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Eight House Incumbents to Watch for Clues

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
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.

Robert Dold (R-Ill.)

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?

Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.)

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.

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