GOP strategists didnt think tea party darling Ann Marie Buerkle was a sure thing to win a House seat last fall. Thanks to a national wave, Buerkle narrowly unseated Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei to become a Member of Congress.
Democrats believe the road back to a House majority runs through New York.
And Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle is perhaps the most vulnerable Republican freshman in a state crowded with GOP freshmen.
The New York Congresswoman has quickly become a favorite target of Democrats and their political allies, who have focused more money, manpower and negative attention on her upstate district than on almost anywhere else this cycle.
The Empire State gave Republicans six new seats last fall — the biggest single-state shift in the nation — though no race was closer than Buerkle's 25th district contest, decided by less than 700 votes.
The race was an afterthought for Republican strategists last fall, who questioned whether a tea party darling with weak fundraising skills could knock off Rep. Dan Maffei (D) in a Democratic district. Today, those same Republicans wonder whether the 60-year-old former nurse can do it again. Two Democrats are already in the mix to challenge her, and Maffei has hinted that he wants a rematch.
"The  environment was extremely helpful," a top Republican campaign consultant said. "It's upstate New York. No matter how you slice or dice it, this is not evangelical Indiana or the South. It's competitive at best and Democrat at worst. It's going to be difficult to win."
Buerkle's district, which includes all of Syracuse, is one of just 14 Republican-held districts that previously supported Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 and 2008. And it's an example of a larger problem for Republicans in 2012.
Having captured the vast majority of the nation's swing districts during their midterm gains, Republicans must now defend their newly installed incumbents. Some, such as Buerkle, rode the tea party wave to victory but support policies that might be out of step with the majority of their districts.
That's why the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted Buerkle six times with a combination of radio ads, robocalls and Web ads. They have touched on her abortion stance and her vote for the House GOP budget plan, which would fundamentally reshape Medicare.
The Planned Parenthood debate was particularly hard on Buerkle.
Her positions on social issues flew under the radar last fall, but once in office, she supported the House Republican measure to block federal funding from the women's health care provider that is best known for performing abortions.
Planned Parenthood has run two radio ads against Buerkle (and just seven other Republicans) in recent months, suggesting she had "betrayed" thousands of New York women. The organization also targeted the district as part of its national bus tour, attracting a rash of negative press.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.