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2014 Could Bring a Political Novelty: A More Limited House Playing Field

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
NRCC Chairman Walden said last week that the field of competitive House seats had fallen into the 40s from a much larger number in 2010.

He added: “At some point the voters get sick of it.”

On the other hand, Republicans believe voters will sour on Obama and his party over the next two years. Perhaps D.C.’s sclerotic dysfunction will end up being seen as the fault of the Democratic White House and Senate.

And Republicans feel as if historical trends begin on their side.

“Off years tend to be tougher on the president and his party,” said Glen Bolger, a top GOP pollster and expert on the House landscape. “The demographics are not as harmful to Republicans in off years as they are in presidential years.”

Both House committees are getting to work focusing on what’s in their control 22 months before midterm voters hit the polls: targeting and recruiting.

The NRCC blasted out a memo to reporters last week with a list of its top seven Democratic targets — all of whom represent districts won by Romney. It included the last surviving conservative Blue Dogs, such as Georgia Rep. John Barrow, Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson and North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre.

Each survived a Republican-controlled redraw of their seats and presidential-year turnout in Republican districts.

McIntyre’s and Matheson’s wins were the two closest House races in the country according to a Bloomberg analysis (654 votes and 768 votes, respectively), so Republicans have good reason to see opportunity to do better in a second go-round with these district lines.

And the matchups could very well provide voters with a dose of déjà vu. The 2012 GOP nominees against McIntyre and Matheson are said to be weighing second bids.

Barrow, for his part, is a wily survivor. But Georgia Republicans are already gearing up to take him on again.

Out west, the NRCC is targeting two Arizona districts with swing partisan electorates that might be more favorable to the GOP in a nonpresidential year. They are the 1st and 2nd districts, held by Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber.

Democrats are working out their own list of top targeted districts.

Suburban and urban seats that voted for Obama and a Republican House member in 2012 are at the top of the list for Democrats this cycle.

Republican Rep. Gary G. Miller of California begins the 113th Congress as perhaps its most vulnerable member. He represents a distinctly Democratic seat, the Golden State’s 31st, anchored in the city of San Bernardino. He’s a member, in no small part, because a Democrat didn’t make it beyond the unique nonpartisan top-two primary.

Miller beat another Republican with 55 percent of the vote on Nov. 6 — while Obama received about 57 percent of ballots cast. Democrat Pete Aguilar, a candidate in 2012 who didn’t make it past the primary, is considered likely to try again. He told CQ Roll Call he is interested in the seat but hasn’t made a decision yet.

Elsewhere in California, the suburban and rural 21st District, represented by freshman Republican Rep. David Valadao, is also on the Democratic target list. He won his first term with 59 percent of the vote as Obama beat Romney by about 9 points there. Those numbers lead Democrats to believe that with a better candidate — Democratic nominee John Hernandez was subpar — the district can flip to their column.

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