5 Sleeper House Races
In the midst of wall-to-wall political coverage before Election Day, this handful of House races have managed to mostly fly under the radar.
These are sleeper races, from Arkansas to West Virginia, where the district’s partisan breakdown does not reflect the competitive nature of the race.
As little as two weeks ago, some of these contests were completely overlooked by national political operatives. But new polling suggests these races — like many more competitive contests — are closing, creating eleventh-hour opportunities for the parties.
To be sure, these seats won’t necessarily flip party control on Nov. 4. But thanks to recent events, they should make any election night watch list.
In alphabetical order, here are five sleeper House races of 2014:
Arkansas’ 2nd District
Republicans laughed last year when Democrats trumpeted this Little Rock-based district would be in play in the midterms. Mitt Romney won it by a 12-point margin,
but Democrats saw opportunity when Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., announced his retirement and later, a bid for lieutenant governor.
Now a new poll shows former North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays isn’t just in contention — he’s ahead. Hays led his Republican opponent, banker French Hill, by 4.5 points, according to a survey conducted Oct. 15-16 by Arkansas Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College.
What’s more, this race marks one of the few contests where Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is still on offense. The committee will have spent $1.5 million on the race’s airwaves by Election Day, while American Crossroads is in with $1.6 million to boost Hill.
Hays is aided by the Senate contest topping the ticket. If Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor has any shot of defeating GOP Rep. Tom Cotton Nov. 4, he must run up the score in this district — the most friendly for Democrats of the state’s four.
Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Rating: Tilts Republican
Iowa’s 1st and 2nd Districts
President Barack Obama carried these districts by double-digit margins in 2012. And yet, less than a month before Election Day, both eastern Iowa districts have emerged as potential GOP pick-up opportunities.
House Democrats almost solely blame Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democratic nominee for Senate, for dragging down the ticket. Braley is underperforming in his current and now open 1st District. But his impact extends to Rep. Dave Loebsack’s 2nd District, and the DCCC moved money to defend the congressman earlier this week.
Republicans are more optimistic about the 1st District, but conservative outside groups recently started spending in both.
The partisan breakdown of these districts present a big challenge for Republicans. But that these seats are even in play suggests election night could be ugly for Iowa Democrats.
Rep. William Keating, D-Mass.
When the cycle started, all eyes were on the Bay State’s 6th District rematch between Democratic Rep. John F. Tierney and former state Sen. Richard Tisei. But after Tierney lost the primary, Republican hopes in that race diminished.
Instead, Democrats are now fretting the contest in the 9th District. Two-term Rep. William Keating is running for a third term in this seat, which includes Bay State’s southeastern corner to the tip of Cape Cod.
Privately, Democrats say Keating leads in polls over Republican John Chapman by single digits. That’s an uncomfortably close margin given Obama carried the district by 12 points last cycle.
But Chapman had just $130,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30, and no major GOP outside groups are spending there — yet. Polling suggests this a race that could surprise on election night.
Rating: Favored Democratic
West Virginia’s 2nd District
The race to replace GOP Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for Senate, is one of the strangest contests on the map. Romney carried the district by 22 points in 2012, and Capito spent seven terms there building the strongest Republican brand in the state.
But Charleston-based Republicans have been lukewarm on the Republican nominee, Alex Mooney, who was active in Maryland politics until 2013. Mooney faces former West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is putting his capital behind Casey — he appeared in a television ad with Casey this week — and state Democrats are labeling Mooney as a carpetbagger.
But state Republicans warn Mooney will probably run up his vote in the rural areas. And national Republicans have a hard time believing the “Capito seat” could flip in a state that is increasingly favorable for Republicans.
Rating: Leans Republican