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True Size of GOP Wave Still Developing

Republicans also clearly have momentum in Tennessee's 8th district, where Rep. John Tanner (D) is retiring, and in New Hampshire's 2nd district, which Rep. Paul W. Hodes (D) is leaving behind to run for the Senate. The demographics of the New Hampshire district favor Democrats a lot more than those of the Tennessee seat. However, New Hampshire is a more expensive state, and Republicans got the strongest possible nominee in former Rep. Charlie Bass, who was ousted in the Democratic wave in 2006. Democrats have made significant gains over the past two cycles in New Hampshire, and this is likely to be a cycle where we see some political realignment in the state.

Six districts held by Democratic incumbents are moving from the Leans Democratic category to Tossup. One of those Members, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.), was elected in 2008, and four were elected in 2006. McCain carried four of the districts in 2008, and Bush easily carried all of them in 2004.

Kirkpatrick won her seat in the conservative eastern Arizona district in the wake of the retirement of Republican Rep. Rick Renzi, who had ethics problems. She faces dentist Paul Gosar in what appears to be an increasingly uphill battle for her. In the races against Kirkpatrick and Rep. Harry E. Mitchell (D-Ariz.), Republicans are boosted by the fact that McCain is up for re-election and will again be at the top of the ticket in November.

Mitchell faces David Schweikert, the 2008 Republican nominee, under very different circumstances this November. Republicans are targeting the Blue Dog with criticism of his votes for health care reform and for Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as Speaker.

Farther down the line, three more Democratic incumbents inch closer to the Tossup category. Reps. John Salazar (Colo.) and Rick Larsen (Wash.) move from Likely Democratic to the more volatile Leans Democratic category, and Rep. Phil Hare (Ill.) moves from Safe Democratic to Leans Democratic. Each change is a reflection of the national mood and a Republican nominee who is surging in polls. The Hare race is especially one to watch, as this race has developed more quickly than most in recent weeks.

There are two ratings moving in favor of Democrats. In Delaware, Democrats were already projected to win the seat being vacated by Rep. Michael N. Castle (R), but after last week's primary the party is all but guaranteed to pick it up. Republican hopes of making this race more competitive lay in the prospect that wealthy businesswoman Michele Rollins would help self-fund her bid. But Rollins was upset in the GOP primary by tea party candidate Glen Urquhart, who is not viewed as a viable general election nominee.

Finally, we are moving one Republican incumbent into the Tossup category: California Rep. Dan Lungren.

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