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In Pennsylvania, Republicans redrew the state to throw two Democrats together, and when Rep. Mark Critz defeated Rep. Jason Altmire for the Democratic nomination, GOP strategists smiled, figuring voters selected the weaker nominee. Each party has polling that shows its nominee leading, making this one of many races where party strategists have very different views.
Two of the most fascinating races this year involve Blue Dog Democrats who face seemingly impossible situations but appear to be holding their own. While their political fates remain very much in doubt, Georgia Rep. John Barrow and North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre no longer deserve to be written off. (That could change in even a few days, of course.)
Barrow seemed like a lost cause for his party after Georgia Republicans redrew his district, making a competitive seat look quite Republican. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the redrawn district with more than 55 percent of the vote, while President George W. Bush carried it with more than 60 percent when he won his second term.
State Rep. Lee Anderson won the GOP nomination by a whisker, beating businessman Rick Allen in the runoff by about half of a point.
While I havenít met Anderson, those who have and whose opinions I respect are not impressed.
The farmer turned state legislator, who attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and Brewton-Parker College, isnít regarded as a strong speaker or debater.
In fact, Anderson, who finished first in the July primary, refused to debate Allen before the runoff, and while the businessman used his financial advantage on TV to offset Andersonís political experience, name identification and endorsements, Allen fell just short. Observers believe Allen would have had a much easier time winning the general election against Barrow.
First elected in 2004, Barrow is an attorney who attended the University of Georgia and Harvard Law School. He knocked off GOP incumbent Max Burns to win the seat.
Barrow was one of a relative handful of Democrats to vote against the Houseís Affordable Health Care for America Act (and the final bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) and the Democratsí cap-and-trade bill. He has strong candidate skills, which might be why Anderson is coming up with excuses for not debating him.
Polling suggests the race is close, and Republican strategists are hoping that the districtís fundamentals can carry Anderson to victory. But at least one unreleased survey shows Barrow with strong personal ratings and opinion of Anderson sliding as voters get more information about him.
When Republicans redrew North Carolinaís Congressional districts, it was clear that Kissell and Rep. Heath Shuler (D) were gone. But McIntyre looked to have a fighting chance to survive ó though not much more than that.
In fact, McIntyre has looked strong in polling so far, and the only question is whether the reported GOP bump in the state following the first Obama-Romney debate has changed the dynamics in a district that McCain carried with more than 57 percent and Bush won with more than 61 percent in 2004.