Freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R) stresses his independence from his party on some issues, and that makes him an incumbent to watch. His race could provide a snapshot of how voters are feeling this election cycle.
Looking for clues about November? If so, you might keep your eyes on a handful of House incumbents seeking re-election. Their fate could tell you a great deal about the mood of the voters, the ability of candidates to separate themselves from the top of the ticket and the importance of individual candidates and campaigns.
Sen. John McCain (R) drew less than 36 percent of the vote in this redrawn district four years ago, and President George W. Bush (R) drew just 46 percent in the district when he sought re-election in 2004.
Freshman Dold stresses his independence from his party on issues such as funding for Planned Parenthood, and he notes that voters in his upscale district are sophisticated and returned moderate Republican current Sen. Mark Kirk to Congress for years. But Democrats charge that Dold isn't as independent as he likes to claim, and the challenger, businessman Brad Schneider (D), has ammunition.
One wild card could be Israel. Both nominees are held in high regard by the pro-Israel community, but could President Barack Obama's uncomfortable relationship with the current Israeli government affect how Jewish voters view the House candidates?
Moderate in style but conservative on tax and spending issues, Hayworth is another freshman in a competitive district. It went for Obama in 2008 and for Bush in 2004.
Running against her is Sean Patrick Maloney (D), who served in the administrations of Democratic New York Govs. Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson, as well as for President Bill Clinton. Maloney hopes to paint Hayworth as too conservative and extreme, and he should have the resources to mount a strong effort. But she is attacking him as a political insider who doesn't live in the district.
If Hayworth can hold this seat, it is good news for Republicans in swing districts around the country.
Allen West (R-Fla.)
West is a controversial conservative freshman who doesn't mince his words, which is exactly why Democrats think they can beat him. A hero to anti- establishment conservatives who tire of compromise, West is running in a new district that already looks heavily polarized. Obama won it with 51 percent in 2008, while Bush carried it with 50.5 percent four years earlier.
Democrat Patrick Murphy, the son of a wealthy businessman, charges that West is an extremist who exemplifies House Republicans' refusal to work with Democrats. But in a sense, Murphy is irrelevant. The question is whether voters in this competitive district want to fire the Congressman or not. If West wins, it could say something about Democrats' strategy of trying to make the GOP Congress, the tea party and outspoken conservatives the issue in 2012.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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