In a testament to the GOP's advantage in the midterm elections, CQ Politics has made 25 changes to its race ratings that for the most part show Republicans gaining steam as the Democrats attempt to maintain control of Congress on Nov. 2.
The re-election races of five Democratic incumbents have been moved to the Likely Republican category. Three of the Democrats now in this category were elected in districts that supported President Barack Obama in 2008 but President George W. Bush in 2004: Reps. Debbie Halvorson in eastern Illinois, Steve Driehaus in southwestern Ohio and Mary Jo Kilroy in central Ohio.
Moving from Leans Republican to Likely Republican are two Democratic-held open seats. Republican efforts to target Tennessee's 8th district, where Democratic Rep. John Tanner is retiring, have paid off. Also in that category is Indiana's 8th district, which Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) is vacating to run for the Senate. Surgeon Larry Bucshon (R) leads state Rep. Trent Van Haaften (D) for Ellsworth's seat. But Ellsworth's own contest isn't looking good -- CQ Politics moved the race from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. Former Sen. Dan Coats (R) is poised to win the conservative-leaning state, a victory that has big consequences for President Barack Obama's reelection bid in 2012 since he won the Hoosier State in 2008.
Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson, a favorite among liberals but a top target in Florida's 8th district, moved from Tossup to Lean Republican.
This round of race rating changes shows just two bright spots for Democrats and lots of trouble for the majority party in districts strategists never thought would cause any trouble six months ago.
Second term Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) and freshman Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) are in that category, moving from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic.
But while the House map looks like a red wave, the GOP's chances of taking control of the Senate still look difficult -- though not impossible. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal appears to be holding a steady lead, as the race for the seat held by longtime Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D) moves back into the Democrats' favor. CQ Politics changed this race rating from Tossup to Leans Democratic.
Even though Connecticut is in safer territory, Obama is making a trip to the Nutmeg State for a get-out-the-vote rally just in case on Oct. 30.
Earlier this week CQ Politics moved Pennsylvania's Senate race from Lean Republican to Tossup, a good sign for Rep. Joe Sestak (D) as he closes in on Republican former Rep. Pat Toomey, who has maintained a lead for months. The White House and outside groups from both parties have focused on the battleground state and polls show Sestak has been winning over independent voters in the final weeks, though Republicans have an advantage in absentee ballot returns.
Here are the changes:
Indiana (Open seat)
Wisconsin -- Sen. Russ Feingold (D)
Pennsylvania (Open seat)
Connecticut (Open seat)
Colorado's 4th -- Rep. Betsy Markey (D)
Illinois' 11th -- Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D)
Indiana's 8th (Open seat)
Ohio's 1st -- Rep. Steve Driehaus (D)
Ohio's 15th -- Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D)