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.
While this ad buy schedule is slightly smaller than the DCCC’s $28 million in ad buys released July, it opens up several new districts that the DCCC has not been defending. Below is a breakdown of those races by district. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 in the coming days.
AL-2: Bobby Bright* (D) v. Martha Roby (R) – In this heavily Republican district, former Montgomery mayor and first term Congressman Bright will face Montgomery councilwoman Martha Roby in November. Bright has not been a reliable Democratic vote in the U.S. House. When he ran decided to run in 2008 to replace retiring GOP Rep. Terry Everett he was courted by both parties. In fact, he says he voted for Mike Huckabee in Alabama’s open primary in 2008. Bright is high on the list of Republican targets this cycle, and while he is well liked (A February survey has Bright with a 68 percent favorable rating) he won’t be able to count on turnout that votes down a column as he could in 2008 when he only won by 1,766 votes. AL-2 tends to give their representatives long tenures, Bright is only the fifth person to represent this district since 1921. The Cook Political Report rates this race a “Toss Up to Lean D” and Congressional Quarterly concurs.
AR-1: Chad Causey (D) v. Rick Crawford (R) – This open district had sent Rep. Marion Berry (D) to congress since 1996. Berry’s former chief of staff, Chad Causey defeated state Sen. Tim Wooldridge in a close primary in June. The conventional wisdom was that Wooldridge would have been a stronger contender, due to his legislative record, name recognition and lack of ties to former Rep. Berry. Causey faces GOP county committeeman Rick Crawford in the general election. Arkansas’ 1st District votes Republican in nationally significant elections, like presidential cycles, but has sent only Democratic representatives to Washington since 1875. An internal poll published on Tolbert Report.com and conducted for the Arkansas Republican Party in late July by Diamond State Consulting Group showed Crawford getting 44 percent of the vote to Causey’s 38. Internal polling results must be taken with a grain of salt, and Congressional Quarterly has liberally salted this poll. They still rate this race “Leans Democratic.”
CA-11: Gerald McNerney* (D) v. David Harmer (R) – In a district that historically alternates between sending Republican and Democratic representatives to Washington, Rep. McNerney has represented California’s 11th for two terms. McNerney unseated 14-year Republican Rep. Richard Pombo in 2006 with more than 53 percent of the vote. He won reelection in 2008 with 55 percent. Republicans, however, outnumber Democrats in the 11th narrowly and the districts 65,000 independents are going to be a tough sell for Democrats this year. McNerney’s opponent, David Harmer, ran an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House in California’s 10th District in 2008. He lost by 10 points then, but the times have changed. A Central Valley Callout poll from late June puts this race in statistical tie territory, with McNerney leading Harmer 42 to 41 percent. McNerney enjoys a substantial money advantage at $1.7 million raised compared to Harmer’s $782,000. As for cash-on-hand, McNerney has $1.2 million to Harmer’s $233,000 (as of the second quarter). In 2010, who has the most money may not matter as much as it would in a non-wave year.
CO-4: Betsy Markey* (D) v. Cory Gardner (R) – Betsey Markey road the 2008 wave that also swept Barak Obama into office. But in 2010, that wave looks set to reverse itself and recalibrate back to its original Republican leanings (Cook PVI R+6). Markey beat her opponent, three-term Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, 56 to 44 percent. She faces Colorado Assembly Rep. Cory Gardner in November. As of July, Markey had $1.5 million in cash-on-hand to Gardner’s $734,000. Markey has made every unpopular vote she could make in the U.S. House; health care reform, cap-and-trade and the stimulus bill. Both CQ and The Cook Report place this race in the tossup category. This race for the U.S. House in Colorado’s 4th may depend on how well Colorado’s state-wide GOP candidates fare in the general election. Markey released her own TV ad on Tuesday that makes her sound like a challanger running against the stimulus and bailouts. Interesting, to say the least.
FL-2 – Allen Boyd* (D) v. William Steve Southerland (R) – Florida’s 2nd Congressional District has not sent a Republican representative to Congress since 1991, but votes GOP nationally. Allen Boyd is one of the rarer species this year; a tenured representative since 1997, Boyd’s votes this year have run counter to the sensibilities of this Republican leaning district. Despite being a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, he cast “yes” votes for both healthcare reform and cap-and-trade. Boyd even faces a tough challenge in the Democratic primary, in state Sen. Al Lawson of Tallahassee. Boyd, however, has raised $1.3 million to Lawson’s $150,000. Boyd’s most likely opponent, William Southerland, has the benefit of a pro-GOP headwind going into November. An April internal poll conducted by the Republican research firm The Tarrance Group and reported in the Panama City News Herald showed Southerland leading Boyd 52 to 37 percent.
FL-8 – Alan Grayson* (D) v. Bruce O’Donoghue, Todd Long, Daniel Webster (R) – The firebrand liberal Rep. Grayson has become a top symbolic target of the NRCC this year. In 2008, Grayson defeated his four-term Republican opponent, Rep. Ric Keller with 52 to 48 percent of the vote. Grayson’s is the Democratic equivalent of Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), and his defeat would be a source of prestige for Republican leadership in the U.S. House. Rep. Grayson is known for making hyperbolic statements in the media and on the House floor. Some of his greatest hits include “Republicans want you to die quickly,” “If the President has a BLT tomorrow, the Republicans will try to ban bacon,” and “GOP healthcare reform would be letting you bring a gun to the doctor.” While Grayson is certainly more liberal than his district, this will by no means be an easy race. Grayson faces many opponents, who have all raised a significant amount of money. Bruce O’Donoghue is the most likely opponent and has raised more than $530,000. State Senator Daniel Webster, state Rep. Kurt Kelly and talk-show host Todd Long are also in contention for the GOP nomination. Long commissioned a Zogby poll in July that has him leading Grayson 46 to 38 percent. Long has, however, needs to generate some press if he is to beat Bruce O’Donoghue, who officially joined this race in February, for the GOP nomination.
Correction: Todd Long announced his candidacy in October, 2009. His Tea Party base believes he is the candiate to beat. Lord knows the Tea Partiers would love to put a fork in Alan Grayson.
FL-24: Suzanne Kosmas* (D) v. Craig Miller, Karen Diebel (R) – Republican Rep. Tom Feeney led this district, created in 2003, from its inception to 2009 when present Rep. Suzanne Kosmas won this narrowly Republican-leaning district with 57 percent. In the GOP primary race, businessman and former Ruth’s Chris CEO Craig Miller leads a July internal poll reported in CQ’s “The Eye” blog which probably means very little; 65 percent of voters remain undecided. However, Miller is testing well against Kosmas. A highly questionable internal poll conducted for the American Action Forum in August showed Miller with a narrow 44 to 41 percent lead over Kosmas. These results are shockingly good considering Miller’s abysmal 22 percent name recognition (compared to Kosmas’ 88 percent) which leads one to question the methodology behind this poll. Regardless, whoever wins the Republican primary on the 24th will have to contend with Rep. Kosmas’ sizeable $1.28 million in cash-on-hand.
GA-8: Jim Marshall* (D) v. Austin Scott (R) – This Congressional district, which includes the city of Macon, has a Cook PVI of R+10. That makes this an inherently difficult place for Democratic candidates in any year, let alone 2010. Despite this fact, Rep. James Marshall has held this seat since 2007 when this district was created out of parts of Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District. Marshall had represented Georgia’s 3rd District from 2003 to 2007. He narrowly won reelection in Georgia’s new 8th District in 2006 by 1,700 votes. Marshall performed much better in 2008 when he won the race against former Air Force Major General Rick Goddard with 57 to 43 percent of the vote. Marshall’s 2010 opponent, state Rep. Austin Scott, is behind Marshall with 44 to 39 percent in a July internal poll conducted by American Viewpoint and reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This looks like good news for Rep. Marshall, but further into the poll was his disappointing “re-elect” numbers; Marshall could only secure 35 percent that say “yes.”
IL-10: Daniel Seals (D) v. Robert Dold (R) – Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk vacates his long-held Congressional seat this year. He had represented Illinois 10th Congressional district since 2001. This district has only sent one Democrat to Congress since 1915 (Abner Mikva, 1975 – 1979), despite its Cook PVI of D+6. The NRCC’s media buys in this district betray a tougher environment for Republicans in Illinois than the national average. An internal poll reported in the Chicago Tribune has Seals leading Dold 46 to 38 percent. Daniel Seals ran and lost in this district in 2006 and 2008, garnering 46 and 47 percent of the vote respectively. CQ has this race in the “Toss Up” category, but Charlie Cook reported in July that this seat, along with Mike Castle’s Delaware-At Large seat, are two that the DCCC believes are possible pickups for Democrats in a year with few prospects for gains.
IL-11: Deborah Halverson* (D) v. Adam Kinzinger (R) – Illinois 11th Congressional is a rare, down-the-middle district, with a history of sending both Democrats and Republicans to Congress. Republican Rep. Jerry Weller represented this district from 1995 and opted not to seek reelection in 2008. This district has been scandal plagued; Weller had been accused of not disclosing income from land deals in Nicaragua. Halverson, too, has been touched by controversy when her campaign manager, Travis Worl, was accused of intentionally misrepresenting the record of her 2010 opponent, Air Force Captain Adam Kinzinger. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Republican poling firm Public Opinion Strategies surveyed this race in August and found that Kinzinger lead Halvorson 51 to 40 percent. As of July, Halvorson had $1.4 million in the bank to Kinzinger’s $480,000. However, Kinzinger slightly outraised Halvorson in the second quarter. Not to worry, says Worl. It takes money to get your message out, and message is what wins elections. In that sense, the Halvorson campaign leads in “message-on-hand.”
Coming up in part 2: Indiana’s 2nd District, Indiana’s 8th District, Indiana’s 9th District, Kansas’s 3rd District, Kentucky’s 6th District, Maryland’s 1st District, Michigan’s 1st District, Michigan’s 7th District, Mississippi’s 1st District, New Hampshire’s 1st District, Nevada’s 3rd District, New Mexico’s 2nd District, New York’s 20th District, New York’s 24th District, North Dakota At-Large.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org