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Rothenberg's Dangerous Dozen Open House Seats

Competitive open seats usually follow the direction of the overall cycle, so with House Republicans poised for large gains, it should be no surprise that most of the open seats that flip will be headed their way. The districts at the top of the list are more likely to flip, with at least the first half-dozen looking like no-brainers.

Tennessee’s 6th. Democratic Rep. Bart Gordon’s retirement hands this seat to state Sen. Diane Black, who won Thursday’s GOP primary very narrowly. Even the Congressman has long acknowledged that his party has little chance of retaining it in November.

Louisiana’s 3rd. House Democratic strategists knew that if Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) ran for Senate they would probably lose this seat in the fall, so their game plan rested on keeping Melancon in the House. But the likelihood that redistricting would damage his House prospects in 2012 probably helped persuade him to run for the Senate this year. Former Louisiana Speaker Hunt Downer (R) looks like the obvious successor.

New York’s 29th. Former Rep. Eric Massa’s embarrassing personal behavior and subsequent resignation opens up a district that leans Republican but has also elected Democrats. The GOP nominee, former Corning Mayor Tom Reed, didn’t seem to be blowing the doors off with his campaign, but he’s the big beneficiary of Democrat Massa’s resignation. Unable to get a top-tier candidate, Democrats have had to settle for young Afghanistan War veteran Matt Zeller. On June 30, Reed had $345,000 in the bank to Zeller’s $86,000.

Arkansas’ 2nd. Republicans have been frustrated for years at not being able to unseat Rep. Vic Snyder (D), but the Congressman’s retirement — and the Democrats’ nomination of state Sen. Joyce Elliott — finally means the seat will flip to the GOP. Republican Tim Griffin, a former U.S. attorney, is a solid favorite over the liberal Elliott.

Kansas’ 3rd. Rep. Dennis Moore has held on to this Republican-leaning district since 1998, and Democratic strategists hope that his wife, Stephene, can keep it both in the family and in the party this year. But this is a bad time for an open seat in Kansas (where the two statewide races will be blowouts for the GOP), and Republican state Rep. Kevin Yoder is a clear favorite.

Delaware’s At-Large. Republican Mike Castle’s Senate bid opens up his House seat and gives Democrats a rare opportunity for a takeover. Despite the incredibly trite first line of his website bio (“John Carney will always be on our side because he’s one of us”), former Lt. Gov. Carney (D), who served two terms in this small state where contact with voters is highly valued, looks to be the favorite for the fall. Republicans think businesswoman Michele Rollins will be a formidable candidate, and given her resources, interesting background and the cycle’s dynamics, this race is worth watching.

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