Midwest Region Roundup
Illinois Republicans Face Uphill Battle for Seats After Redistricting
Gov. Pat Quinn (D)
2012 Electoral Votes: 20
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 62%/McCain 37%
2nd district | Incumbent: Jesse Jackson Jr. (D)
8th full term (81 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Jackson should easily survive Tuesday’s primary against former Rep. Debbie Halvorson. Without another black candidate splitting the primary vote, the race was not very competitive for the Chicago Democrat, who has had a rough few years.
Jackson still had to run his most aggressive re-election campaign in years. That’s in part because the House Ethics Committee has not dropped its investigation into Jackson’s dealings with disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). But the committee has not asked a subcommittee to continue the investigation either.
Jackson insists he’ll be vindicated, but the taint of the investigation temporarily slowed his fundraising. At the end of 2011, Jackson had spent almost as much as he raised, leaving him with $263,000 in the bank.
Jackson’s redrawn district extends south past Chicago to two exurban and rural counties that are unfamiliar territory to him. It’s one of the state’s three majority-black districts.
8th district | Incumbent: Joe Walsh (R)
1st term (48 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic
Democrats masterfully carved out this new seat in the northwest Chicago suburbs, and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D) is favored to win it.
Duckworth, who is well-known from her high-profile 2006 race against Rep. Peter Roskam (R), and Illinois Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi are running in the Democratic primary. Even though Krishnamoorthi has run a strong campaign, it’s nearly impossible to dent Duckworth’s positive name identification in this pricey Chicago media market.
National Republicans scored big when Walsh announced he’d run here instead of in a nearby Republican district against Rep. Randy Hultgren (R). Walsh will probably lose, but national Republicans avoided an expensive, bloody battle between two GOP freshmen.
There are several reasons Walsh is more likely to lose than to win. He’s unpredictable and outspoken, not to mention that he’s suffered from frequent headlines about his alleged child support debt. More importantly, this seat is prime Democratic territory, and the conservative firebrand will have a tough time convincing voters he’s a good fit to represent them.
10th district | Incumbent: Robert Dold (R)
1st term (51 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic
If Charlie Brown were a Democrat, this north Chicago seat would be Lucy’s football. Every time it looks like Charlie Brown will kick Lucy’s football into the sky, she yanks it away at the last minute.
In other words, the partisan makeup of this district is great for Democrats, but they can’t seem to score here after repeated attempts.
The Democratic primary remains divided among former MoveOn.org organizer Ilya Sheyman, businessman Brad Schneider and, to a lesser degree, Air Force reservist John Tree.
Sheyman staked out his ground on the far left with endorsements from Howard Dean and former Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.). But even in a Democratic primary, he might be too liberal for a district that elected a moderate Republican to Congress for three decades.
Schneider is the local party favorite and a strong fundraiser, but the district’s liberal base detests him and is enamored of Sheyman.
The third candidate, Tree, got into the race late and therefore hasn’t been much of a factor.
Republicans are optimistic that if Sheyman wins Tuesday’s primary, Dold’s prospects will improve. But given the composition of the district, any of these Democrats could beat Dold this fall. The freshman Republican is a strong fundraiser, but this district is very tough for any GOP Member, especially with Chicago’s hometown president at the top of the ticket this fall.
11th district | Incumbent: Judy Biggert (R)
7th term (64 percent) | Outlook: Tossup
Democrats carved up Biggert’s Naperville-based district and spread the territory across several districts during redistricting. Biggert’s home is in the heavily Democratic 5th district, but almost 50 percent of her current district is in the redrawn 11th, so she opted to run here.
Former Rep. Bill Foster (D), who lost his seat in the GOP wave of 2010, announced he will seek this seat, too. He represented about a quarter of the territory during his short tenure in Congress.
Illinois Democrats redrew this as a Democratic district, which means Biggert has an uphill climb. On the other hand, Foster is far from a stellar candidate, and Biggert is better known in the region.
If Biggert wins, her victory will mark an incredible coup d’etat for Republicans emboldened by the controversial map gerrymandered by Democrats.
12th district | Open seat: Jerry Costello (D) is retiring.
Outlook: Leans Democratic
Costello’s departure originally created one of the few bright spots this cycle for Illinois Republicans following the Democratic-led redraw. The district marginally favors Democrats but has the potential to feature a competitive race.
Democrats had a tough time finding a candidate here in the wake of Costello’s announcement. Some of the more obvious successors to Costello, including his son and former state Rep. Jay Hoffmann, declined.
St. Clair County Regional Schools Superintendent Brad Harriman emerged as the Democrats’ best candidate before the filing deadline. He’s politically untested, but he’s proved himself to be a strong fundraiser so far.
Before Costello retired, Republicans were already recruiting candidates to run against him, including 2010 lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer, who is favored to win tomorrow’s GOP primary. Former Belleville Mayor Roger Cook (R) is also running.
Plummer is not the smoothest candidate, but he has high name identification from his prior statewide run and personal financial means. The 12th district is pricey because of the St. Louis media market, and Plummer’s deep pockets could help him down the stretch if he decided to help self-fund his campaign.
Still, Harriman has the upper hand.
13th district | Incumbent: Timothy Johnson (R)
6th term (64 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican
Johnson could have his first tough race in a decade thanks to redistricting.
Democrats crafted this district to be more competitive under the new Congressional map. They persuaded Greene County State’s Attorney Matt Goetten to change his mind and run for this seat after he originally declined.
Goetten hails from a political family, but he’s not that well-known in the district. He’ll have to raise enough money to make up for the name identification deficit.
On the other hand, Johnson is a much stronger candidate than many give him credit for. He’s known for his quirky habits, including personally phoning his constituents all day while he paces the Capitol hallways.
Democrats probably underestimated Johnson’s political savvy and work ethic. He’s going to be a tough candidate to beat.
16th district | Member vs. Member: Adam Kinzinger (R) and Don Manzullo (R)
1st term (57 percent); 10th term (65 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican
There’s no other race that illustrates the changing of the guard in Illinois GOP politics like this one.
Manzullo, 67, and Kinzinger, 34, are facing off in what has been a lively, competitive fight for the Republican nod.
At the outset, Manzullo has an advantage because he has represented a hefty portion of the district for a long time. But he is not the best fundraiser, despite his plush assignment on the Financial Services Committee.
Kinzinger, a freshman, has exhibited political acumen in his short time on the Hill. He defeated then-Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D), a skilled campaigner, by 15 points in 2010. On the other hand, Manzullo also hasn’t had a tough race since 1992.
The winner of the GOP primary will be coming back to Congress.
17th district | Incumbent: Bobby Schilling (R)
1st term (53 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic
Behind Rep. Joe Walsh, Schilling is the Illinois Republican second-most-likely not to return to Congress next year. That’s why he’s on our list of Top 10 Most Vulnerable Members.
Democrats redrew this district to make it much more competitive, folding in the city of Rockford and parts of Peoria.
An initially crowded Democratic field thinned in recent months, and East Moline Alderman Cheri Bustos is now the presumptive nominee. She has national support, and she is better known and raises more money than her primary opponents.
The affable Schilling is a good candidate, and the pizza restaurant owner has a sweet personal story, but this district is nearly impossible for a conservative Republican to win now.
Gov. Mitch Daniels (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 11
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 50%/McCain 49%
Incumbent: Dick Lugar (R)
6th term (87 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Lugar is among the most vulnerable GOP Senators up in 2012 and probably the most vulnerable facing a primary. If Lugar wins re-election, it’s because state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) ran a horrible campaign.
Until recently, Lugar’s prospects looked improved over the start of the cycle, when many Republicans wrote him off as unable to run a modern-day campaign. But Lugar’s team kept plugging away, raising money and traveling to Hoosier State locales the Senator hasn’t visited in years.
However, Lugar has recently faced increased scrutiny and headlines over his residency. Last week a local election board ruled him ineligible to vote in the state. That’s a huge problem (the TV ads write themselves), and it could be detrimental if Mourdock can capitalize on it.
But Mourdock’s fundraising has been weak. Indiana sources say his ground game is disorganized, too.
On the bright side for Moudrock, he finally boasts the support of national conservative groups including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Express. They can boost him with ads ahead of the primary.
Polling has been scarce in this race. The state’s unique robocall ban prevents some of the better-known public polling firms from taking the temperature of primary voters.
Indiana has an open primary, and Lugar’s campaign is counting on crossover support from independent voters and even some Democrats.
Lugar’s mainstream appeal is also the reason the presumptive Democratic nominee, Rep. Joe Donnelly, has a very slim chance of winning if the Senator makes it to the November ballot. That’s why over the past few months Democrats stepped up their criticism of Lugar, who sometimes serves as their party’s legislative ally in the Senate.
Donnelly’s chances improve if Mourdock is the nominee, but it will still be an uphill slog for the Democrat in a presidential year.
2nd district | Open seat: Joe Donnelly (D) is running for Senate.
Outlook: Leans Republican
Democrats don’t have a good chance of holding this seat. Even Donnelly chose the Senate race over seeking re-election here.
The reconfigured 2nd no longer includes Kokomo, a town with a strong union base that consistently performed well for Donnelly. The district also lost another Democratic stronghold, Michigan City, to the 1st district.
But Democrats are bullish because they recruited a strong candidate, Iraq War veteran Brendan Mullen, a darling of Blue Dog Democrats. However, the district might just be out of reach for any Democrat.
Republicans have a top-notch recruit in former state Rep. Jackie Walorski. The district is tailor-made for Walorski, and the only strike against her is that she couldn’t beat Donnelly in the previous cycle. But it’s her race to lose now.
5th district | Open seat: Dan Burton (R) is retiring.
Outlook: Safe Republican
Several GOP candidates lined up to challenge Burton before he announced retirement, and the field only grew after that.
Former Rep. David McIntosh, former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks, lawyer Jack Lugar, Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold and former Marion County Coroner John McGoff, who challenged Burton the previous two cycles, are all running.
McIntosh, Brooks and Seybold should be the top competitors, but anyone could win this crowded primary because there’s no runoff. Burton backed Seybold a few days after he announced he wasn’t running.
Meanwhile, Democrats are excited that state Rep. Scott Reske entered the race. They cite changes to the district, such as the inclusion of the Indianapolis suburbs and Madison County, an organized labor stronghold, as beneficial to Reske.
But now that Burton will not be the GOP nominee, this district isn’t competitive anymore.
6th district | Open seat: Mike Pence (R) is running for governor.
Outlook: Safe Republican
This district’s geography changed as a result of redistricting, and now it stretches all the way to the state’s southern border along the Ohio River. But the partisan lean of the district, a safe GOP seat, has not changed much.
For that reason, it didn’t take long for several Republicans to announce their bids after Pence announced he was leaving.
Candidates include former Indiana Republican Party Executive Director Luke Messer, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Dan Burton in the 5th district’s 2010 GOP primary; real estate investor Travis Hankins, who ran in the GOP primary in the 9th district in 2010; John Hatter, a former aide to Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.); and financial adviser Don Bates, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for Senate in 2010.
Messer and Bates have an advantage over the rest of the field because they’re better known and more prolific fundraisers. But it’s possible any of the other candidates could upset the field and win the primary.
Democrats recruited businessman Brad Bookout, but it’s hard to believe any candidate with a D behind his name could win this seat.
8th district | Incumbent: Larry Bucshon (R)
1st term (58 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
For decades, this district has been known as the “bloody 8th” because of the closeness of its contests and its propensity to switch party hands.
Bucshon easily won his first term by 20 points in an open-seat race. It won’t be that easy for him this cycle. Republicans redrew this district to be friendlier for Democrats, although just slightly so.
Former state Rep. Dave Crooks is the likely nominee here. Last fall, local Democrats smartly powwowed to pick a candidate to avoid a potentially damaging primary. Crooks won his local party’s backing, and his former opponents agreed to support him.
This district, along with the 2nd, should be on top of Hoosier Democrats’ target list. If Democrats have a prayer of winning back the majority, it will be because they are competitive in districts like these. But even with the geographical changes to the 8th, Bucshon is more likely than not to keep his seat.
Gov. Rick Snyder (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 16
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 57%/McCain 41%
Incumbent: Debbie Stabenow (D) | 2nd term (57 percent)
Outlook: Likely Democratic
Stabenow stands on more solid footing for re-election than she did a few months ago. At the start of the cycle, Stabenow was on track to have the toughest race of her Senate career because of Michigan’s depressed economy and recent GOP gains in the state.
But one big blunder by her likely opponent, former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, shifted the direction of this race. Hoekstra aired a highly controversial advertisement during the Super Bowl that depicted a Chinese woman biking through rice paddy fields and speaking broken English. Democrats and Republicans immediately called out the spot for its racial overtones, and Hoekstra was forced to take it down by the end of the week.
This should be a recoverable blunder for Hoekstra, except that it could be indicative of larger problems in his campaign. Who would OK a needless risk like that early in the campaign?
Despite the stumble, Hoekstra is still favored to win the GOP nomination over his chief competition, charter schools executive Clark Durant. Although Durant raises a good amount of money, his candidacy hasn’t gained enough traction to chip away at Hoekstra’s strong residual name identification from his 2010 gubernatorial bid.
Stabenow, on the other hand, keeps marching along and fundraising at a solid rate. What’s more, her home-state economic woes improved in the past few months, which only makes her a safer bet for re-election.
1st district | Incumbent: Dan Benishek (R)
1st term (52 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican
Benishek, a surgeon, faces a rematch with former state Rep. Gary McDowell (D), a hay farmer, in this sprawling northern district.
Benishek beat McDowell in an open-seat race by 11 points last year. Despite that resounding defeat, Democrats are bullish on the race this cycle.
Republicans tried to shore up the freshman’s district during redistricting, but they managed to make this coastal district only slightly better for Benishek. Nonetheless, McDowell has an uphill climb. He may have a similar profile to ex-Rep. Bart Stupak — a pro-gun, anti-abortion Democrat — but he isn’t nearly as well-known. That’s a huge hurdle in this district, which is expensive because it is spread out across several media markets.
5th district | Open seat: Dale Kildee (D) is retiring.
Outlook: Safe Democratic
Democrats will hold this district, and the Kildees will be able to keep this seat in their family in all likelihood.
Republicans in the Legislature barely changed the partisan makeup of this gritty, blue-collar, Flint- and Saginaw-anchored district in eastern Michigan.
Although several Democrats initially planned to run here, Kildee’s nephew, former Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee, has emerged as the early frontrunner. Dan Kildee kicked off the race with the advantage of name identification and has already demonstrated his strong fundraising abilities.
Former state Rep. Jim Slezak, who recently changed parties, becoming a Republican, and police officer Tom Wassa (R) have announced bids here, too. But the winner of the Democratic nomination will most likely succeed Dale Kildee.
7th district | Incumbent: Tim Walberg (R)
2nd term (50 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Democrats were attempting to woo former Rep. Joe Schwarz to run on their party line as of press time. Schwarz served a single term in Congress as a Republican, and his candidacy would mean Democrats have a shot here.
But the party will have a harder time picking up this district than in previous cycles. Since Rep. Mark Schauer (D) lost this seat in 2010 after serving a single term, Republicans redrew the Congressional map. They moved one of the district’s most Democratic parts, Calhoun County, into another district.
It’s no coincidence that both Schwarz and Schauer hail from Calhoun County. If Schwarz does join the race, he’ll now also be running for a district that doesn’t include his home.
13th district | Incumbent: John Conyers (D)
24th term (77 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Republicans did a number on the pair of downtown Detroit seats during redistricting, swapping half of the territory in the 13th and 14th districts.
Conyers represents and lives in the redrawn 14th district, but more of his current district lies in the reconfigured 13th.
Democrats are lining up to seize the opportunity to challenge a newly vulnerable Conyers. State Sens. Bert Johnson and Glenn Anderson, state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and lawyer Godfrey Dillard have announced campaigns against the veteran Congressman.
If the Democratic field shrinks, one of those candidates has a good shot at defeating Conyers. The 13th contains a lot of new territory, and Conyers continues to catch flak for his wife’s incarceration on a bribery conviction.
Regardless, the winner of the Democratic primary will be the next Member of Congress.
14th district | Member vs. Member: Hansen Clarke (D) and Gary Peters (D)
1st term (79 percent); 2nd term (50 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
A heavy redraw of this downtown Detroit district paved the way for a fascinating and lively Member-vs.-Member primary.
Clarke lives in the 13th district, but more of his Congressional territory lies in the redrawn 14th district. After his current district got the ax, Peters announced that he would also seek re-election in the 14th.
Clarke has a geographical advantage because he’s represented more of the district in Congress, but Peters is a dogged campaigner and one of the party’s best fundraisers. He also represented a hefty portion of the district in the state Senate.
Peters is favored to win this majority-black district. He continues to haul in more money for his campaign than Clarke, which is significant because the Detroit media market isn’t cheap. And he’s consistently collected support from organized labor.
This is also one of the most racially and economically diverse districts in the country, stretching from wealthy Grosse Pointe on the lakeshore through blighted downtown Detroit and north to the blue-collar city of Pontiac. The winner of the Democratic nomination will have no problem winning the general election.
Gov. Mark Dayton (D)
2012 Electoral Votes: 10
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 54%/McCain 44%
Incumbent: Amy Klobuchar (D)
1st term (58 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic
Klobuchar’s first race in 2006 was one to watch. This time around, that is not the case. At this point in the cycle, all signs point to her winning a second term with relative ease.
Marquee North Star Republicans such as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Norm Coleman are staying away from the race. Republicans launched a draft campaign for Afghanistan veteran Pete Hegseth, and he jumped into the race in early March. Democrats are brushing off his candidacy. The 31-year-old has a following, and establishment Republican operatives are backing his run. Whether he is a formidable candidate will become more clear after he files his first fundraising report.
1st district | Incumbent: Tim Walz (D)
3rd term (49 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic
Walz’s district slightly improved for him in redistricting. He had a major scare in 2010, even after outspending his opponent by more than 2-to-1. National Democrats describe him as “battle-tested,” and he has built a reputation as a “good-government” Congressman. Walz has been preparing for this race, having raised more than $200,000 in the fourth quarter, and he had more than $600,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year.
Republicans say the mechanics for a win are there for them but admit recruitment has been lackluster. The most prominent challenger is state Sen. Mike Parry. But he has lagged in fundraising. Watch for other Republicans to jump into the race.
2nd district | Incumbent: John Kline (R)
5th term (63 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Kline is one of the biggest losers in Minnesota redistricting. Democrats are more than a little thrilled at the chance to pick up his once-safe seat. No major challengers have thrown their hats into the ring, but national Democrats say to watch for the field to grow.
But the lack of an obvious candidate is why Republicans say Kline should fare well in November. They do have some concerns, but they tout Kline’s “huge war chest” and say he is taking nothing for granted.
7th district | Incumbent: Collin Peterson (D)
11 term (55 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic
Despite Peterson’s 18-point win in 2010, Republicans insist this seat is in play.
Peterson has won relatively easily here in the past despite the fact that the district votes Republican at the presidential level.
National Republicans say the difference this year is in their recruiting. They are touting state Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, calling her “the best challenger we’ve had to date.”
But Peterson is prepared, and it is hard to see how he could fare worse than he did in a dreadful Democratic year such as 2010.
8th district | Incumbent: Chip Cravaack (R)
1st term (48 percent) | Outlook: Tossup
Cravaack’s 2010 win was a political stunner, and because he got no relief in redistricting, this is the most competitive seat in the North Star State.
That 2010 race was a squeaker, but it was enough to defeat longtime Rep. James Oberstar (D).
Democrats say Cravaack is too conservative for the district and are making hay over the fact that his family moved to New Hampshire because of his wife’s employment.
Republicans are concerned about holding the seat. Still, they say the Democratic primary between former state Sen. Tarryl Clark, former Rep. Rick Nolan and Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson could be bruising. Clark recently irked the state party establishment when she announced that she would bypass the DFL Party endorsement process and press on to the August primary.
Clark previously ran against Rep. Michele Bachmann and moved to Duluth to challenge Cravaack before the new map was complete. Should Nolan get the nomination, Republicans are eager to mine his voting record and paint him as a Washington, D.C., insider.
Gov. John Kasich (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 18
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 52%/McCain 47%
Incumbent: Sherrod Brown (D)
1st term (56 percent) | Outlook: Leans Democratic
This race has the potential to be a close contest, but it’s not there yet. This has more to do with the national climate and, to a lesser degree, a first-time federal candidate’s performance than it has to do with Brown.
To be clear, his re-election is on track to be a tougher race than his 2006 victory. The Democrat easily defeated then-Sen. Mike DeWine by 12 points. He probably won’t enjoy the luxury of a double-digit margin this cycle.
Nonetheless, Republicans warn this race is not yet in the top tier. The GOP will wage costly battles in more competitive states such as Montana, Missouri and Nebraska before investing here.
The GOP nominee, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, impressed national Republicans with his ability to bring in big bucks. He raised more than Brown in two quarters in 2011.
But Mandel is still somewhat untested as a statewide candidate. The 34-year-old’s quick ascension to state treasurer and then immediate turnaround to run for Senate paints an image of an overly ambitious, inexperienced official.
Meanwhile, Brown runs a strong campaign and has solid fundraising and an aggressive staff. But again, his re-election will have more to do with the national climate than his own efforts. It’s one of the reasons Ohio remains the nation’s true bellwether state.
2nd district | Open seat: Jean Schmidt (R) was defeated in a primary.
Outlook: Safe Republican
Either Brad Wenstrup is really good or just lucky. He defeated Schmidt by several points to win the GOP nomination, and now he’s likely going to be the next Congressman from this district.
The Democratic candidate is virtually unknown, and reporters could not even find him for several days after his primary win earlier this month.
Schmidt has always been vulnerable to a primary challenge, but she didn’t take
Wenstrup’s bid seriously. Her defeat serves as a warning to all incumbents to run scared or unopposed.
3rd district | New seat
Outlook: Safe Democratic
Republicans have spent too much money defending House seats around Columbus to not do something about that when they redrew the Congressional map. So last year, GOP mapmakers used their redraw to create a safe Democratic seat anchored by Columbus, while making GOP Reps. Patrick Tiberi and Steve Stivers safer by moving their districts outside the city.
Former state House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty won the Democratic nomination in early March and is now all but assured to be the next Congresswoman from this urban district. It’s a Democratic district, and Barack Obama would have captured 60 percent of the vote here in 2008.
Beatty upset former Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D), who many thought was unbeatable in a short primary given her name recognition. Beatty’s victory also marks the first time Ohio will elect two black Members to its delegation. The 3rd district is not a majority-black seat, but a divided primary gave Beatty the edge.
6th district | Incumbent: Bill Johnson (R)
1st term (50 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican
Johnson, a former Air Force officer, knocked off Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) by 5 points in 2010. It looks like the two men will face off again in 2012, but in a more GOP-leaning district.
Republicans improved the GOP performance of the 6th by about 3 points. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would have garnered about 53 percent of the vote there in 2008.
Wilson’s challenges are compounded because of the district’s odd shape. It stretches along most of the eastern border of the state and is inefficiently covered by multiple media markets.
The split media markets mean Wilson will have to raise more money, and so far he’s not doing that. He only had $173,000 in the bank by mid-February, while Johnson had $574,000 in cash on hand.
Wilson’s candidacy should make Republicans pay attention, but Johnson starts with the upper hand.
7th district | Incumbent: Bob Gibbs (R)
1st term (54 percent) | Outlook: Likely Republican
Gibbs was one of five Republicans to knock off an Ohio Democrat in 2010. His re-election race is shaping up to be the easiest out of all four freshman Republicans in the state.
Not only did Republicans improve Gibbs’ district by about 4 points through redistricting, they also included new territory that Gibbs represented in the state Senate. The Congressman only represented a fraction of the district when he won it in 2010.
To make matters easier for the freshman, Gibbs’ 2010 opponent, former Rep. Zack Space, opted against a rematch. Democrats mentioned former Rep. John Boccieri, who also lost re-election in 2010, as a potential opponent. But Boccieri has also eschewed a comeback bid.
Without a top opponent, Gibbs is all but assured to return to Congress.
16th district | Member vs. Member: Jim Renacci (R) and Betty Sutton (D)
1st term (52 percent); 3rd term (56 percent) | Outlook: Tossup
Sutton is the underdog in this match-up with Renacci. Republicans carved up Sutton’s district, but she opted to run here instead of challenging a fellow Democrat.
Republicans also improved the district slightly in the redraw. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) still would have received just
51 percent of the vote in 2008. As a result, Democrats believe GOP mapmakers left this seat on the table for a competitive race.
A few weeks before the primary, Sutton reported $439,000 in cash on hand and Renacci reported a little more than $1 million in the bank. But Renacci, a successful businessman, can dip into his own deep pockets to help his re-election chances if he wants.
Gov. Scott Walker (R)
2012 Electoral Votes: 10
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 56%/McCain 42%
Open Seat: Herb Kohl (D) is retiring.
The Democratic field cleared early for Rep. Tammy Baldwin. She has the backing of EMILY’s List and the national party, and she has proved to be a formidable fundraiser. But Republicans say she is too liberal for a state that only a year and a half ago threw former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) out of office.
Baldwin would be the country’s first openly gay Senator. But neither party seems particularly interested in dwelling on her personal life.
As Baldwin prepares for the general, the action to date has been on the Republican side.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson has an unparalleled brand in modern Wisconsin politics, but his detractors are relentless and angry. The Club for Growth, in particular, has been merciless in its press releases and advertising against him. It remains unclear to national Republicans whether he will be the nominee.
Two other contenders for the GOP nod garnering attention are state Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and former Rep. Mark Neumann. The latest Republican to throw his hat in the ring is businessman Eric Hovde. Few are sure of the effect he will have on the primary, but he is sure to self-finance.
Neumann has the backing of the Club for Growth and the support of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Fitzgerald had a weak fourth quarter, but his legislative alliances with Walker are an oft-noted asset.
Wisconsin voters have been moody over the past few cycles. The same state that voted for President Barack Obama by a large margin in 2008 voted Feingold out of office two years later. These changing dynamics make this race a true Tossup
2nd district | Open seat: Tammy Baldwin (D) is running for Senate.
Outlook: Safe Democratic
With Baldwin in the Senate race, there are several Democrats looking to run in this strongly Democratic seat.
State Reps. Mark Pocan and Kelda Helen Roys announced their candidacies the morning after Baldwin made her Senate bid official, and Dane County Treasurer Dave Worzala jumped into the race in mid-September.
Pocan, who is gay, is likely to get the support of national gay rights political groups, while Roys has been supported by EMILY’s List in the past.
The winner of the Democratic primary will be virtually assured of holding this Madison-based district.
7th district | Incumbent: Sean Duffy (R)
1st term (52 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican
One of two top targets in the state for Democrats, Duffy received the biggest boost from redistricting, as his district shed some Democratic areas that would have made it better territory for his rivals.
Democratic presidential candidates carried Duffy’s current district in 2004 and 2008, but under the new 7th district lines, President George W. Bush would have won it in 2004 with
The district remains tough, though, and Democrats have recruited Pat Kreitlow, a former TV anchor who served one term in the state Senate before being defeated last year.
Democrats continue to make a gleeful effort to remind reporters and voters of Duffy’s March comment: “I struggle to meet my bills right now,” in regard to his $174,000
National Republicans say that while such comments have been problematic, Duffy has righted the ship. They also point to Duffy’s good fundraising as a source of strength.
This race has the potential to become very competitive, and both national parties are paying close attention. But with a huge jump on fundraising over Kreitlow and the district moving in the right direction for him, Duffy has the advantage.
8th district | Incumbent: Reid Ribble (R)
1st term (55 percent) | Outlook: Leans Republican
Ribble, who defeated two-term Rep. Steve Kagen (D) last year, has a new opponent in Democrat Jamie Wall, a small-business man and Rhodes scholar. Democrats think the freshman Congressman is beatable.
Republicans are taking nothing for granted when it comes to Wall and are bullish on Ribble. They also note past Wall comments on tax and health care policy that could come back to haunt him.
This is a Republican district, but fourth-quarter fundraising proved interesting. In his first quarter in the race, Wall outpaced Ribble in the money chase, but the incumbent still holds the cash-on-hand advantage.
This could definitely be a race to watch down the stretch.