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Top 10 Vulnerable Members

Correction Appended

In some election years, Roll Call has had to scrape to complete its Top 10 Most Vulnerables list. This year, we had the opposite problem.

In fact, so many Members are in danger this cycle that we considered expanding the list into a Top 20. Or more. But in the interest of tradition, we’ve kept to 10 our list of Members least likely to serve in the 112th Congress. And yes, we realize we included only one Republican. Ranked in order of vulnerability.

1. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-La.) | 1st term (50 percent)

Cao’s majority-black district is at the top of Democrats’ very short target list this year, not just because it was the only district in the state to choose President Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, but because it did so by 52 points. Cao won the district in an unusual December election that saw extremely low turnout, defeating disgraced former Rep. William Jefferson (D). This year’s Democratic nominee, state Rep. Cedric Richmond, has no such ethical baggage.

2. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.) | 1st term (56 percent)

This district is one of many Democrats were able to pick up in 2008’s favorable atmosphere but aren’t likely to hold now. Markey’s own poll in September found her with just 38 percent support. While that had her tied with state Rep. Cory Gardner (R), it’s hardly a sign of strength for the freshman. While Markey has continued a strong fundraising pace, money will not be enough to save her this time.

3. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) | 10th term (53 percent)

This could very well be the year when Republicans land their white whale in east central Texas. The GOP has been trying for years to defeat Edwards, but even though Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won two-thirds of 17th district voters in the 2008 presidential election, Edwards cruised to a comfortable victory. Edwards is likable, hard-working and boasts a voting record that’s more conservative than most Republicans. But this year, his race may be about Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Barack Obama. And that’s not a good thing for the 10-term Congressman.

4. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) | 1st term (58 percent)

Swing districts tend to flip in wave elections, as this one did in 2008, when Halvorson won the open-seat race by 24 points. But this year, Halvorson must run without having Illinois’ popular Senator running for president at the top of the ticket. By late September, there was no evidence that her weak poll numbers were moving in a positive direction. Iraq War veteran Adam Kinzinger is expected to take this seat back for Republicans.

5. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) | 1st term (52 percent)

Driehaus faces a serious threat from former Rep. Steve Chabot, the seven-term Republican he unseated in 2008. It will be tough for Driehaus to win this Cincinnati-based district without the Democratic turnout operation that existed in 2008, especially among African-Americans, who make up more than a quarter of the population. If Chabot wins, it will be the second wave election in which has defeated a Democratic incumbent. He first won here in 1994.

6. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) | 1st term (57 percent)

Kosmas won a traditionally Republican seat from a scandal-weakened Tom Feeney in 2008. Kosmas faces a steep challenge in keeping the seat in Democratic hands, and she didn’t make her path any easier when she voted this spring for the health care bill after voting against it last year. Republicans haven’t forgotten the flip-flop. Kosmas has a healthy war chest, but national Republicans smell blood and won’t let her drown her GOP challenger, state Rep. Sandy Adams.

7. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) | 1st term (49 percent)

In a district he won by less than 3,000 votes in 2008, and that was represented by a Republican for nearly two decades, the freshman Democrat must win over more than a few conservative voters if he hopes to return for a second term. He must also endear himself to his Democratic base, something Kratovil hasn’t always done well. State Sen. Andy Harris (R) is back for a second try. He’s well-funded, well-known and, unlike last cycle, he has enjoyed the full support of the state and national party from day one.

8. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) | 1st term (46 percent)

It took two tries for Kilroy to reach Congress in this Columbus-area district, but it appears that one election is all it will take for her to leave. Facing former state Sen. Steve Stivers again after a 2,300-vote victory last time, Kilroy will have difficulty duplicating victory in this GOP-leaning area during such a favorable cycle for Republicans.

9. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) | 1st term (56 percent)

The Congresswoman’s 17-point win in 2008 was impressive, but it was aided by the GOP’s inability to recruit a top-tier candidate. Kirkpatrick outspent her opponent 3-to-1 last time, but she will have no such luck against Paul Gosar, a well-funded dentist. In the Republican-leaning district, Gosar is campaigning hard against the Democrats’ big-ticket legislation, especially health care, and Kirkpatrick’s support for it. The race will be closer this time, and not in Kirkpatrick’s favor.

10. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) | 1st term (50 percent)

It’s a testament to Perriello’s skill as a candidate that he’s not further up this list. Perriello’s war chest, national fundraising network, aggressive campaign style and likable personality have given him a chance in a seat that would otherwise be a certain Republican pickup in a year like this. Perriello’s support for the three major Democratic priorities that passed the House this year — the stimulus, cap-and-trade and health care bills — made him a darling of liberals across the country, but Perriello will have to answer to Southside Virginia.

Dropped since May list

Travis Childers (D-Miss.)
Walt Minnick (D-Idaho)
Glenn Nye (D-Va.)
Harry Teague (D-N.M.)

Correction: Oct. 4, 2010

The print version of this article includes the wrong name of the Democratic nominee against Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao. The Democratic nominee is state Rep. Cedric Richmond.

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