Politics

The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members

GOP Freshmen in Democratic-leaning districts face daunting re-elections

Iowa Rep. Rod Blum tops Roll Call's most vulnerable list. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Freshman Republicans who won in 2014 dominate Roll Call's Top 10 List of House incumbents most likely to lose in November.

Elected in low-turnout midterms, they're now on the defensive in districts that often vote Democratic in presidential years.

Roll Call's rankings are based on the general election. The rankings take into account voter registration by party and past presidential results in each district as well as the fundraising and campaign strategy of the candidates.

A few members not on this list — Democratic Rep. Michael M. Honda and GOP Rep. Scott DesJarlais — still face competitive challenges from members of their own parties that could keep them from returning to Congress.

[ Roll Call's Senate Challenger Rankings ]

And although Republicans are mostly on defense this year, they’ve got a few targets that make Democratic members vulnerable, too. But they're not necessarily as vulnerable as the 10 members listed here.

California Rep. Ami Bera sits in the Leans Democratic 7th District, but he may be facing an especially tough re-election after his father pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to his son’s campaigns.

[ Roll Call's 2016 Election Guide ]

Nebraska Democrat Brad Ashford is also endangered. The former Republican represents a district that Mitt Romney carried by 7 points in 2012. His recent endorsement by the Chamber of Commerce should help him win over conservative voters. But he still needs to convince a lot of voters to split their tickets, and he’s not going to great lengths to remind his constituents that he’s a Democrat.

One Democrat who was on November’s list has disappeared from the rankings: Florida’s Gwen Graham is not seeking re-election to her redrawn heavily Republican district.

[ One Third of Florida Delegation Retiring ]

Democrats must net 30 seats to win a majority in the House — a tall order given that the party doesn’t have recruits in all competitive districts .

But they've fielded competitive challengers in most of these 10 districts, which, combined with the partisan fundamentals of these seats in a presidential year, make these 10 members the most likely to be looking for new jobs in 2017.

The rise of Donald Trump from underestimated candidate to presumptive GOP nominee has complicated the lives of many of these congressmen. Some lawmakers in tossup districts have disavowed him. Others, like Long Island's Lee Zeldin, find themselves on this list, in part, for embracing Trump.

The top four members on Roll Call's list are widely recognized to be the most vulnerable. But with so many members in tossup districts, determining the middle and bottom of the pack becomes more difficult. Roll Call will be updating these rankings as November draws nearer and we learn more about the challengers in these races.

1. Rod Blum, R-Iowa (1st District)

Blum represents a district that Obama has twice carried by double digits. But the Freedom Caucus member has made little effort to moderate his votes. Blum could kick more of his own money into his campaign, but he’s facing a competitive challenger in Democrat Monica Vernon , and it’s unclear how much help he’ll be getting from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which still hasn’t added him to the Patriot Program.

Rating: Tilts Democrat

2. Cresent Hardy, R-Nev. (4th District)

Obama carried this district by a hefty margin in 2012, making this large Nevada seat unfriendly territory for the freshman Republican. He unseated former Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat, by less than 3 points in a low-turnout year, and this year he’ll be going up against Harry Reid-backed Ruben Kihuen in a state where Trump’s comments about Hispanics will likely be a liability down-ticket.

Rating: Tilts Democrat

3. David Jolly, R-Fla. (13th District)

Jolly bowed out of the Senate race in mid-June, and he’s now the only member sitting in a district rated safe for the opposite party. Recent redistricting made this Gulf Coast district much safer for Democrats, and former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, has a financial edge. Jolly’s pledged not to directly solicit money for his campaign, and the NRCC likely won’t be helping him .

Rating: Safe Democrat

4. Frank C. Guinta, R-N.H. (1st District)

In his second nonconsecutive term, Guinta faces a double threat in this swing district: Before entertaining another rematch with former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter , he needs to survive his September primary. Settling a campaign finance violation with the FEC has left him with very little money and waning support from Granite State Republicans . Democrats would much prefer to run against Guinta, especially with an independent now complicating the general election.

Rating: Tossup

5. Robert J. Dold, R-Ill. (10th District)&

It’s another rematch for Dold and former Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider, whom Dold knocked off by less than 3 points in the off-year. Dold has said he will not support Trump , but working in Schneider’s favor is the strong Democratic lean of this suburban Chicago-based district.

Rating: Tossup

6. John Katko, R-N.Y. (24th District)

Obama twice won Katko’s Syracuse-based district by double digits, leaving this freshman in a precarious position against Democrat Colleen Deacon. He’s kept his distance from Trump, saying that the presumptive GOP nominee needs to earn his vote, and he’s got a hefty war chest. But the “R” next to his name might be too much for Katko to overcome here in a presidential year.

Rating: Tossup

7. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. (1st District)

This freshman voted against funding the Department of Homeland Security in March, endorsed Trump and dug himself into an even deeper hole with moderates recently by suggesting President Obama is racist. He’ll face a well-funded challenger in a blue state. And yet, Trump’s appeal shouldn’t be totally written off in this Long Island district.

Rating: Tilts Republican

8. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. (26th District)

Republicans praise this south Florida congressman for doing everything he should be doing: He’s said he won’t vote for Trump , and he’s staked out moderate positions on gay rights and clean energy. Also working in his favor is a Democratic primary that won’t be resolved until August. But the 26th District, which voted for Obama by 7 points in 2012, became even more Democratic in recent redistricting, putting Curbelo at risk.

Rating: Tossup

9. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine (2nd District)

Poliquin impressed early with strong fundraising in his rematch against Democrat Emily Cain , whom he beat by 5 points in the off-year. She recently outpaced him in fundraising, but he maintains a large cash-on-hand advantage. Democrats are hoping Poliquin’s evasiveness on Trump and his Wall Street ties will persuade voters he’s out of touch with his blue collar district , which votes Democratic at the presidential level.

Rating: Tossup

10. David Young, R-Iowa (3rd District)

The former aide to Sen. Charles E. Grassley won this open seat in the off-year, but the district’s preference for Democrats at the presidential level may make it tough for him to hold. He’s facing Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer, who won a competitive Democratic primary last month. But so far, Young has a healthy cash advantage.

Rating: Tossup

Contact Pathé at simonepathe@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @sfpathe .

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.