This week, the National Republican Campaign Committee committed to $22 million in television ad buys for a purely offensive push in 40 competitive U.S. House races across the country. Below is a breakdown of those races by district.
NM-2: Harry Teague* (D) v. Stevan Pearce (R) – In one of the most watched races this year, freshman Rep. Harry Teague faces a candidate that he was lucky enough to avoid in 2008, Steve Pearce. Pearce declined to run for reelection in 2008, a bad year for incumbent Republicans, even though Pearce was well liked in his district. Teague easily defeated his GOP opponent, Ed Tinsley, by 10 points in a year with above average turnout. Pearce has just over $1 million on-hand and Teague has $1.2 million in the bank. A PPP poll from February 25th, 2010, had Pearce up two points among likely voters. In April 23rd, Teague’s campaign released an internal poll, reported in several outlets, showed him trailing Pearce by a single point. Pearce has challenged Teague to no less than 10 debates. Teague’s campaign says there will be debates but signaled that 10 may be excessive. Pearce has waded into every controversy he can muster in recent weeks; from the ground zero mosque debate to climate change legislation. Teague, meanwhile, has kept his head down. There has not been any polling released to the public in this race for months, but the activity of the candidates yields clues as to who has developed the most traction over the summer.
NY-20: Scott Murphy* (D) v. Christopher Patrick Gibson (R) – Scott Murphy won a March, 2009 special election to replace Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, who held the seat from 2007 to 2009. Gillibrand defeated Republican Rep. John Sweeney for the seat in 2006 by 6 points. Her elected replacement, Rep. Scott Murphy, narrowly defeated his opponent, Jim Tedisco, by 776 votes out of the 161,000 cast in 2009. Since then, Murphy has ran to the right as much as he can; he joined the Blue Dog Coalition, favors term-limits for Congressional leadership and public participation in the process of redistricting. Col. Chris Gibson, an Iraq-war veteran, former Congressional Fellow in California and Murphy’s Republican opponent, has recently received some national attention. The Republican polling firm, American Action Forum, completed a poll from July 28th to August 1st, 2010, which shows Gibson within 5 points of Murphy (45 to 40). For an incumbent, even one that has been in office for less than a single term, these are disturbing numbers. Murphy leads in cash on hand, with $1.32 million to Gibson’s $452,000. However, Gibson outraised Murphy in the second quarter.
NY-24: Michael Arcuri* (D) v. Richard Hanna (R) – A Republican has held the seat in New York’s 24th (through a series of redistricting shuffles) since 1983. Rep. Michael Arcuri was the first to buck this trend in 2006 when he defeated state Sen. Ray Meier by 9 points. His reelection bid in 2008 against Richard Hanna was closer. Arcuri beat Hanna with a comfortable 52 to 48 percent margin. Now the rematch is shaping up to be even closer. A June 15th poll commissioned by NPR and conducted by Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research and the GOP affiliated firm Public Opinion Research found that the Republican candidate was favored over the Democrat by a 48 to 39 percent margin (while POR was generic, GQRR polled each candidate by name). Richard Hanna’s latest campaign ad called “opportunity” hit the airwaves last week. In what is shaping up to be a litmus test issue for New York candidates, both Arcuri and Hanna voiced their opposition to the ground zero mosque on Wednesday. Hanna has vacillated slightly on this issue – he was for it before he was against it. In 2004, we would call that a flip-flop, but those days are behind us… right?
ND-AL: Earl Pomeroy* (D) v. Richard Berg (R) – It is forgivable to consider North Dakota being synonymous with “red state.” With a Cook PVI of R+10 and a clear record of voting for Republicans in presidential elections since 1968, that is a fair assumption. But the equation changes at the local level; North Dakota’s At-Large congressional district has sent only Democrats to Congress since 1981. Sen. Byron Dorgan represented this district from ’81 to ’92. Rep. Earl Pomeroy has represented this district since 1993. North Dakota is prepared to reclaim its “red state” moniker this year. Dorgan has declined to run for the Senate again and the latest Rasmussen poll from August 10th to the 11th shows that his likely replacement, Republican John Hoeven, has the support of 69 percent of likely voters. The U.S. House race in North Dakota is much closer. Rasmussen shows Republican candidate Rick Berg is polling 9 points ahead of Pomeroy as of August 11th, 2010. Furthermore, Berg outraised Pomeroy in second quarter fundraising – Berg raised $330,000 in that quarter and has $2 million in the Bank. With such a disparity in the polls, it is a wonder why the NRCC has committed to media buys in this market. The buys betray a more competitive race than the polls suggest.
OH-1: Steve Driehaus* (D) v. Steve Chabot (R) – Former Republican Rep. Steve Chabot represented this district form 1995 to 2009. Chabot road the 1994 wave right into Congress and stayed there, but Rep. Driehaus was riding his own wave in 2008. Driehaus defeated Chabot with a 52 percent margin. Conventional wisdom held that this was a return to normalcy rather than a recalibration; Ohio’s 1st district has had sent three Democrats and one Republican to the House since 1983. Chabot is happily exploiting the mosque controversy that the White House dropped in his lap over the weekend. Social Security’s solvency and potential privatization is also becoming a major theme in this race. But the big issue in Ohio is President Obama. Ohio has among the lowest opinion of the president of any state as of July 9th and, despite valiant efforts to stave off the inevitable; November is highly likely to be a referendum on Obama for Ohioans. Chabot’s campaign released a Public Opinion Strategies poll on May 24th, 2010, which was reported in Congressional Quarterly, showed him with a 14 point lead over Driehaus (53 to 34 percent). Chabot beat Driehaus in second quarter fundraising. The GOP believes that this district is ready to oust the freshman incumbent and return Chabot to his long-held seat.
OH-15: Mary Jo Kilroy* (D) v. Steve Stivers (R) – The election-weary 15th District of Ohio has seen enough of the unending contest between Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy and Steve Stivers. Kilroy was narrowly defeated in a 2006 bid for Congress. In 2008 she defeated Steve Stivers by 2,312 votes out of the 303,000 votes cast (in a four-way race). Several recounts and an Ohio Supreme Court decision later, Kilroy was officially declared the winner. We Ask America, a telephone-polling firm and the only polling firm to call the May, 2010 PA-12 special election correctly, has Stivers leading Kilroy 46 to 40 percent from August 11th to the 16th. Stivers has another thing going for him, Ohio gubernatorial candidate John Kasich hails from this area of mid-Ohio and will likely draw even higher numbers of excited GOP voters out to the polls. Kilroy’s GOTV efforts will be key to keeping this race close.
OH-16: John Boccieri* (D) v. James Renacci (R) – In the New Deal era and immediately after World War II, Ohio’s 16th was the consummate purple district. The seat swung between parties practically every cycle. After 1951, however, the seat swung toward Republicans; Rep. Frank Bow held the seat from 1951 to 1972 and died in office. He was replaced by Rep. Ralph Regula who served until 2009 when he opted to retire. In the race to replace him, Rep. John Boccieri faced state Sen. Kirk Schuring. Boccieri won that race in 2008 with more than 55 percent of the vote. His 2010 opponent is Ohio businessman and owner of a local National Hockey League team, Jim Renacci. An independent poll conducted for the non-profit group U.S. Citizens Association conducted on May 13th, 2010, showed Renacci leading Boccieri by a 47 to 35 percent margin. That was in the spring; summer trends have only made the conditions better for Republican candidates. The DNC put out a pro-Boccieri TV ad in March touting healthcare reform initiatives, but that ad, not surprisingly, has since been buried.
PA3 – Kathleen Dahlkemper* (D) v. George Kelly (R) – In 2008, Western Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Dahlkemper defeated her opponent, former Rep. Phil English, a Republican who had represented Pennsylvania’s 3rd District from 2003 to 2009, with 52 percent of the vote. In 2010, Dahlkemper faces wealthy local businessman George Kelly. Congressional Democrats have “dug deep” to keep Dahlkemper in her seat; she is ranked 8th among U.S. House Democrats in campaign receipts from PACs and fellow House members. Dahlkemper encountered some controversy in July when she reluctantly surrendered $14,000 in campaign contributions she received form Rangel’s office. An American Action Forum poll of North Eastern battle ground races from July 28th to August 1st shows Dahlkemper being destroyed by Kelly. In that poll, Dahlkemper pulls in 38 percent of the vote to Kelly’s 52 percent. Dahlkemper, meanwhile, has a significant cash on hand advantage; she has $1 million in the bank compared to Kelly’s $100,000. The NRCC’s cash infusion could not come at a more opportune time for the Republican challenger.
PA-7: Bryan Roy Lentz (D) v. Patrick Meehan (R) – For a district that Cook’s PVI ranks as leaning Democratic (D +3), Pennsylvania’s 7th District has sent a lot of Republicans to Congress. Since 1939, Congressman and failed Senate candidate Robert Edgar was the only Democrat to hold this seat before Rep. Joe Sestak won his 2006 race. Sestak vacated the seat this year to run for the Senate himself. Republican candidate and Philadelphia area prosecutor, Pat Meehan, faces state Rep. Bryan Lentz in the fall. In what is becoming a familiar but disturbing trend, Meehan accused his Democratic opponent and the state party of aiding “Tea Party candidate” Jim Schneller in garnering enough signatures to get on the ballot. Since this controversy broke, Tea Party activists, Democrats and Republicans have raced to distance themselves from the upstart Schneller campaign. A Meehan camp internal poll, taken on June 16th and 17th, 2010, and was reported in PoliticsPA.com, which showed Meehan leading Lentz by 47 to 26 percent and gave Meehan with a 2 to 1 name recognition advantage. However, this large disparity in a Democrat-heavy district is highly questionable. This week, Lentz’s campaign launched a website that it claims showcases Pat Meehan’s real record. It is aptly named patmeehansrealrecord.com.
PA-11: Paul Kanjorski* (D) v. Lou Barletta (R) – Pennsylvania’s 11th includes Scranton and Wilkes Barre and leans Democratic. This district has only sent one Republican to congress since 1955; the 1980 election that sent Reagan to the White House also delivered a single term for GOP Rep. James Nelligan. Rep. Paul Kanjorski has held this seat since 1985. Kanjorski faces his perennial opponent, Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, again this year. Barletta ran against Kanjorski in 2002 and 2008, never garnering more than 48 percent of the vote. Kanjorski stirred up some controversy during a conference-committee hearing on the persistence of the recession when he defended his district’s unemployed as being “regular people” and not “minorities” or “defective.” The impact of that mini-controversy seems to have abated over the course of 2010’s heated summer of controversy. The Republican leaning American Action Forum’s Northeast Battleground poll, taken from July 28th to August 1st, 2010, showed Barletta polling at 52 percent to Kanjorski’s 41 percent.
Coming up in part 4: South Carolina’s 5th District, South Dakota At-Large, Tennessee’s 8th District, Texas’s 17th District, Texas’s 23rd District, Virginia’s 2nd District, Virginia’s 5th District, and West Virginia’s 1st District, Wisconsin’s 7th District.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at email@example.com