South: GOP Eyes Realignment Gains in Tennessee, Arkansas

Posted October 1, 2010 at 10:17am

Alabama


Senate

Incumbent: Richard Shelby (R)

4th term (68 percent)

Outlook: Safe Republican

Shelby has a $17 million war chest, has no real Democratic opposition to speak of
and is running in one of the most GOP-friendly political environments in recent
memory.

He will cruise to a fifth term.

House

2nd district

Incumbent: Bobby Bright (D)

1st term (50 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

Bright’s 2008 race was decided by fewer than 2,000 votes, and his first
re-election may come down to the wire as well.

Although Montgomery City Councilwoman Martha Roby was an early recruit of the
national party, she has proved to be somewhat green on the campaign trail and
struggled a bit with a feisty tea-party-backed primary challenge. But she’s a solid
conservative, and that may be enough in this cycle’s environment.

Bright boasts one of the most conservative voting records in the Democratic
Caucus, but Republicans think his first vote, which was to elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.) as Speaker, will be enough to sink his re-election chances. In fact, in
this conservative southwest Alabama district, Republicans seem intent on making the
contest as much about Pelosi as about Bright.

When the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched its first ads
against Roby in September, Roby’s camp quickly sent out a press release titled
“Pelosi and Bright Launch False Negative Attacks.”

Bright, who grew up in the Wiregrass region of the district and served as mayor of
Montgomery, is hoping his personal connections throughout the region will help keep
Republicans from nationalizing the contest. He has worked to distance himself from
Pelosi and downplay her importance (he recently called her position a “largely
ceremonial” one).

Bright and the DCCC are trying to draw as many distinctions between Roby and the
Congressman as they can and have attacked her for everything from wanting to
privatize Medicare to being in the pocket of special interests.

5th district

Open seat: Parker Griffith (R) was defeated in a primary

Outlook: Safe Republican

Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks is heavily favored to become the next
Congressman after he soundly defeated the party-switching Griffith in the Republican
primary.

In a better environment, Democrats might be tempted to compete in the northern
Alabama district, where conservative Democrats have shown they can win.

This year, party officials will be too busy playing defense elsewhere around the
country to make a serious effort here. And that makes an already steep road even
steeper for political consultant Steve Raby, the Democratic nominee.

7th district

Open seat: Artur Davis (D) lost a gubernatorial primary

Outlook: Safe Democratic

After winning a primary runoff against Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot
in July, attorney Terri Sewell (D) is poised to become the first black woman ever
elected to Congress in Alabama.

Despite a tough national environment for Democrats, Sewell won’t have any trouble
winning in this majority-black Birmingham- and Tuscaloosa-based district, where
President Barack Obama got 71 percent of the vote in 2008.

Arkansas


Senate

Incumbent: Blanche Lincoln (D)

2nd term (56 percent)

Outlook: Likely Republican

In a testament to just how steep Lincoln’s path to victory is this cycle, a recent
poll from the Arkansas News Bureau that showed her behind by 14 points was actually
the best news the Senator has had on the polling front in months.

Several public polls over the summer showed Rep. John Boozman (R) ahead by
anywhere from 17 to 31 points.

The race will likely tighten before Nov. 2, but Lincoln may simply be too far
behind to have much hope of overtaking the Congressman.

Lincoln’s path to victory wasn’t made any easier by an expensive primary and
runoff. It was a fight that put the moderate Senator at odds with much of her
Democratic base, and it remains to be seen whether the wounds of that nasty contest
have healed enough for Democrats to come out in force this fall.

Lincoln is working hard to frame Boozman as part of the radical wing of his party.
But the four-term Congressman has brushed off the attacks and mostly avoided locking
horns with Lincoln, a sure sign that he’s running from a position of strength. When
he has taken shots at Lincoln, it has mostly been to tie her to her more polarizing
party leaders.

President Bill Clinton, who was a strong supporter of Lincoln in the primary,
isn’t done playing in the race. He continues to be a key fundraiser for Lincoln, and
she’ll need all the help she can get. That’s because it remains to be seen whether
the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will commit significant resources to a
contest that even some Democratic insiders admit may already be too far gone.

House

1st district

Open seat: Marion Berry (D) is retiring

Outlook: Tossup

Once viewed as a long shot for Arkansas Republicans, the 1st district has become
the state’s key battleground. That’s because the GOP is heavily favored in all the
other targeted Congressional contests.

Republicans nominated Rick Crawford, an Army veteran, farm broadcaster and
businessman. He is untested as a candidate, and Democrats dismissed him early on. But
the National Republican Congressional Committee has touted him and the polls continue
to show him running strong against former Congressional aide Chad Causey.

Causey, who served as Berry’s chief of staff, had an edge in the Democratic
primary in part because of the backing he received from the Congressman and from
President Bill Clinton. Causey is well-financed and continues to earn fundraising
support from Clinton.

But in an anti-incumbent year, Causey’s previous work for Berry has helped
Republicans frame his campaign as that of another “D.C. insider” wanting to join the
club on Capitol Hill.

Democrats have hit Crawford with the commonly used attack that he wants to cut
Social Security. But they have also found campaign fodder in Crawford’s past,
including a bankruptcy he has struggled to explain.

Both national parties have said they intend to spend money in the 1st district,
and for good reason. Republicans have successfully expanded the playing field enough
to possibly flip control of the House this cycle. But to do it, they’ll have to win
in battleground areas like northeast Arkansas.

2nd district

Open seat: Vic Snyder (D) is retiring

Outlook: Likely Republican

When Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said
the party would be looking at the House map and make tough decisions about where to
cut its losses, the Maryland lawmaker probably had this Little Rock-based district in
mind.

Snyder was no shoo-in for re-election in this conservative district, which is
growing increasingly Republican. And Republicans think the prospect of a tough race
against the highly touted and well-connected Tim Griffin (R), a former U.S. attorney,
was the main reason Snyder decided to retire.

Democrats needed a runoff before selecting state Sen. Joyce Elliott as their
nominee. Elliott, who is black, has a base in Little Rock and Pulaski County, and
she’s expected to perform well among black voters in a district that is 21 percent
African-American.

But Griffin has a cash-on-hand advantage and is expected to perform well in the
Republican-trending suburbs of Little Rock. Elliott will probably need outside cash
to compete, and she isn’t likely to find that coming from the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee.

3rd district

Open seat: John Boozman (R) is running for Senate

Outlook: Safe Republican

Of the three open House seats in Arkansas, the 3rd district is the least
competitive. That’s because it has long been a Republican bastion in an otherwise
historically Democratic state.

Boozman has had little trouble winning re-election in the district since taking
the seat in a 2001 special election. Democrats didn’t even offer a candidate in 2008
despite a national environment that was in their favor.

Rogers Mayor Steve Womack is the Republican nominee and the overwhelming favorite
to replace Boozman.

Democrats selected former Fayetteville Assistant City Attorney David Whitaker as
their nominee and sacrificial offering.

Florida


Senate

Open seat: Appointee George LeMieux (R) is not seeking election

Outlook: Leans Republican

Since being chased out of the Republican primary and deciding to run as an
Independent, Gov. Charlie Crist has made no secret that he’s looking to take votes
from both Democrats and Republicans. But it looks increasingly unlikely that he can
carve out enough votes in the center to win the three-way race against Rep. Kendrick
Meek (D) and former state Speaker Marco Rubio (R).

Republicans have focused most of their attention on painting the governor as a
liberal in disguise. Meek is touting himself as the only real Democrat in the race in
an effort to prevent Crist from eating too far into the Democratic vote and becoming
viewed as the de facto Democrat in the race.

What appears likely is that Rubio will capture the lion’s share of the Republican
vote and a portion of GOP-leaning independents. Meek will get the Democratic base
vote and Crist will get some middle-of-the-road and Democratic-leaning
independents.

That math adds up to a Rubio victory, which is reflected in current polls.

House

2nd district

Incumbent: Allen Boyd (D)

7th term (62 percent)

Outlook: Tossup

Touted as a possible Senate candidate early in the cycle, Boyd barely survived a
primary challenge and has a difficult fight to keep his seat in November.

The key issue for Republicans is the health care bill Boyd voted against in
November but then voted for when it was brought back to the House floor this spring.
Boyd’s decision to support the legislation came as he was working to fend off a
primary challenge from state Senate Minority Leader Al Lawson, who was running to his
left.

In the wake of his health care vote, the National Republican Congressional
Committee quickly labeled Boyd as one of the “flip-flop five” and painted him as a
closet liberal masquerading as a Blue Dog Democrat. That hasn’t helped the
Congressman in a district that is becoming increasingly unfriendly, even to centrist
Democrats.

Since the primary, Boyd has been working to heal the wounds of his fight with
Lawson, refill his campaign coffers (he spent more than $2 million) and re-establish
his moderate image.

Republicans have been busy promoting Steve Southerland, a funeral home owner from
Bay County. Southerland is a political newcomer, but he has raised a respectable
amount of money. Southerland is from the western end of the district, which will help
him excite the large GOP base in the rural coastal counties.

The NRCC has already made a six-figure ad buy against Boyd, a sure sign it senses
an opportunity in the Panhandle.

5th district

Open seat: Ginny Brown-Waite (R) is retiring

Outlook: Safe Republican

Brown-Waite endorsed Hernando County Sheriff Rich Nugent on the same day she
announced her retirement in late April, and he has held the inside track to follow
her in Congress ever since.

Nugent’s landslide victory in the August Republican primary made him the runaway
favorite to win the conservative west coast district, where registered Republicans
outnumber registered Democrats.

Besides Brown-Waite, Nugent has also received high-profile GOP endorsements from
former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

He faces Army veteran Jim Piccillo in November.

8th district

Incumbent: Alan Grayson (D)

1st term (52 percent)

Outlook: Tossup

Grayson rarely misses an opportunity to stick his thumb in the eye of Republicans,
and his antics have put him at the top of GOP target lists.

He riled Republicans across the country last year when he took to the House floor
and described the GOP health care plan as “don’t get sick,” and if you get sick, “die
quickly.” He hasn’t dialed back the rhetoric since.

Republicans are certain that Grayson is too far left for his district, which had
long elected Republicans before 2008. But they’ll also have to figure out a way to
deal with Grayson’s vast national fundraising network, which has helped him raise
about $4 million this cycle.

After a competitive primary, Republicans selected former state Senate Majority
Leader Daniel Webster, a family values conservative who served in the Legislature for
nearly three decades.

On the campaign trail, Webster is as much Grayson’s opposite in style as he is in
political outlook. Webster presents himself as the conservative, rational alternative
to the liberal, fire-breathing Congressman.

Grayson isn’t shying away from the fight and thinks voters respect him because
he’s shown he has the guts to stand up for what he believes.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has already bought nearly $1
million in airtime in the district, and it’s a safe bet that it will be using some of
that time to remind voters of the Congressman’s more outrageous comments.

12th district

Open seat: Adam Putnam (R) is running for state agriculture commissioner

Outlook: Likely Republican

Putnam wasn’t expected to have much trouble if he had run for a sixth term, but
his decision to seek statewide office gave Democrats some hope in a district that
went narrowly for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and has a slight Democratic
voter registration advantage.

But as the national environment turned against Democrats, the likelihood that the
national party would play in the conservative district diminished quickly.

Former state Rep. Dennis Ross, the GOP nominee, has Putnam’s endorsement, the
support of the national party and a significant financial advantage. Democratic
nominee Lori Edwards, the supervisor of elections in Polk County, has been something
of a recruiting bust who has struggled on the campaign trail.

Edwards’ best hope for an upset lies in the candidacy of tea party nominee Randy
Wilkinson, a county commissioner who Democrats hope will split the conservative vote
just enough to give them a chance of stealing the open seat.

17th district

Open seat: Kendrick Meek (D) is running for Senate

Outlook: Safe Democratic

State Sen. Frederica Wilson is all but certain to replace Meek in the House after
securing the Democratic nomination in the overwhelmingly Democratic 17th
district.

Wilson, who has already followed Meek in the state House and state Senate, was
considered the frontrunner in the Congressional race the day she entered the race
last year.

She got some competition in the primary from wealthy physician and first-time
candidate Rudy Moise, who vastly outspent her. But Wilson relied on her
long-established network in the Miami- and Hollywood-based district to cruise to a
comfortable victory. She should have an even easier time in November in the majority
black district that gave President Barack Obama 87 percent of the vote in 2008.

21st district

Open seat: Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) is retiring

Outlook: Safe Republican

The Diaz-Balart brothers successfully pulled off a case of political musical
chairs this year to keep the 21st district in the family.

When Lincoln Diaz-Balart announced in February he would retire from the solidly
Republican district, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) immediately announced he would retire
from his more competitive 25th district to run in the 21st.

The move raised eyebrows in the political world but hasn’t hurt Mario
Diaz-Balart’s chances in the Hialeah- and suburban Miami-based 21st district. No one
filed to run against the Congressman this fall, so he’ll have the ballot to
himself.

22nd district

Incumbent: Ron Klein (D)

2nd term (55 percent)

Outlook: Likely Democratic

The politically competitive 22nd district has been shifting toward Democrats since
2004, but Republicans think this is the year to reverse the trend. To do it, they’ve
turned again to 2008 nominee Allen West, a retired Army officer who took 45 percent
against Klein last cycle.

West became an early champion of the tea party movement this cycle after a fiery
speech he gave last fall in which he called on voters to challenge their “tyrannical”
government. The speech became something of an Internet sensation and helped West earn
a speaking role at the Conservative Political Action Conference, as well as an
endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). West has become one of the top
fundraisers of the cycle, far outpacing the Congressman, and has been embraced as a
top recruit by the national party.

Democrats say the tea party icon is far too extreme for the district. Democrats
have also called him dangerous, pointing to an incident that helped end his military
career in which he was charged with assault after firing a gun next to the head of a
detainee he was interrogating.

The tea party movement has proved to be a powerful force this cycle, but at this
point it doesn’t appear to be strong enough in coastal Broward and Palm Beach
counties to get West over the top.

24th district

Incumbent: Suzanne Kosmas (D)

1st term (57 percent)

Outlook: Leans Republican

Two years after Kosmas ousted scandal-weakened Rep. Tom Feeney (R), Republicans
think it’s time to take the district back.

A GOP voter registration advantage plus a favorable national environment give
Republicans natural advantages in the Orlando- and Space Coast-based district. But
GOP strategists also think Kosmas has been hurt by a few self-inflicted wounds. The
state and national Republican parties have made much of the fact that the
Congresswoman voted for the health care bill this year after she originally voted
against it. That move, along with Kosmas’ votes for the cap-and-trade bill and the
stimulus bill, have Republicans screaming that the Congresswoman is anything but the
fiscal conservative she claims to be.

Kosmas faces state Rep. Sandy Adams, who was the somewhat surprising winner of a
competitive three-way GOP primary. Kosmas’ first ad of the cycle focused on Adams’
“strange ideas” on constitutional issues and painted her as an extremist. Kosmas has
described Adams as Florida’s version of Delaware Republican Senate nominee and tea
party champion Christine O’Donnell.

Kosmas’ $1 million-plus war chest will be her biggest asset this fall, but to hang
on she’ll likely also need help from the national party. The National Republican
Congressional Committee has already laid down nearly $1 million to run ads against
the Congresswoman in the Orlando media market.

25th district

Open seat: Mario Diaz-Balart (R) is running in the 21st district

Outlook: Leans Republican

After White House and national Democratic officials persuaded 2008 nominee Joe
Garcia to take another run in this district, they were optimistic that the sprawling
South Florida seat represented one of the party’s rare takeover opportunities.

Favorable voter registration trends have made the district nearly evenly split
between Democrats and Republicans two years after Garcia took 47 percent against
Diaz-Balart.

But Republicans have a much more favorable environment this year and state Rep.
David Rivera has proved to be a formidable recruit who has raised serious money and
earned the full support of the Diaz-Balart dynasty and the National Republican
Congressional Committee.

The campaign hasn’t lacked for personal attacks.

Democrats have questioned Rivera’s fitness for office by highlighting a bizarre
traffic accident from 2002, in which a car Rivera was driving collided with a
delivery truck that was carrying the ads of a political opponent. Democrats have also
tried to tie Rivera to a 16-year-old domestic violence case.

Rivera, who champions taking a hard line against the Cuban government, has called
Garcia an apologist and “henchman” for Raúl and Fidel Castro’s communist regime.
Republicans think Garcia’s work for the Obama administration will help them paint him
as a Washington insider.

This race bears watching in the campaign’s final weeks. Democrats say they’re
optimistic, but the climate might make this pickup too tough.

Georgia


Senate

Incumbent: Johnny Isakson (R)

1st term (58 percent)

Outlook: Safe Republican

State Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond, one of only two Democrats who hold
statewide office, garnered some excitement when he decided to run. But momentum never
developed, and it’s hard to see a path to victory for the Democrat in a
Republican-leaning state in a GOP-friendly year.

Isakson, who had some health problems in the spring but now is doing well, holds a
steep financial advantage over Thurmond, and the state labor commissioner won’t get
any help from the national party to even the playing field.

Thurmond would need a lot of breaks to turn this into a contest. Isakson shouldn’t
have a tough time winning a second term as long as he isn’t sidelined by further
health issues.

House

2nd district

Incumbent: Sanford Bishop (D)

9th term (69 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

This has been one of the late-developing races of the cycle. Republicans targeted
Bishop in the past before a mid-decade redistricting made his seat more secure. But
time and a favorable national environment have moved Bishop’s seat back into
play.

Bishop is a Blue Dog Coalition member and he holds one of the most conservative
voting records in the Congressional Black Caucus. But state Rep. Mike Keown (R)
argues that Bishop has lost his independence under a Congress lead by Speaker Nancy
Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Recently, Republicans have focused on reports that Bishop steered thousands of
dollars in CBC scholarships to family members.

The rapidly increasing interest in the race from national GOP operatives means
Republicans see a real chance in the 2nd district. The Democratic-leaning southwest
Georgia district is also a cheap seat to play in for the national party.

A key for Bishop will be to get black voters, who make up nearly 48 percent of the
population, to come out this cycle. The black population helped give President Barack
Obama a 9-point margin of victory in the district in 2008.

7th district

Open seat: John Linder (R) is retiring

Outlook: Safe Republican

Linder’s endorsement helped his former chief of staff, Rob Woodall, emerge from a
crowded primary and runoff to secure the GOP nomination. Woodall is now the
unquestioned frontrunner to replace his old boss in the solidly Republican suburban
Atlanta district.

Democrats have once again nominated Iraq War veteran Doug Heckman. Heckman took
just 38 percent last cycle in a much more favorable environment for Democrats. With
no help on the way from the national party and a much tougher environment, Heckman is
not expected to do much better in this year’s open-seat contest.

8th district

Incumbent: Jim Marshall (D)

4th term (57 percent)

Outlook: Tossup

Republicans have repeatedly targeted Marshall’s conservative district over the
years, but they think they’ve finally found the right candidate and the right
environment to knock him off.

State Rep. Austin Scott (R), who was elected to the Georgia House in 1997, decided
late in the cycle to drop his gubernatorial ambitions and challenge Marshall. He has
used his connections around the state to quickly raise money.

As he’s done in the past, Marshall is touting the fact that he has one of the most
conservative voting records in the Democratic Caucus.

But Scott thinks a pair of high-profile votes will be the Blue Dog Democrat’s
undoing.

Marshall voted for the stimulus program, which Republicans have cast as one of the
most fiscally irresponsible bills in recent history. Scott also highlights Marshall’s
first vote this Congress, which was to elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. As one
might expect in the Ceep South, the liberal California Democrat is not popular in
Marshall’s middle-Georgia district.

Marshall has worked to show his independence and recently joined Republicans in
calling for an extension of all the Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire at the
end of the year.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released polling in September that
showed Marshall up by double digits. But it’s hard to believe those numbers won’t
close by November — if they haven’t already.

Kentucky


Senate

Open seat: Jim Bunning (R) is retiring

Outlook: Leans Republican

Eye surgeon Rand Paul, the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R), continues to ride the
tea party wave that helped him earn an upset victory in the GOP primary.

The conservative nature of Kentucky and favorable environment give Republicans
inherent advantages this cycle, and most public polling gives him the edge over
Attorney General Jack Conway (D).

But the race bears watching as Paul’s propensity for making controversial
statements could still cause a late shift.

Conway’s first negative ad focused on a comment Paul made, in which he indicated
that nonviolent crimes shouldn’t be against the law. Conway pounced on the comment as
a way to show that Paul is out of touch with Kentucky voters. Paul’s primary opponent
was unsuccessful in his attempt to tag the tea party candidate as a man with “strange
ideas,” but Democrats think they can make that case in the general election. They’ve
already attacked him for questioning the government’s role in the Civil Rights Act of
1964 and for describing drug use as not being a pressing issue in Kentucky.

Both national committees have signaled their intentions to play in Kentucky. The
race is likely to come down to whether voters think Paul is too extreme or whether
they think Conway will be rubber stamp for his national party leadership in
Washington.

House

3rd district

Incumbent: John Yarmuth (D)

2nd term (59 percent)

Outlook: Likely Democratic

With the national environment tipping decidedly in their favor, Republicans were
keen about putting this Louisville-based district in play. But the wind was taken out
of their sails when their preferred candidate, businessman Jeff Reetz, was upset by
tea-party-backed commercial pilot Todd Lally in the primary.

Since then, the NRCC has made the more conservative Lexington-based 6th district
the focus of its efforts in the Bluegrass State.

Lally has put significant personal resources into the contest and having tea party
champion and Senate candidate Rand Paul (R) at the top of the ticket should help in
the general election. But unless a very large GOP wave develops on Election Day,
Yarmuth should be able to hang on. A recent independent poll by a Kentucky news and
political website put Yarmuth up by 23 points.

6th district

Incumbent: Ben Chandler (D)

3rd full term (65 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

Like many Democratic incumbents in conservative districts, Chandler has worked to
tout the times he stood up to his own party this cycle. He is quick to cite his vote
against the health care bill and the Wall Street bailout bill.

His opponent, lawyer Andy Barr (R), has focused on the high-profile votes where
Chandler fell in line with his party’s leadership, including the cap-and-trade bill
that is viewed by Kentucky’s powerful coal industry as a direct attack on their
livelihood.

Chandler has deep roots in the district and a hefty campaign war chest, but the
X-factor in the race may be the energy and coal companies that have already signaled
their willingness to use their deep pockets to bring down the Congressman.

In a cheap media market such as Lexington, those groups could even the financial
playing field for Barr and create major problems for Chandler — but they’ll need to
engage soon.

Louisiana


Senate

Incumbent: David Vitter (R)

1st term (51 percent)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Rep. Charlie Melancon, the lone Democratic member of the state’s House delegation,
was probably the best recruit his party could get to take on Vitter. But it may not
matter in the current political environment and in a state that has trended
increasingly Republican in recent years.

Democrats have done everything they can to make the campaign about Vitter’s
personal life and have focused on tarnishing his image among women. But the Senator
is betting pocketbook issues will be the bigger concern for Louisiana voters this
cycle.

He has cast himself as a staunch conservative who will stand up to the Obama
administration and Democrats in Congress. He points to Melancon’s vote for the
stimulus bill as reckless and a sign that the Congressman won’t rein in Washington
spending.

Melancon has turned his attention to tax cuts and portrayed Vitter as someone who
wants to protect the wealthy. It’s a similar theme to one Democrats pushed over the
summer, when they argued the Senator wanted to protect oil interests during the
environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Every public poll shows Vitter up by double digits, and even a Democratic
Senatorial Campaign Committee poll from mid-September showed the Senator ahead by 10
points. To make matters worse for Democrats, Vitter’s campaign war chest is more than
double the size of Melancon’s.

House

2nd district

Incumbent: Anh “Joseph” Cao (R)

1st term (50 percent)

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Cao’s New Orleans-based district continues to be Democrats’ top takeover target
this fall.

The first Vietnamese-American Member of Congress won the district by fewer than
2,000 votes against scandal-plagued Rep. William Jefferson (D) in an unusual December
general election that saw extremely low turnout. But Democrats expect that the
majority black district that gave President Barack Obama 75 percent of the vote in
2008 will revert back to their column this cycle.

While Cao has worked to portray himself as an independent who looks out for the
interests of New Orleans over his party, Democrats point out that Cao has voted with
Republicans more than 80 percent of the time and has tried to block Democratic
priorities, including the stimulus and health care bills.

Cao faces state Rep. Cedric Richmond. Richmond has received several endorsements
from top state and national Democratic party leaders, but none more important than
Obama’s, which came in September. Obama’s decision to step into the race is
particularly important because Cao has tried to cultivate the image that he has a
good working relationship with the White House.

Recent polling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee showed
Richmond with a double-digit lead.

3rd district

Open seat: Charlie Melancon (D) is running for Senate

Outlook: Safe Republican

Democrats would have had a good shot at holding this district if Melancon hadn’t
left to run statewide.

But Melancon’s success in the district was a bit of a partisan anomaly unlikely to
transfer to attorney Ravi Sangisetty (D). While Melancon did not even draw a
Republican opponent in 2008, GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) took
61 percent of the 3rd district’s votes.

Republicans have yet to settle on their nominee. Their late-August primary ended
without a clear winner, although state Senate candidate Jeff Landry came very close
to topping the 50 percent threshold. He was heavily favored to finish the job against
Hunt Downer, a former state Speaker, in the GOP runoff Saturday.

Mississippi


House

1st district

Incumbent: Travis Childers (D)

1st full term (54 percent)

Outlook: Tossup

After an upset special-election victory in early 2008, Childers won a full term
that fall by running 17 points ahead of President Barack Obama. But this November
there won’t be any other races at the top of the ballot to help drive Democratic
turnout, and the national political environment won’t help the Congressman against
state Sen. Alan Nunnelee (R).

In this mostly rural district deep in the heart of Dixie, the Congressional race
will likely come down to which candidate can out-conservative the other.

With his membership in the Blue Dog Coalition and his opposition to abortion,
same-sex marriage and gun control, it’s hard to get much further to the right than
Childers. But Republicans think they can tie him to his party’s liberal leaders and
knock him out with his vote for the stimulus bill.

Democrats say they’ve found a weakness in Nunnelee’s conservative credentials on
the issue of taxes. They’ve hit him for several votes on tax bills he made during his
tenure in the state Legislature and have worked to tie him to the FairTax proposal
that would replace federal income taxes with a national sales tax.

Polling from the contest has produced mixed results, which likely means this race
will go down to the wire.

North Carolina

Senate

Incumbent: Richard Burr (R)

1st term (52 percent)

Outlook: Likely Republican

Burr may well be the luckiest Senator running for re-election this cycle. That’s
because the national political environment has made it increasingly difficult for
Democrats to take advantage of his upside-down approval rating in the Tar Heel State.
There’s also the fact that Democrats had substantial recruiting problems in North
Carolina and then failed to get their chosen candidate through the primary.

Democrats wound up with state Secretary of State Elaine Marshall. Marshall has
name identification stemming from her four terms in statewide office, but her biggest
problem continues to be fundraising, especially when Burr has a $6 million-plus war
chest.

In another cycle, national Democrats might be able to devote more resources to
knocking off Burr. But they’re so busy playing defense this year that Marshall may be
left trying to do it mostly on her own.

House

7th district

Incumbent: Mike McIntyre (D)

7th term (69 percent)

Outlook: Likely Democratic

This race wasn’t on anyone’s radar screens for most of the cycle, but the national
Republicans have been increasingly optimistic about putting the slightly
Republican-leaning downstate district in play. The National Republican Congressional
Committee demonstrated its interest in mid-September with a six-figure ad buy. The
NRCC clearly thinks it can paint the seven-term Congressman as having “gone
Washington.” The committee’s 30-second ad, which asked “who does Mike McIntyre work
for?” mentioned Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) three times and featured three
different pictures of her.

The Congressman seems concerned about his re-election prospects and has gone on
the attack against his Republican challenger, former Marine Ilario Pantano. McIntyre,
a native son of the Tar Heel State, has hit Pantano for not understanding the
district because he moved to North Carolina from New York several years ago and
previously worked for the financial giant Goldman Sachs. Democratic operatives say
Pantano is unfit for office, pointing to the capital murder charges he was brought up
on during his service as a Marine. (He was cleared after a military
investigation.)

McIntyre has a hefty war chest and plenty of connections built over his 14 years
in Congress, so it’s probably going to take continued NRCC spending to really put the
7th district in play. But if a large enough Republican wave develops, McIntyre could
be one of the surprise incumbents to get washed away this fall.

8th district

Incumbent: Larry Kissell (D)

1st term (55 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

Kissell is a first-term Democrat with weak fundraising in a politically
competitive district, so it’s no surprise he’s a top target for Republicans in North
Carolina.

His GOP challenger is former Charlotte-area sportscaster Harold Johnson, who moved
into the 8th district last year to challenge the Congressman. Johnson’s fundraising
hasn’t been overly impressive, and he still has room to grow as a candidate. But his
biggest strength is already clear: He’s not a Democrat. And in such a
Republican-friendly environment, that may be enough to knock off Kissell in this
battleground district anchored by Charlotte and Fayetteville.

Kissell has worked hard to highlight the times when he’s bucked his party and
makes sure to include plenty of criticism about government overreach when he’s on the
campaign trail.

Johnson and national GOP strategists think they still have time to drive a wedge
between Kissell and sympathetic conservative voters in his district.

In the end, Johnson’s chances may depend on how much national Republicans are
willing to invest in the relatively expensive Charlotte media market.

11th district

Incumbent: Heath Shuler (D)

2nd term (62 percent)

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Of the three North Carolina House districts that national Republicans have talked
about targeting this cycle, the 11th has gotten the least attention to date.

Still, Shuler can’t rest easy in his conservative mountain district, and he’s
already gone on the attack. The Congressman has launched ads that call his Republican
opponent, nonprofit founder Jeff Miller, as a champion of Social Security
privatization and of Medicare reforms that would hurt the district’s many
seniors.

Miller is working to depict Shuler as just another self-serving politician who has
failed to help working families during the economic downturn.

Miller, who is well behind in the money chase, will likely need more help from the
national party to have a chance at knocking off Shuler.

South Carolina


Senate

Incumbent: Jim DeMint (R)

1st term (54 percent)

Outlook: Safe Republican

Democrat Alvin Greene may be one of the most unusual political stories of the 2010
cycle, but that doesn’t give him any more of a chance at knocking off DeMint.

Greene, a 32-year-old black Army veteran, came out of nowhere to upset Vic Rawl to
win the Democratic nomination in June.

But Greene, who is unemployed and lives with his father, is more of a political
curiosity than a serious candidate. His long-shot campaign wasn’t helped in August
when he was indicted on a felony charge of showing pornography to a teenage student
in a South Carolina college computer lab in 2009.

With millions in the bank, a favorable political environment and a growing
national reputation as a conservative champion, DeMint has little to fear this
fall.

House

1st district

Open seat: Henry Brown (R) is retiring

Outlook: Safe Republican

State Rep. Tim Scott appears well on his way to becoming the first black
Republican to serve in Congress since former Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.) left in
2002.

Scott dropped his bid for lieutenant governor earlier this year and became the
favorite of national party figures and outside conservative groups. He won a nine-way
primary that included the son of legendary GOP Sen. Strom Thurmond and the son of
former Gov. Carroll Campbell, then won the June runoff.

Scott’s general election race against Democrat Ben Frasier, a former Congressional
aide and frequent candidate, is little more than a formality in this conservative
district.

3rd district

Open seat: Gresham Barrett (R) lost a gubernatorial primary

Outlook: Safe Republican

State Rep. Jeff Duncan needed a runoff to secure the GOP nomination in the 3rd
district after an unexpectedly strong challenge by businessman Richard Cash.

But Duncan should cruise to victory in November now that he’s the GOP nominee. The
district is a conservative stronghold that votes solidly Republican in state and
federal elections. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the district by nearly 30 points in
the 2008 presidential contest.

4th district

Open seat: Bob Inglis (R) was defeated in a primary

Outlook: Safe Republican

Spartanburg County Solicitor Trey Gowdy capitalized on the national
anti-establishment mood in June to knock off Inglis in the GOP primary.

Gowdy’s victory in the Spartanburg- and Greenville-based district was built on his
ability to paint Inglis as a Washington insider who had strayed from his conservative
values and become too moderate during his time in Congress. He was also helped by a
strong fundraising effort that never allowed the Congressman to build an overwhelming
financial advantage.

Gowdy will now coast to victory in the overwhelmingly Republican district that is
home to the conservative Bob Jones University.

5th district

Incumbent: John Spratt (D)

14th term (62 percent)

Outlook: Tossup

Unlike some of his fellow Democrats in conservative districts, Spratt can’t
plausibly run away from the party’s agenda this fall or try to portray himself as a
Washington outsider. As House Budget chairman, Spratt is one of of the top
lieutenants for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But Spratt is hoping that voters will remember the many projects he has helped
bring to the district during his long tenure in Congress, as well as a constituent
service program that has won praise even in Republican circles.

For GOP nominee Mick Mulvaney, the narrative of the 5th district contest is how a
likable, old-line Southern Democrat from a mostly rural and conservative district
lost his way and became a rubber stamp for a radically liberal agenda pursued by
President Barack Obama and party leaders.

Mulvaney points out that Spratt was a “yes” vote for the three most controversial
pieces of legislation the House has considered this Congress: the stimulus,
cap-and-trade and health care. And though Spratt is often celebrated for his efforts
to produce a balanced budget in the late 1990s, Republicans have hit him this cycle
for his failure to produce a budget resolution. Mulvaney thinks the move is a
deliberate attempt by Spratt to help hide the ballooning spending and deficits.

The committees of the national parties are expected to invest heavily in the
upstate district and, with Spratt’s leadership connections, the race has become a
subject of national interest this cycle.

Tennessee


House

3rd district

Open seat: Zach Wamp (R) lost a gubernatorial primary

Outlook: Safe Republican

The race to replace Wamp was pretty well decided in the GOP primary in August in
this safely Republican Chattanooga-based district.

Well-funded lawyer Chuck Fleischmann narrowly defeated well-connected former state
GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith in an intensely personal and negative contest.

Fleischmann’s biggest endorsement came from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
(R), but his biggest campaign contributor was himself. He loaned his campaign about
$700,000 during the primary.

Fleischmann faces attorney John Wolfe (D) in a race that national Democrats are
not targeting this fall.

4th district

Incumbent: Lincoln Davis (D)

4th term (59 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

In such a Republican-friendly environment, Democrats are wary their hold on the
middle Tennessee 4th district could slip away late in the campaign.

Davis has been a relatively weak fundraiser for an incumbent, and GOP strategists
say his vote for the controversial stimulus bill has given Republicans a key campaign
issue to tie the Congressman to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But Davis has worked hard in his four terms to cultivate the image that he’s a
centrist who has stuck to his socially conservative roots. The Blue Dog Democrat has
earned endorsements from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association
and the National Right to Life in this cycle.

His Republican challenger, physician Scott DesJarlais, isn’t a top-flight recruit
and hasn’t raised much cash. Democrats have already made an issue of some of the more
shocking details of DesJarlais’ nasty divorce proceedings from 2000 and 2001.

Davis continues to be favored, but he’ll need to work hard to hang on if a large
Republican wave hits on Election Day.

6th district

Open seat: Bart Gordon (D) is retiring

Outlook: Safe Republican

After Gordon unexpectedly announced his retirement plans in mid-December,
Democrats expressed confidence the party would hold the Republican-trending middle
Tennessee district.

But recruitment efforts never panned out, and Democrats were left with
little-known political newcomer Brett Carter, who will simply be outgunned by state
Sen. Diane Black (R) in November.

National Democratic strategists acknowledge the seat is gone and won’t waste their
resources trying to hold it.

8th district

Open seat: John Tanner (D) is retiring

Outlook: Leans Republican

For a race that features a professional gospel singer and an ex-minister, the
battle for the 8th district has gotten pretty nasty.

Republican Stephen Fincher, a farmer who also tours with his family singing group,
emerged from one of the most expensive primaries this cycle in the rural western
Tennessee district that Tanner has held for more than two decades.

Fincher is a first-time candidate who quickly became a darling of national
Republican recruiters, who think he’s the right kind of candidate for this cycle’s
“outsider” environment.

But immediately after the August primary, the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Roy
Herron, revived a line of attack that was used against Fincher in the GOP race.
Herron released a commercial that accused Fincher of violating election law by not
disclosing some of his family’s assets and liabilities on his personal disclosure
form. Herron has repeatedly called Fincher “unworthy of our trust.”

Fincher has taken the attacks personally. He has accused Herron’s camp of twisting
the truth and has refused to debate Herron unless he takes down his commercials and
apologizes for them. Democrats say Fincher’s refusal to debate is evidence that he’s
hiding something, and they’ve dragged the issue out for more than five weeks. Tanner
has gotten involved and has called on Fincher to “come clean” on the source of one of
his loans.

Republicans are trying to change the storyline of the race and talk about how
Herron would empower Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) if he gets to Washington,
D.C.

Several conservative third-party groups have also gotten involved in the race on
Fincher’s behalf. But the well-funded Herron has done a good job of staying on
offense in a conservative seat that will be a tough one for Democrats to hold in such
a Republican-friendly year.

Virginia


House

2nd district

Incumbent: Glenn Nye (D)

1st term (52 percent)

Outlook: Tossup

After losing this military-heavy district in the Democratic wave of 2008,
Republicans are keen on putting it back in their column. But it’s difficult for
Republicans to portray Nye as in lock step with party leaders because his voting
record is among the most conservative in the Democratic Caucus.

Republicans are hitting Nye for his vote for the stimulus bill. But that line of
attack is complicated since car dealer Scott Rigell’s dealership sold more than 100
cars under the Cash for Clunkers program that was largely funded by the stimulus.

Rigell’s combination of solid fundraising and personal wealth (he’s put about $1
million of his own money into the race) assures that the Republican will have all the
resources he needs.

Nye, a proven fundraiser during his first term, is emphasizing his record of
tending to the concerns of military personnel, veterans and their families as a
member of the Armed Services Committee.

Another plus for the Congressman is the presence on the November ballot of another
Republican, Kenny Golden, the former chairman of the Republican Party in Virginia
Beach. Golden is running as an Independent after leaving the party earlier this
summer because he felt the primary had been stacked by party leaders to elect Rigell.
Golden has the potential to siphon some votes from Rigell, which could be significant
in a race as tight as this one is expected to be.

5th district

Incumbent: Tom Perriello (D)

1st term (50 percent)

Outlook: Tossup

Perriello is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. His votes in
favor of the stimulus, cap-and-trade and health care bills endeared him to base
voters and helped him raise ample campaign funds. But the votes stirred up
significant GOP opposition and are a key reason he may not be back for a second term
representing south and central Virginia.

Perriello faces GOP state Sen. Robert Hurt and Independent tea party candidate
Jeff Clark on the November ballot. But even with Clark in the race, most polling
shows Perriello to be highly vulnerable.

Perriello has been working the district hard, dropping numerous ads, and his
fundraising remains strong. To catch up, Hurt will need a lot of help from the party,
which is already coming. By late September, the National Republican Congressional
Committee had already dropped $250,000 on the race.

9th district

Incumbent: Rick Boucher (D)

14th term (97 percent)

Outlook: Leans Democratic

Republicans expect that Morgan Griffith, the Majority Leader of the state House,
will give Boucher the closest race of his career.

The GOP’s main line of attack is that Boucher supported the cap-and-trade bill.
They say the measure will hobble the many families and businesses that rely on the
coal industry in southwestern Virginia. Boucher, a senior member of the powerful
Energy and Commerce Committee, says he helped secure important provisions for coal.
On the campaign trail, the Congressman focuses on his long record of economic
development that helped endear him to 9th district voters for many years.

Boucher is well-known and well-funded, but Griffith is already getting help
leveling the financial playing field from both the national party and conservative
third-party groups. The NRCC had poured nearly $200,000 into the district by late
September, while Americans for Job Security had dumped more than $350,000 into the
race.

Since the results in the commonwealth will be known relatively early on election
night, it will be a good indicator that the Democratic majority is gone if Boucher
goes down.

11th district

Incumbent: Gerry Connolly (D)

1st term (55 percent)

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Connolly was presumed to be relatively safe after winning this Democratic-trending
suburban Northern Virginia district in 2008.

He faces a rematch from last cycle with businessman Keith Fimian, who lost by 12
points that year.

Taxes and spending are big issues in this fiscally conservative district that is
one of the nation’s wealthiest. That’s why Connolly has spoken against the
president’s proposal to let Bush-era tax cuts expire for those in the highest income
brackets. It’s hard for Fimian to run on the same anti-Washington message many
Republicans are championing, seeing as a quarter of 11th district voters work for the
federal government.

Connolly has a large cash-on-hand advantage despite Fimian’s personal wealth, and
the Republican probably needs help from the national party or outside groups if he’s
going to upset Connolly. Unless a very large GOP wave develops, the party will spend
its time and money on their trio of better opportunities in the commonwealth.