry White and Patrick Scates, a former aide to then-Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.). At least two of those Democrats, White and Crooks, have already invested personal funds in their campaigns. White helped his campaign with a $200,000 loan, while Crooks loaned his effort $50,000.

Bucshon, a political newcomer until last year, had about $319,000 in the bank at the end of September.

This district, along with the 2nd, should be on top of Hoosier Democrats’ target list in 2012. If Democrats have a prayer of winning back the majority next year, it will be because they are competitive in districts like these. But even with the geographical changes to the 8th, Bucshon is more likely than not to keep his seat.


Michigan

Gov. Rick Snyder (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 16
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57%/McCain 41%

Senate

Incumbent: Debbie Stabenow (D)

2nd term (57 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

Stabenow will likely have the toughest race of her career since ousting an incumbent in 2000. She may find incumbency to be a millstone around her neck in this economically depressed state. Michigan voters will look to blame someone in 2012 for the highest unemployment rate in the country, which makes Stabenow more vulnerable.

Recent polls have shown Stabenow ahead of her challengers by about 10 points. That’s a surmountable lead, but Stabenow has a few things in her favor.

She is well-prepared for the challenge. She’s hired knowledgeable staff, raised considerable funds and aggressively ensured that her name is on any semi-prominent or relevant legislation for her home state.

She ended September with almost $5 million in the bank, a financial advantage she will only continue to grow next year while Republicans battle for the Senate nomination.

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP’s gubernatorial nod in 2010, is the frontrunner in the Republican contest. He’s heads above charter schools executive Clark Durant in organization, political support and name identification.

But Durant can raise money. His $759,000 haul in the previous fundraising quarter was only about a quarter-million dollars less than Hoekstra’s.

Stabenow continues to hold an advantage in her re-election race. But this is a race that both parties are watching to see how it develops over the next eight months. It could turn into a Tossup, or it could become Likely Democratic.

House

1st district | Incumbent: Dan Benishek (R)

1st term (52 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Benishek, a surgeon, faces a rematch with former state Rep. Gary McDowell (D), a hay farmer, in this sprawling northern district.

Benishek beat McDowell in an open-seat race by 11 points last year. Despite that resounding defeat, Democrats are bullish on the race this cycle.

Republicans tried to shore up the freshman’s district during redistricting, but they only managed to make this coastal district slightly better for Benishek. Nonetheless, McDowell has an uphill climb. He may have a similar profile to ex-Rep. Bart Stupak — a pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrat — but he isn’t nearly as well-known. That’s a huge hurdle in this district, which is expensive because it is spread out across several media markets.

5th district | Open seat: Dale Kildee (D) is retiring

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Democrats will most likely keep this seat in their column. Republicans in the Legislature barely changed the partisan makeup of this gritty, blue-collar Flint- and Saginaw-anchored district in eastern Michigan.

Several Democrats are planning to run here: Kildee’s nephew, former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee; former Rep. Jim Barcia; and state Sen. John Gleason.

Dan Kildee kicks off the race with the advantage of name identification in a crowded primary. But it’s possible the large number of Flint-based candidates, including Kildee, could split the vote and give Barcia an opening.

Former state Rep. Jim Slezak, who recently changed parties, is the only Republican who has made his bid official. But the winner of the Democratic nomination will most likely succeed Dale Kildee.

11th district | Incumbent: Thaddeus McCotter (R)

5th term (59 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

McCotter’s quixotic and short-lived run for the White House wasn’t without cost. The chain-smoking, guitar-playing McCotter could go from presidential hopeful to former Congressman in just under a year.

The five-term Republican faces a serious primary challenge from state Sen. Mike Kowall. McCotter doesn’t have much money left over from his presidential campaign either, with only $120,000 in the bank at the end of September.

Whoever wins the GOP nomination is all but guaranteed to go on to victory next November. The GOP mapmakers helped McCotter’s district more than any other Republican, making it less competitive than in previous cycles. Democrats aren’t touting any candidates here, and it’s likely they’ll put their resources elsewhere.

13th district | Incumbent: John Conyers (D)

24th term (77 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Republicans did a number on the pair of downtown Detroit seats during redistricting, swapping half of the territory in the 13th and 14th districts.

Conyers represents and lives in the redrawn 14th district, but more of his current district lies in the reconfigured 13th district. He’s expected to run in the 13th, although he has yet to make a formal announcement.

In the meantime, Democrats are lining up to challenge Conyers. State Sens. Bert Johnson and Glenn Anderson, state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and lawyer Godfrey Dillard have announced they’ll challenge the veteran Democrat.

If the Democratic field shrinks, one of those candidates has a good shot to defeat Conyers. The 13th contains a lot of new territory, and he continues to catch flak for his wife’s incarceration on a bribery conviction.

Regardless, the winner of the Democratic primary in this downtown Detroit district will be the next Member of Congress.

14th district | Member vs. Member: Hansen Clarke (D) and Gary Peters (D)

1st term (79 percent); 2nd term (50 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

A heavy redraw of this downtown Detroit district paved the way for a fascinating Member-vs.-Member primary between Democrats Clarke and Peters.

Clarke lives in the 13th district, but more of his Congressional territory lies in the redrawn 14th district, so he’s seeking re-election there instead.

But Clarke wasn’t the only one with this idea. After his current district got the ax, Peters announced that he would also seek re-election in the 14th.

Clarke has a geographical advantage because he’s represented more of the district in Congress, but Peters is a dogged campaigner and one of the party’s best fundraisers. He also represents a hefty portion of the district in the state Senate.

This is also one of the most racially and economically diverse districts in the country. The new 14th district stretches from wealthy Grosse Pointe on the lakeshore through blighted downtown Detroit and north to the blue-collar city of Pontiac.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will have no problem winning the general election in this heavily Democratic district.


Minnesota

Gov. Mark Dayton (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 10
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 54%/McCain 44%

Senate

Incumbent: Amy Klobuchar (D)

1st term (58 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Klobuchar’s first race in 2006 was one to watch, even making the “Meet the Press” Senate debate series. This time around, that is not the case. At this point in the cycle, all signs point to her winning a second term with relative ease.

Marquee North Star Republicans such as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Norm Coleman are staying away from this race, and as of now Klobuchar has no serious opponents on the horizon.

What Klobuchar does have is lots of money and an aura of confidence. The
Minneapolis Star Tribune recently noted her shift toward more partisan politics, and the paper attributed those moves to a growing self-assurance in her re-election prospects.

House

Minnesota’s split-power state government couldn’t come to an agreement on redistricting, so the new map will be drawn by a five-judge panel. Minnesota law mandates the maps must be finished by late February — one of the latest redistricting deadlines in the country.

Without lines, it is difficult to assess the state’s House races. Still, the biggest question marks are the 6th and the 8th districts. 
The 6th is the home of presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R). State law forbids her from running for both offices at once. When she made her bid official in June, her campaign wrote on Facebook that she “is no longer actively seeking re-election” to Congress.

If her presidential campaign comes up short, she will likely have enough time to jump back into the race in the 6th. Even if she doesn’t, Republicans have a decent farm team of recruits.

The other race to watch is in Rep. Chip Cravaak’s 8th district.

Cravaak narrowly defeated veteran Rep. James Oberstar (D) in 2010, and Democrats have made him a target this cycle. Those vying for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor nod include former state Sen. Tarryl Clark, former Rep. Rick Nolan, Duluth City Councilman Jeff Anderson and Daniel Fanning, a former aide to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

Republican and Democratic views of the district vary greatly, and Cravaak’s re-
election chances will depend heavily on the final redistricting outcome.

Two other races to watch are the 1st and the 3rd districts, contingent on redistricting of course.

Republicans are again looking at trying to knock off Rep. Tim Walz (D) in the southern 1st district. Walz, who won in 2010 by 5 points, had a strong third quarter in fundraising. The most notable Republican to join the race is state Sen. Mike Parry (R).

Democrats, meanwhile, are talking up the potential of targeting Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) in the 3rd district. No Democratic frontrunner has emerged. Those that are already running are businessman Brian Barnes and Plymouth resident Sharon Sund.

At this point, Walz and Paulsen seem to be on fairly firm footing, but depending on how redistricting shakes out, they could be in races to watch next year.


Ohio

Gov. John Kasich (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 18
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 52%/McCain 47%

Senate

Incumbent: Sherrod Brown (D)

1st term (56 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic

This race has the potential to be a close contest, but it’s not there yet. This has more to do with a first-time federal candidate’s performance and the national political climate than Brown.

To be clear, Brown’s re-election is on track to be a tougher race than his 2006 victory. The Democrat easily defeated then-Sen. Mike DeWine by 12 points. He won’t enjoy the luxury of a double-digit margin this cycle.

Nonetheless, Republicans caution this race is not yet in the top tier of races for the cycle. The GOP will wage costly battles in more competitive states such as Montana, Missouri and Nebraska before investing here.

The GOP’s top candidate, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, impressed national Republicans with his ability to bring in big bucks. He’s raised more than Brown for the past two quarters.

But Mandel is still somewhat untested as a statewide candidate. The 34-year-old’s quick ascension to Treasurer and then immediate turnaround to run for Senate paints an image of an overly ambitious, inexperienced official.

Meanwhile, Brown runs a strong campaign, including solid fundraising and bringing on aggressive staff. But again, Brown’s re-election will have more to do with the national climate than his own efforts. It’s one of the reasons why Ohio remains the nation’s true bellwether state.

House

Republicans passed a new map in September that could take a 13-5 GOP advantage in the Congressional delegation to 12-4, with three potential Member-vs.-Member contests.

But last month, the state Supreme Court ruled that Democrats could challenge the new Congressional lines through a referendum. If they gather enough valid signatures by Christmas, the new map would be tabled and voted on in November 2012 essentially taking redistricting authority from Republicans.

There is a degree of uncertainty in Ohio, but Republicans still control the process and are more likely than not to get something close to the favorable map they initially passed.

3rd district | New seat

Outlook: Safe Democratic

In order to make GOP Reps. Patrick Tiberi and Steve Stivers safer, Republicans chose to create a safe Democratic seat anchored by Columbus.

Former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) got into the race before the ink was dry on the new map and laid claim to the seat. She spent $2.7 million last cycle in her 13-point loss to Republican Steve Stivers in a district where President Barack Obama received 54 percent. Obama received over 60 percent in the newly drawn district.

Even though Kilroy is a former Member, the seat is simply too good of an opportunity for her to have the field to herself. Numerous other potential candidates are mentioned, including former state Treasurer Kevin Boyce, former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty, state Rep. John Carney and Columbus City Councilwoman Priscilla Tyson.

The field is not yet set, but this race will be decided in the Democratic primary.

6th district | Incumbent: Bill Johnson (R)

1st term (50 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Johnson, a former Air Force officer, knocked off Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) by 5 points in 2010. It looks like the two men will face off again in 2012, but in a more GOP-leaning district. Republicans improved the GOP performance of the 6th by about 3 points (Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain would have garnered approximately 53 percent of the vote there in the 2008 presidential race).

Wilson announced his comeback bid just days before a state court’s decision put some uncertainty into the new lines. But it’s unlikely a new map changes the 6th district all that much.

Johnson had more than $325,000 in the bank on Sept. 30 compared with $154,000 for Wilson. The Democrat contributed $150,000 of his own money to boost his third-quarter numbers. In 2010, Wilson raised and spent $1.2 million to just $669,000 for Johnson. The district is very difficult for incumbents and challengers alike, since it stretches along most of the eastern border of the state and is inefficiently covered by multiple media markets.

Wilson’s candidacy should make Republicans pay attention, but Johnson starts with the upper hand.

7th district | Incumbent: Bob Gibbs (R)

1st term (54 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Gibbs was one of five Republicans to knock off an Ohio Democratic incumbent in 2010 and, like his colleague Bill Johnson, he could face a rematch next year.

Gibbs defeated Rep. Zack Space by a considerable 13 points in a sprawling district that covers large swaths of eastern and southern Ohio. Not only did Republicans improve Gibb’s district by about 4 points through redistricting, they also included new territory that Gibbs represented in the state Senate before his election to Congress. That makes it more challenging for Space if he decides to run again. Gibbs only represented a fraction of the district when he won it in 2010.

During his first year in office, the freshman Republican has tried to bolster his coffers and had $482,000 on hand on Sept. 30. That’s almost half of what Gibbs spent all last cycle ($1 million). Space spent almost $3 million in his defeat.

Former Rep. John Boccieri (D), who also lost re-election in 2010, is also mentioned as a potential candidate. His old district was divided multiple ways, but anywhere he turns, he may have to face a former colleague in the primary.

9th district | Member vs. Member: Marcy Kaptur (D) and Dennis Kucinich (D)

15th term (59 percent); 8th term (53 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Republicans did away with a Democratic seat by pitting Kucinich of Cleveland against Kaptur of Toledo in a long district that stretches along Lake Erie. The redrawn 9th contains enough of Kucinich’s current district that he claimed the seat as his own and aborted attempts to run for re-election in the state of Washington.

The end result is a competitive and potentially nasty Democratic primary with the winner getting to come back to Congress. Kaptur had $605,000 in the bank on Sept. 30 compared with just $90,000 for Kucinich, but the Congressman should be able to raise money quickly from a national network of liberal groups.

Even though Kucinich has a higher national profile from running for president and interjecting himself into the national debate, don’t count out Kaptur. This should be a great race to follow.

10th district | Member vs. Member: Steve Austria (R) and Michael Turner (R)

5th term (68 percent); 2nd term (62 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

Even though Republicans have four freshman in the Congressional delegation, party strategists chose to pit two more senior Members against one another. Turner and Austria are on a collision course in next year’s GOP primary.

The southwestern Ohio district looks like a fair fight between the two Members by including Turner’s Dayton (Montgomery County) base in the west and Austria’s more rural base in the east. The Congressmen finished September with similar campaign cash on hand: Turner had $422,000 compared with Austria’s $412,000.

According to multiple GOP sources, there is no love lost between Turner and Austria, and next year’s race will be a culmination of years of bad feelings. And since neither man is held in high regard within the delegation, they will have to rely on the strength of their own campaigns to get them through the primary.

11th district | Incumbent: Marcia Fudge (D)

2nd full term (83 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Fudge survived the Republican mapmaking process without being combined with a fellow Democratic incumbent, but it doesn’t mean she is assured of another term.

The African-American Congresswoman is in a very Democratic, majority-minority district based in Cleveland, but she is facing a potentially serious primary challenge from state Sen. Nina Turner. Another Democrat from Akron, which was added to the district, could also get into the race. The district will stay in Democratic hands next November, but Fudge may have to work to for a third full term.

15th district | Incumbent: Steve Stivers (R)

1st term (54 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

Stivers and fellow GOP Rep. Patrick Tiberi were the primary beneficiaries of Republicans’ decision to create a Columbus-based Democratic seat. Instead of representing part of the capital city and its growing Democratic suburbs, Stivers should have a much easier time holding the new district that looks like a reversed “C” and sits south and west of Columbus.

Democrats would love to go after Stivers, whom they tried to pigeonhole as a “banking lobbyist” in the 2008 and 2010 races, but the new district is about 7 points more Republican (Sen. John McCain received 53 percent in 2008 in the new district, and George W. Bush won it with 57 percent in 2004), and there isn’t a natural Democratic challenger. There is the possibility that Stivers, who is moderate on social issues, could face a primary from a candidate in the new territory.

Any challenger will have to deal with a tenacious candidate who had $853,000 in the bank on Sept. 30.

16th district | Member vs. Member: Jim Renacci (R) and Betty Sutton (D)

1st term (52 percent); 3rd term (56 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

On one hand, Democrats complain that Republicans drew 12 GOP-leaning districts, but they also believe GOP mapmakers left this seat on the table for a competitive race. Republicans improved the district slightly, but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) still would have received only 51 percent (George W. Bush would have taken 54 percent in 2004).

Republicans carved up Sutton’s district, and she has not announced where (or if) she will run in 2012. She’s most likely to run in the 16th district, where she lives, but her current Congressional district was divided into neighboring districts.

Defeating Renacci won’t be easy. Even though the partisan makeup of the district is competitive, the freshman Republican had a considerable $782,000 in the bank on Sept. 30 and has personal money to spend on the race as well. Sutton finished September with $365,000 on hand. If Sutton doesn’t run, there is a considerable drop-off in potential Democratic challengers.


Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 10
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 56%/McCain 42%

Senate | Open Seat: Herb Kohl (D) is retiring

Outlook: Tossup

Wisconsin has been at the center of presidential, Congressional and movement politics for the past several cycles, and the Senate race will be one to watch.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin will be the Democratic nominee. She has the backing of
EMILY’s List, an endorsement from former Sen. Russ Feingold and posted a strong third-quarter fundraising effort.

But national Republicans view her as the most beatable Democrat in the general. Baldwin would be the country’s first openly gay Senator. But neither party seems particularly interested in dwelling on her personal life. Instead, Republicans cite her liberal record, including her support for a single-payer insurance plan, to argue her unelectability. Democrats strongly contest this notion, noting a backlash on Gov. Scott Walker’s economic policies.

The highest-profile name on the Republican side is no shoo-in for the nomination. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson has been under fire from the right over his fiscal history, and it remains unclear to national Republicans whether he will be the nominee.

The two other contenders for the GOP nod garnering attention are state Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and former Rep. Mark Neumann.

Wisconsin voters have been moody over the last few cycles. The same state that voted for President Barack Obama by a large margin in 2008 is the same state that voted Feingold out of office in 2010. These changing dynamics makes this race a true tossup.

House

1st district | Incumbent: Paul Ryan

7th term (68 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican

A few months ago Democrats were touting Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban, but the reality is the Republican “young gun” with a national profile will be nearly impossible to beat.

There had been Democratic hopes that Ryan’s profile might work against him. His namesake budget plan greatly alters the future of Medicare, and Democrats successfully used the plan in Rep. Kathy Hochul’s (D-N.Y.) special election victory.

But Ryan has never won re-election with less than 63 percent, and his district added Republican voters and is now more favorable to the GOP than it has ever been. On top of that, Zerban comes out of the third quarter with a fraction of the campaign money that Ryan has in the bank.

Barring some unforeseen circumstances, this is not a race we’re expecting to be talking much about come next fall.

2nd district | Open seat: Tammy Baldwin (D) is running for Senate

Outlook: Safe Democratic

With Baldwin running for Senate, there are several Democrats looking to run in this strongly Democratic seat.

State Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys announced their candidacies the morning after Baldwin made her Senate bid official, and Dane County Treasurer Dave Worzala jumped into the race in mid-September.

Pocan, who is gay, is likely to get the support of national gay rights political groups, while Roys has been supported by EMILY’s List in the past.

The winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored to hold this Madison-based district.

7th district | Incumbent: Sean Duffy (R)

1st term (52 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

One of two top targets in the state for Democrats, Duffy received the biggest boost from redistricting, as his district shed some Democratic areas that would have made it better territory for his rivals.

Democratic presidential candidates carried Duffy’s current district in 2004 and 2008, but under the new 7th district lines, President George W. Bush would have won it with 51 percent in 2004.

The district remains tough, though, and Democrats have recruited as their candidate Pat Kreitlow, a former TV anchor who served one term in the state Senate before being defeated last year.

Democrats are making a gleeful effort to remind reporters and voters of Duffy’s March comment, “I struggle to meet my bills right now,” in regards to his $174,000 Congressional salary.

National Republicans say that while such comments have been problematic, Duffy has righted the ship. They also point to Duffy’s good third-quarter fundraising numbers as a source of strength.

This race has the potential to become very competitive, and both national parties are paying close attention. But with Duffy’s head start on fundraising and the district moving in the right direction for him, Duffy has the early advantage.

8th district | Incumbent: Reid Ribble (R)

1st term (55 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican

Ribble, who defeated two-term Rep. Steve Kagen (D) last year, has a new opponent in small-business man and Rhodes scholar Jamie Wall. Democrats think the freshman Congressman is beatable.

Republicans are taking nothing for granted when it comes to Wall and are bullish on Ribble. They also note past Wall comments on tax and health care policy that could come back to haunt him.

This district still favors Republicans, and Ribble posted a strong third quarter in fundraising. He starts out with the advantage, but this race is definitely worth monitoring.

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