Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s incumbent-retention program, has pinpointed the nine most vulnerable GOP House members up for re-election and wants supporters to focus only on them. All represent districts that carried President Obama in 2008. Here’s a look at the endangered nine.
Charles Djou (HI-01) (his district’s Partisan Voter Index or PVI is Democratic, +11) and Joseph Cao (LA-02), PVI D+25, the fluke winners: Both won fluke victories in overwhelmingly Democratic districts. Djou managed to win with less than 40 percent of the vote due to Hawaii’s poorly designed special elections, where two candidates split the Democratic vote. Cao won because he was up against the scandal-ridden Democratic incumbent William Jefferson. It is very hard to imagine how either incumbent holds on in a general election this November against untainted Democratic opponents.
Lee Terry (NE-02) PVI Republican +6: Terry represents Omaha. He suffers mainly from the trend of urban areas voting more Democratic. In 2006, Terry beat Democrat Jim Esch 55-45 but in 2008, managed only a 52-48 margin over the same opponent. That year, Obama managed to beat John McCain in the district by a very slim margin. This was mainly due to Obama’s campaign focusing heavily on the district, since Nebraska is one of only two states that can split its Electoral College vote. Esch is making his third attempt to unseat Terry this year.
Dan Lungren (CA-03) PVI R+6: In 2008, Lungren won the district 50-44. Lungren will be facing Democrat Ami Bera, a doctor and prolific fundraiser with nearly $1 million cash on hand.
Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) PVI R+3: Last election, Mack breezed to a 58-42 victory. This time, she’s up against a top recruit, Steve Pougnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs. The Democratic challenger has national support and more than half a million of cash on hand.
Pat Tiberi (OH-12) PVI D+1: Tiberi has won his last several races by double-digit margins but will face Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks. Franklin County makes up a significant part of the 12th district’s population. Update: Brooks has just been endorsed by EMILY’s List.
Charlie Dent (PA-15) PVI D+2: PA-15 and PA-06 are two of the few districts that both John Kerry and Obama won, yet continue to have Republican representation. Democrats are hoping to rectify that. They’ve recruited Bethlehem mayor John Callahan to take on Dent. Callahan has already distinguished himself as a great fundraiser.
Jim Gerlach (PA-06) PVI D+4: PA-06 is a highly competitive Democratic-leaning district where Gerlach has held on since 2002 in a series of very close races. His Democratic opponent is Dr. Manan Trivedi, a veteran of the Iraq war.
Dave Reichert (WA-08) PVI D+3: Reichert has taken pains to stake himself out as a moderate Republican in his Democratic-leaning district. He did some real damage to that image when an audiotape of him meeting with local Republicans was leaked. Reichert implied his support for environmental issues was not genuine, simply part of a cynical strategy to keep environmental groups from backing his opponents. He will face Suzan DelBene in November.
All the incumbents are currently running in districts that President Obama won in 2008. That is important, given that the most recent poll for NPR shows Obama’s approval rating is currently much higher in swing districts held by Republicans than in swing districts held by Democrats.
The two “fluke” incumbents are likely to fall to Democrats, but the other seven could go either way. If the mood in November is anti-Democratic, these GOP incumbents should be in good shape. If, instead, anti-incumbent and anti-Washington anger defines Election Day, Democrats may grab these seats and help offset inevitable losses elsewhere.