Regular readers of this column know that Ive been rating the most vulnerable House seats open and incumbent for years. Its that time again, and since there arent yet enough competitive open seats to rate by themselves, this list includes the dozen most vulnerable seats in the House.
There are two caveats that go with the list. First, there are strong arguments for including at least half a dozen other districts on the list. So, not being on this list doesnt mean a contest is not extremely competitive. Second, since the midterm elections are still almost a year off, this list is likely to change significantly before November.
Louisianas 2nd: Rep. Anh Joseph Cao, the only Republican to vote for the Houses health care reform bill, had no business winning this majority-black district. He won only because of the timing of the 2008 elections and the unique problems of then-Rep. William Jefferson (D). This time, Democrats are likely to have an unindicted nominee, which should end Caos service in Congress at one term. Two state Representatives have already announced they are running. Expect a turnover.
Delawares At-Large: Rep. Mike Castles decision to run for Senate was great news for the National Republican Senatorial Committee but bad news for House Republicans. Former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) was already running when Castle made his announcement, so Democrats have a serious candidate in the race. Since the state leans Democratic, Republicans will need to find a formidable nominee even to contest the seat seriously.
Louisianas 3rd: With Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) running for Senate, this open seat gives the GOP an excellent takeover opportunity. The district gave President Barack Obama only 37 percent of the vote in 2008, so the Republican nominee should benefit from normal midterm dynamics. Of course, with a late August primary, the race wont shake out for months.
Virginias 5th: Freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D) seems more interested in doing what he thinks is right than getting re-elected. Thats the only way to explain his votes supporting House Democrats cap-and-trade and health care reform bills. State Sen. Robert Hurt (R) is expected to challenge Perriello, and the Congressman is in deep, deep trouble. Obamas 48 percent showing last year in this district understates Perriellos challenge next year.
Marylands 1st: Unlike Perriello, Rep. Frank Kratovil (D) has voted as if he is trying to be re-elected. But he barely scraped by Republican Andy Harris in an open-seat contest last time, and the midterm electorate will make his re-election bid more difficult. He has a chance to win another term, but the odds arent in his favor. Obama drew only 40 percent of the vote in the 1st in 2008.