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More House Seats Look Like They May Change Hands

The latest CQ-Roll Call survey of the political landscape finds an environment that continues to worsen for Democrats and new race ratings to reflect Republicans on the ascent.

Among the seats now held by Democrats that have been moved into more competitive categories, CQ-Roll Call now rates three of as likely to be won by Republicans: the 2nd district in Arkansas; the 3rd district in Louisiana; and the 29th district in New York.

Those three seats are open following the retirements or early departure of Democratic incumbents, and all three seats went for Sen. John McCain for president in 2008.

The New York district is vacant following the resignation of Eric Massa, who left amid a scandal.

Rep. Vic Snyder (Ark.) is retiring from a moderate district, where Democrat Joyce Elliott is currently running 17 points behind Republican Tim Griffin in a recent poll.

And after running unopposed two years ago, Rep. Charlie Melancon (La.), now seeking a place in the Senate, is leaving behind a district that voted 61 percent for McCain.

Another Democratic seat that now appears more likely to flip is in Kansas, where Rep. Dennis Moore (D) is retiring and his wife, Stephene, is running in his place.

The CQ-Roll Call rating on that district moves from the most competitive category, Tossup, to Leans Republican.

Standing out among the 11 Democratic districts moved into the Tossup category are those represented by two of the most powerful Members of Congress - Wisconsin's 7th district, which Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey is vacating, and South Carolina's 5th district, where Budget Chairman John M. Spratt Jr. is fighting his most difficult re-election battle since the mid-1990s.

After picking up more than 50 Republican seats in the last two election cycles, much of the Democrats' defense will focus on those seats.

Among those looking more vulnerable are freshman Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.), John Boccieri (Ohio) and Debbie Halvorson (Ill.), whose seats now are rated as Tossups.

The seats of freshmen Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.) and Scott Murphy (N.Y.), and second-termers Patrick J. Murphy (Pa.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Betty Sutton (Ohio) are now rated Leans Democrat.

With primary season coming to a close next month, both parties have put together plans to spend tens of millions of dollars in TV airtime in competitive areas where the Washington, D.C. professionals believe they can help their candidates.

As a sign of the times, while the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is focusing on playing offense, the vast majority of districts the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) plans to spend money are ones it is trying to hold, not pick up.

As always, money will be a factor in how much support the committees can offer.

The DCCC entered the year with a wide cash-on-hand advantage, an edge that has slimmed a bit as the NRCC has outraised it in each of the last four months. The DCCC began August with $35.8 million in the bank, and the NRCC had $22.1 million.

The CQ-Roll Call race ratings shifts are based on multiple factors including polling, the quality of candidates, primary results, second quarter fundraising reports and how the national party campaign committees view the districts. As Election Day draws closer, more movement in the fluid race ratings can be expected.

Moved to Tossup:

Arkansas' 1st district (open seat)

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