Feb. 7, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Can Any of These House Underdogs Survive?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Bobby Schilling is just one vulnerable incumbent up for re-election this cycle.

Remember their names: Reps. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), John Barrow (D-Ga.), Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Robert Dold (R-Ill.).

If any of these five House incumbents survive, it will surprise most dispassionate observers (including some in their own parties). But upsets happen, and each of these candidates has a scenario for victory.

Moments after Bass was declared the winner in November 2010, most political insiders figured he would be doomed in 2012. But considering his past electoral success, reports of his political demise could be premature.

Bass, the son of a former Congressman and the grandson of a governor, served a dozen years in Congress before losing by 7 points in 2006, a horrible year for Republicans nationally, to Paul Hodes, the same Democrat he had defeated by 20 points two years earlier.

Four years later, Hodes ran for Senate and Bass ran to reclaim his former seat. Democrats nominated attorney Ann McLane Kuster, whose father was mayor of Concord. Kuster’s grandfather served as governor and her mother served in the state Senate as a Republican. Her mother, Susan McLane, also ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for Congress in 1980.

In a mild upset, Bass won by just 3,550 votes (fewer than 2 points) in a huge Republican year. His narrow victory is one reason why so many insiders predicted his second tour in Congress would be brief.

Kuster is running again, and she is a formidable challenger. She ended March with $1 million in the bank compared to Bass’ $790,000. Democrats (and some Republicans) already count this seat as a takeover, and a May survey by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showing Bass and Kuster tied at 42 percent was further evidence of the Republican’s problems.

But Bass’ mild, New England manner shouldn’t be confused with political naiveté. He has been a survivor in a district that is far from automatic for a Republican — Barack Obama won it with 56 percent in 2008, and both Al Gore and John Kerry carried it as well — and his record of fiscal conservatism and moderation on social and environmental issues is in sync with district voters.

Georgia’s Barrow allegedly is serving his last term after Republicans redrew his district from one that gave Obama 54 percent to one that would have given Obama only 44 percent.

Though he supported the economic stimulus in 2009 and opposed repealing Obama’s health care law in 2010, he has cast enough votes to allow him to stress his “independence” from the national Democratic agenda, including his votes against passage of the health care reform and cap-and-trade bills, his support for the extension of the Bush tax cuts and his refusal to support Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for Speaker in 2011.

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