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It’s a Roller Coaster for Some House Hopefuls

Then there is the case of Rep. Joe Donnelly. The Indiana Democrat’s district came into play after national Republicans launched TV attacks during September. The NRCC smelled blood, as did the DCCC, which spent or reserved hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend the Congressman. But Donnelly’s aggressive advertising, in which he took on Pelosi almost as much as the GOP, has helped him improve his prospects in the 2nd district.

For every Democrat who has improved his position, there probably are two or three who once thought they were safe but are now scrambling to try to hold on to victory.

In Tennessee, Rep. Lincoln Davis (D) turned down a gubernatorial bid almost certainly because he figured he could squeeze out another term in Congress before Republicans redistricted him to political oblivion. But his prospects have been sinking, and while Democrats have tried to demonize challenger Scott DesJarlais by using divorce documents to portray him as dangerous and unstable, GOP insiders think the challenger is ahead in the 4th district race.

After winning re-election in 2008 by a 20-point margin, Rep. Zack Space (D) looked to be headed for an easy re-election in Ohio’s 18th district. GOP hopes improved after they recruited state Sen. Bob Gibbs to run, but his fundraising turned out to be mediocre. Republican dollars recently started to pour into that race, and Space’s poll numbers remain mediocre. Now the Congressman has become a prime Republican target and is in great danger.

Rep. John Salazar (D) won re-election with 62 percent of the vote two years ago in Colorado’s 3rd district. In 2006, he defeated the Republican who is challenging him this cycle, Scott Tipton, by 24 points. So it’s probably not a surprise that Tipton didn’t seem like much of a threat this time.

But this is a very different cycle, and Tipton, now a member of the state Legislature, is a very different candidate. Republican insiders insist this race is a dead heat, and even if it isn’t quite that close, it’s definitely a contest.

Rep. Allen Boyd hasn’t been threatened in years. The Florida Democrat won re-election in the state’s 2nd district with 62 percent of the vote in 2008, and few thought he’d be a serious Republican target this time. But funeral home owner Steve Southerland is for real, while Boyd is far under the crucial 50 percent mark and appears headed for defeat.

None of the early highly vulnerable Democrats may end up winning if the voters’ desire for change is strong enough, and all of the safe-turned-vulnerable Democratic incumbents may yet find ways to win. But the 2010 campaign has already proven to be a roller coaster, and it could take a few more twists and turns for these and plenty of other candidates in the next two weeks.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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