Handicapping the House

Lots of movement this week — almost entirely to the right. So let’s dig right in with the grand overview, then take a look at the individual races.

Once again, using Real Clear Politics poll averaging, we see the Democrats with a lock on 132 seats, down seven from ten days ago. The GOP would grab 163 seats, and that’s unchanged. If you include Likelies and Leaners, the Democrats score 185 (down five) and the Republicans get 211 (up four). The number of Toss Up races is virtually unchanged, but there was still tons of action.

Nineteen races were movers, and only one went from right to left. In WA08, GOPer Dave Reichert is challenged by Microsoft exec Suzan DelBene. This one shifted one spot from Likely to Leans GOP, but DelBene probably doesn’t have enough time to catch up. In fact, nobody but Kos and SurveyUSA have bothered polling here, and they’re both axe-grindy partisans, albeit from opposite sides of the spectrum. Reichert almost certainly holds this one for the Republicans.

Same thinking goes for a couple right-shifting seats. A poll from MI15 (that’s Dem John Dingell, talked about previously) looked kind of shifty, so I checked in with Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, and sure enough, that poll was a one-time fluke conducted by the GOP challenger, Rob Steele. Lots of smoke, little fire. Similar story in OH06, with Charlie Wilson up against the GOP’s Bill Johnson. However — there is an anti-D wave rising in Ohio, and Wilson could conceivably get swept away. Also, OH06 is solidly in Appalachia country, and Wilson voted against Cap and Trade. He’s probably safe. But RCP has moved both of these races to Leans D from Likely D, so that’s what I’m reporting. But if either of these races go Red, then we’re looking at a 70+ seat Republican tsunami. Unlikely, but remotely possible.

Seven races don’t require close examination, but do require a mention. AZ07, CT01, CT01, MN08, NJ06, NY04 and NY22 have all slipped from the Safe column and into the Likelies. Movement like this makes me think we’re seeing a real tsunami approach. For any party to be losing Safe seats this close to the election is a big indicator — by this point in the cycle, races should be moving away from the center, and firming up. But the Dems just can’t catch a break this time around

Oh, and AZ07 is a race to watch, even though it’s supposedly still Likely Dem. In one of the weirdest moves in my memory, Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva called on the other 49 states to boycott his own. Was that a move to drum up Latino support in AZ07? If so, was it necessary? And if necessary, then Genuine Rocket Scientist Ruth McClung has a real chance to paint this town red. Also, I got to hear McClung speak at the Tucson Tea Party rally last weekend, and she’s an impressive candidate. [UPDATE: Stacy McCain has more with Ruth.]

Now let’s get to the real action.

Four races went from Toss Ups to Leans GOP. AZ01 R+6 by Cook’s methodology, but represented by — can you guess? — a freshman Dem, Ann Kirkpatrick, who rode Obama’s coattails into office. Kirkpatrick proved popular in ’08, but has since voted against the Stupak Amendment and for Obamacare and Porkulus. My question isn’t how Paul Gosar finally polls better than Kirkpatrick, but what took him so long.

Last time I noted that the GOP seemed to have squandered its comeback chances in Upstate New York. Well. We’ve already noted the slippage in NY04 and NY22, but NY19 has moved — just barely — into the Leans GOP Zone. Democrat John Hall just can’t seem to get very much higher than 40% in the polls. Hall is one of the founding members of the band Orleans, and is squarely to blame for the song “You’re Still The One.” That alone should have him losing to Nan Hayworth, but he also voted for Obamacare and is a member of the Progressive Caucus and NY19 is R+3. This is looking more like a pickup. We’ll get to the rest of the New York action in a moment.

PA03 and VA02 both feature freshman Dems in red districts — but VA02 is complicated by having a third-party Tea Party ticket. Nevertheless, neither incumbents (Kathy Dahlkemper and Glenn Nye, respectively) polls anywhere close to 50%, which is usually good news for challengers, provided they’re competitive. And Mike Kelly and Scott Rigell (again, respectively) are putting up good fights.

Next category, and this is the one that must be giving Nancy Pelosi the night sweats, includes races that were Leaning Dem but are now too close to call. And there are five more of those this week alone.

CT05 must make Democrats feel especially bleak. Cook rates it moderately Democratic at D+5, and it gave Rep. Chris Murphy nearly 60% of the vote in a four-way race last time around. But with a 100% rating from the überlefty Americans for Democratic Action, Murphy might just be too liberal to win reelection against Sam Caligiuri.

And talk about a freakshow — let’s look at HI01. The only reason the GOP holds this seat, is that Charles Djou snuck in between two strong Democrats in a special election earlier this year. Naturally, the Democrats were counting on picking this one back up in the fall. Well, autumn is here and Djou keeps polling stronger. I suspect the Dems will take this one back — Cook rates it D+11, fercryinoutloud. But Colleen Hanabusa should be running away with this one already. Oops.

NC07 first came to our attention in early August. Back then, Blue Dog Dem Mike McIntyre slipped from a Safe to a Likely. Since then, he’s gone from Likely to Leans and from Leans to a Tosser. McIntyre is a 13-year veteran in his district, voted against TARP and vows to repeal Obamacare, which he also voted against. Nonetheless, Republican candidate Ilario Pantano continues to make progress against him.

Now for those other Upstate New York races. Both NY23 and NY25 are back to Toss Up, where they were just a few weeks ago. If the Democrats really did get a mini-bounce recently, it must have been the dead-cat variety.

Bill Owens is in trouble for the usual reasons — it’s a moderately Red district, represented by a fellow who votes the Pelosi Line. However, the GOP just can’t seem to get its act together here, for reasons involving third parties and insider fights and Scozzafavas and nonsense so complicated I can’t keep track of it all.

NY25 is D+3 by Cook’s reckoning, but almost always sends GOPers to Congress. Democrat Dan Maffei is another one of those freshman Dems who just can’t help voting the party line. And in Ann Marie Buerkle he’s found an attractive, articulate candidate. Keep an eye on NY25 as soon as the polls close at 9PM Eastern. This is one of the early races to watch — if Buerkle wins, it’s a tsunami warning for the rest of the country.

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