Six-hundred-and-forty-seven votes. Thatís how close Rep. Ben Chandler (D) came to losing to attorney Andy Barr (R) last cycle. It was the Blue Dog Democratís closest contest to date ó and probably for the rest of his political career.
Chandlerís district got better for him after redistricting, even though itís still conservative territory. Nonetheless, itís clear the four-term Congressman has found a successful formula to survive re-election in the toughest of cycles.
A former statewide elected official, Chandler came to Congress following a 2004 special election. Heís won re-election with solid margins ever since except for the 2010 race.
House Republicans have indicated they want to target Chandler this year. The National Republican Congressional Committeeís first round of airtime reservations for after Labor Day included a $441,000 buy in the Lexington, Ky., media market earmarked for this race. But Republicans can pull that buy any time, and privately, theyíre not too optimistic about Barrís chances this second time around.
House Democrats arenít worried about Chandler yet. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has placed more than $46.3 million in media buys across dozens of House districts but didnít reserve anything for this race. Itís a sign that Chandlerís colleagues believe he can stand on his own this cycle, at least for now.
Pennsylvania's 12th district: Rep. Mark Critz
No other House Member has survived more tough races in the past two years than Rep. Mark Critz (D). And itís only going to get harder for him.
In 2010, Critz won a competitive, high-stakes special election to succeed his boss, the late Rep. John Murtha (D). Republicans rarely attempted to unseat Murtha during his 36 years in Congress, but they spent nearly seven figures to defeat Critz in one of their most embarrassing losses of the cycle.
It got worse for the GOP. While Republicans swept seats all over the country in November 2010, Critz narrowly defeated the same opponent he faced in the special, businessman Tim Burns (R). Over the course of six months, House Republicans spent $1.5 million on two failed attempts to win this district.
Last year, Republicans redrew the district to make it more conducive to pickup. They started by forcing Critz and Rep. Jason Altmire (D) into a primary in the same district. The redrawn districtís composition favored Altmire, but Critz won by 4 points in April.
After all this, Critz still faces his hardest race yet in November. Heís running on the ballot with a president that southwestern Pennsylvanians donít view favorably, and his redrawn 12th district is more Republican than ever.
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