A final look at last week’s revelation in Politico of the districts in which the DCCC committed to $28 million worth of television buys for embattled incumbents:
Update: The DCCC reserved two more ad buys in Pennsylvania over the week.
Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here
PA-3: Kathy Dahlkemper – Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) won this seat in 2008 with 51 percent of the vote. She defeated perennial incumbent Rep. Phil English (R), who had represented the 21st and later the 3rd district since 1995. Dahlkemper represents a purple district that tends to vote narrowly conservative in national elections in normal cycles. Her opponent, Butler City Councilman Mike Kelly, has only raised about $100,000 to Dahlkemper’s $1 million. However, a significant amount of that cash came as donations from her Democratic colleagues, including Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and Majority Whip Clyburn. A Republican poll commissioned in July showed Kelly ahead of Dahlkemper by 11 points.
PA-7: Open – Pennsylvania’s 7th District is the second of two open seats where the DCCC has committed to media buys. This district sent current Pennsylvania Senate hopeful Rep. Joe Sestak (D) to office for two consecutive terms from 2007 to today. In November, Eastern PA District Attorney Patrick Meehan (R) will face state Rep. Brian Roy Lentz (D) to replace Sestak. Lentz is lagging in fundraising so far, having only $786,000 to Meehan’s $1.1 million, but this may be due to Meehan’s name recognition. He won convictions in some high profile Philadelphia-area corruption trials, including that of a city treasurer and a state senator. A Meehan-camp internal poll put his advantage over Lentz between 12 and 21 points, depending on the level of voter conviction. Meehan and Lentz had a very public confrontation in June when Meehan linked Lentz to a corruption scandal known as “Bonusgate,” when Lentz employed a woman who had received illegal taxpayer-funded contributions in 2006.
PA-10: Christopher Carney – Rep. Christopher Carney (D) won this seat when he defeated Rep. Don Sherwood (R) in 2006. This was considered a stunning upset; in 2004 Sherwood won with 92 percent of the vote and a margin of 86 percent over his nearest opponent. Carney, however, is a member of the endangered Blue Dog Coalition. His opponent, former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino, has raised $11,000 to Carney’s $792,000. This would seem to be an insurmountable lead in funds raised, but Carney’s commissioned polls have not been released to the public, and the DCCC’s commitment to ad buys in the district betray the anticipation of a tough fight for Carney this year.
PA-11: Paul Kanjorski – Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) has held this seat since 1985. He represents a district that includes Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. It is reliably liberal and has sent only one Republican to congress since the 1950s, and that for a single term. His district votes for Democrats on the Presidential level as well, although Ronald Reagan carried it handily in 1984. In July, Hazleton mayor and Republican nominee Lou Barletta (R) released an internal poll that showed him up against Kanjorski 56 to 37 percent. Kanjorski has a significant lead in funds raised; his $1 million significantly bests Barletta’s $236,000. But money has never been Kanjorski’s problem.
PA-12: Mark Critz – Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District held a May 18th special election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha (D). In that race, Rep. Mark Critz (R) defeated Tim Burns (R) after hard fight in which early polling showed that this heavily Democratic district could actually swing toward the Republicans. Those predictions turned out to be overblown, but the rematch between Burns and Critz is shaping up to be as close as or closer than the special election in May. Critz and Burns have accumulated just over $160,000 each; Critz benefits from his lack of a record to defend, having taken office late enough to miss most of the 111th Congress’s most controversial votes. Democrats see PA-12 as a model for the 2010 races nationwide: localize the race while the GOP tries to nationalize issues. They hope to repeat their success in PA-12 in other swing districts.
PA-15: Charlie Dent – An extraordinary race in 2010; this is one of the few places where Democrats have a chance of knocking off a Republican incumbent. Rep. Charles Dent (R) was elected to the House in 2004 and has been returned in this mildly Democratic district with relatively decent margins for three cycles. He won in 2008, a year stacked against Republicans, with 58 percent of the vote. This year, however, he faces a serious challenger in Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D). At about one million dollars, both candidate have financial parity. In January, Dent’s camp produced an internal poll that showed the incumbent with a definitive lead. An April poll also has Dent leading, but with a smaller margin. Democrats smell blood in the water. In August, former President Bill Clinton will come to the district to fundraise for Callahan.
SC-5: John Spratt – Spratt is another incumbent that has been a fixture in the capital for decades; he was first elected to the House representing South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District in 1982. Spratt is chairman of the House Committee on the Budget and the second-ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services. Today, he is facing a fight with opponent John Michael Mulvaney from which he may not emerge victorious. In May, Mulvaney released a poll showing Spratt up 43 to 41 percent, within the margin of error. That’s a 5-point drop from the last poll taken in January by Public Policy Polling. That negative momentum should be troubling for Spratt.
SD-AL: Stephanie Herseth Sandlin – C&E has had its eye on this race for some time. Herseth Sandlin is running against her party on almost every legislative accomplishment of the last year, particularly healthcare reform. This strategy has prevented her opponent, state Rep. Kristi Noem (R), from running against Herseth Sandlin directly. Instead her attacks are directed against Washington, an understandably target rich environment in 2010, but attacking the status quo is no sure path to victory when the incumbent adopts the same strategy. Noem held a commanding lead in spring polling, but Herseth Sandlin has gained some ground in recent weeks. Noem currently leads with 49 to 44 percent. This will be a race to watch in November.
TX-17: Chet Edwards – Edwards was elected to TX-17 in 2004; prior to that he held the seat in Texas’ 11th district from 1991 to 2005. He has a substantial lead in funds raised; $2.1 million to his opponent William Flores’ $415,000. Flores, a former oil executive, released a poll in May which showed him up 53 to 41 percent against Edwards. The Edwards campaign responded to the poll by calling it “wishful thinking,” but they have not released their own poll to corroborate that claim.
TX-23: Ciro Rodriguez – Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) has held this seat since 2007. Rodriquez defeated Rep. Henry Bonilla (D) in the 2006 Democratic primary and easily won the general election. He faces banker and philanthropist Francisco “Quico” Canseco (R) in November. Obama carried the district in 2008 and Democrats have represented the district in the House since 1985. This is a relatively securely democratic district. With that said, this part of Texas has a Cook PVI of “Republican +4.” Rodriquez has had a tough time defending his “yes” vote on healthcare reform legislation, as evidenced by this popular YouTube video circulating among conservative bloggers. He has since apologized for the outburst, but the damage may already be done. A GOP poll shows Rodriguez leading Canseco by just 3 points.
VA-11: Gerry Connolly – Rep. Gerry Connolly (D), a representative from Northern Virginia’s 11th Congressional District, was elected in 2008 and replaced retiring 8-term Rep. Thomas Davis (R). Connolly is opposed by Virginia businessman Keith Fimian, who s a million dollar deficit against his Democrat incumbent opponent. Fimian and Connolly faced each other in 2008; Connolly won with 54 percent of the vote. A March poll showed Fimian up against Connolly 40 to 35 percent, with a whopping 25 percent undecided. No new polls have been released, but Connolly outraised Fimian in the second quarter of 2010 by $52,000.
VA-2: Glenn Nye – Rep. Glenn Nye (D) was elected in 2008, defeating former Rep. Thelma Drake (R). He faces local auto dealer Scott Rigell (R) in November. Rigell has raised $452,000 to Nye’s $1.3 million. Nye voted against healthcare reform and cap and trade. Nevertheless, a GOP poll commissioned in June shows Nye trailing Rigell 41 to 35 percent. Nye’s campaign website has not been updated since October 2009. The success of Republican Governor Bob McDonnell’s financial initiatives, including the recent revelation that the state will have a $220 million budget surplus after 2010, are giving commonwealth Republicans some successes to champion.
VA-5: Tom Perriello – Rep. Thomas Perriello (D) defeated Rep. Virgil Goode (R) in 2008 by less than 800 votes. Perriello is well-entrenched, with $1.7 million in his war chest. His opponent, Robert Hurt, has raised only $215,000. Perriello spent a lot of time on the cable networks after 2008; he was the young face of the new wave of democrats that would make red states purple and blue states bluer. He voted for healthcare reform and cap and trade and was a hero to the new left. Today, Perriello’s cable schedule has opened up some and those landmark pieces of legislation are as unpopular as they were before being passed. A July poll showed Hurt up by 23 points.
WI-8: Steve Kagen – Rep. Steve Kagen (D) was elected in 2008 to represent the Great Lakes region; WI-8 includes Green Bay. His most likely opponent, former roofing contractor Reid Ribble (R), leads all his GOP primary challengers with $178,000. One Wisconsin paper has taken to calling Ribble “roofer,” perhaps as an intended pejorative. If the moniker resonates with the public, he would be advised to adopt it as an effective form of shorthand that conveys his everyman roots (e.g., Joe the Plumber). Kagen has over $800,000 raised, and while a lot of it comes from PACs, it is a significant deficit to overcome. While no poll data is available for a direct matchup between Kagen and his most likely challenger, the DCCC ad buy says a lot about Kagen’s perception in Wisconsin’s 8th.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org