Aug. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Rothenberg: The Most Vulnerable House Incumbent(s) of 2014

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Miller has the dubious distinction being Rothenberg’s most vulnerable House member of 2014.

Arizona Democrat Ron Barber and Colorado Republican Mike Coffman both start off having very serious re-election problems.

Barber beat Republican Martha McSally by fewer than 2,500 votes, even though she started late and was generally underestimated by party insiders, who talked about her appeal but emphasized the challenges facing her bid.

McSally is likely to run again, and her personal appeal is considerable. Combine that with a stronger campaign and a midterm electorate, and Barber is in great danger in what should be a Democratic-leaning district.

Coffman defeated Joe Miklosi by 7,001 votes, or about 2 points (47.8 percent to 45.8 percent). Miklosi wasn’t initially regarded by Democratic insiders as the party’s ideal challenger, but “outside” groups ended up spending almost $3.9 million for him, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

This cycle, Democrats got a top recruit in former Colorado Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who chose to primary appointed Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010, rather than run for the House against Coffman. Miklosi didn’t live in the district when he ran last cycle, while Romanoff moved into the district earlier this year.

Two incumbents who were almost given up for dead (politically, that is) last cycle but survived — Democratic Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina — are likely to face stiff challenges again. Either or both could move to the top of the vulnerability list next year.

Democratic partisans may pooh-pooh the danger to both incumbents in 2014, noting that we have heard reports of their problems before and saying that if the two Democratic congressmen won with an unpopular (in their districts) president on the ballot, they certainly can win again against the same opponents in 2014.

Republicans can counter that unsuccessful 2012 Utah Republican nominee Mia Love didn’t run nearly as good a race as GOP strategists had hoped, and she’ll likely have a better campaign — and be a better candidate — in a rerun.

The same, of course, could hold for the unsuccessful GOP nominee against McIntyre last year, David Rouzer. Rouzer, then a member of the state Senate, lost to McIntyre by a mere 654 votes in 2012.

While the landscape of the Senate already looks pretty clear, the outlook for individual House races is likely to change a lot this year as candidates enter (and possibly exit) contests. So a race that already looks very competitive now could fall off most lists a year from now, and a district that starts off as a yawner now could be a hot contest 18 months from today.

Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report (rothenbergpoliticalreport.com). Read more at his blog, Rothenblog (blogs.rollcall.com/rothenblog).

Corrects the year that Andrew Romanoff ran against Sen. Michael Bennet. It was 2010.

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