Top 10 Vulnerable Members
In some election years, Roll Call has had to scrape to complete its Top
10 Most Vulnerables list. This year, we had the opposite problem.
In fact, so many Members are in danger this cycle that we considered
expanding the list into a Top 20. Or more. But in the interest of
tradition, we’ve kept to 10 our list of Members least likely to serve in
the 112th Congress. And yes, we realize we included only one Republican.
Ranked in order of vulnerability.
1. Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-La.) | 1st term (50 percent)
majority-black district is at the top of Democrats’ very short target list
this year, not just because it was the only district in the state to choose
President Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008, but because
it did so by 52 points. Cao won the district in an unusual December
election that saw extremely low turnout, defeating disgraced former Rep.
William Jefferson (D). This year’s Democratic nominee, state Rep. Cedric
Richmond, has no such ethical baggage.
2. Betsy Markey (D-Colo.) | 1st term (56 percent)
district is one of many Democrats were able to pick up in 2008’s favorable
atmosphere but aren’t likely to hold now. Markey’s own poll in September
found her with just 38 percent support. While that had her tied with state
Rep. Cory Gardner (R), it’s hardly a sign of strength for the freshman.
While Markey has continued a strong fundraising pace, money will not be
enough to save her this time.
3. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) | 10th term (53 percent)
This could very well be the year when Republicans land their
white whale in east central Texas. The GOP has been trying for years to
defeat Edwards, but even though Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won two-thirds
of 17th district voters in the 2008 presidential election, Edwards cruised
to a comfortable victory. Edwards is likable, hard-working and boasts a
voting record that’s more conservative than most Republicans. But this
year, his race may be about Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President
Barack Obama. And that’s not a good thing for the 10-term
4. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) | 1st term (58 percent)
Swing districts tend to flip in wave elections, as this one did
in 2008, when Halvorson won the open-seat race by 24 points. But this year,
Halvorson must run without having Illinois’ popular Senator running for
president at the top of the ticket. By late September, there was no
evidence that her weak poll numbers were moving in a positive direction.
Iraq War veteran Adam Kinzinger is expected to take this seat back for
5. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) | 1st term (52 percent)
Driehaus faces a serious threat from former Rep. Steve Chabot,
the seven-term Republican he unseated in 2008. It will be tough for
Driehaus to win this Cincinnati-based district without the Democratic
turnout operation that existed in 2008, especially among African-Americans,
who make up more than a quarter of the population. If Chabot wins, it will
be the second wave election in which has defeated a Democratic incumbent.
He first won here in 1994.
6. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) | 1st term (57 percent)
Kosmas won a traditionally Republican seat from a
scandal-weakened Tom Feeney in 2008. Kosmas faces a steep challenge in
keeping the seat in Democratic hands, and she didn’t make her path any
easier when she voted this spring for the health care bill after voting
against it last year. Republicans haven’t forgotten the flip-flop. Kosmas
has a healthy war chest, but national Republicans smell blood and won’t let
her drown her GOP challenger, state Rep. Sandy Adams.
7. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) | 1st term (49 percent)
a district he won by less than 3,000 votes in 2008, and that was
represented by a Republican for nearly two decades, the freshman Democrat
must win over more than a few conservative voters if he hopes to return for
a second term. He must also endear himself to his Democratic base,
something Kratovil hasn’t always done well. State Sen. Andy Harris (R) is
back for a second try. He’s well-funded, well-known and, unlike last cycle,
he has enjoyed the full support of the state and national party from day
8. Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio) | 1st term (46 percent)
took two tries for Kilroy to reach Congress in this Columbus-area district,
but it appears that one election is all it will take for her to leave.
Facing former state Sen. Steve Stivers again after a 2,300-vote victory
last time, Kilroy will have difficulty duplicating victory in this
GOP-leaning area during such a favorable cycle for Republicans.
9. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) | 1st term (56 percent)
The Congresswoman’s 17-point win in 2008 was impressive, but it
was aided by the GOP’s inability to recruit a top-tier candidate.
Kirkpatrick outspent her opponent 3-to-1 last time, but she will have no
such luck against Paul Gosar, a well-funded dentist. In the
Republican-leaning district, Gosar is campaigning hard against the
Democrats’ big-ticket legislation, especially health care, and
Kirkpatrick’s support for it. The race will be closer this time, and not in
10. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) | 1st term (50 percent)
It’s a testament to Perriello’s skill as a candidate that he’s
not further up this list. Perriello’s war chest, national fundraising
network, aggressive campaign style and likable personality have given him a
chance in a seat that would otherwise be a certain Republican pickup in a
year like this. Perriello’s support for the three major Democratic
priorities that passed the House this year — the stimulus, cap-and-trade
and health care bills — made him a darling of liberals across the country,
but Perriello will have to answer to Southside Virginia.
Dropped since May list
Travis Childers (D-Miss.)
Walt Minnick (D-Idaho)
Glenn Nye (D-Va.)
Harry Teague (D-N.M.)
Correction: Oct. 4, 2010
The print version of this article includes the wrong name of the
Democratic nominee against Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao. The Democratic nominee is
state Rep. Cedric Richmond.