2010 election anxiety awaits Democrats in U.S. House
Despite sweeping Democratic successes in the past two national elections, continuing job losses and President Obama's slipping support could...
The Associated Press
A historyof reactionSince the mid-19th century, the party that controls the White House has lost seats in virtually every midterm election. The exceptions were in 1934, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt navigated the Great Depression, and in 2002, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, strengthened George W. Bush's image as a leader.
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Despite sweeping Democratic successes in the past two national elections, continuing job losses and President Obama's slipping support could lead to double-digit losses for the party in next year's congressional races and may even threaten their House control.
Fifty-four new Democrats were swept into the House in 2006 and 2008, helping the party claim a decisive majority as voters soured on a Republican president and embraced Obama's message of hope and change.
From New Hampshire to Nevada, House Democrats also will be forced to defend votes on Obama's $787 billion economic-recovery package and on energy legislation viewed by many as a job killer in an already-weak economy.
Add to that the absence of Obama from the top of the ticket, which could reduce turnout among blacks, liberals and young people, and the likelihood of a highly motivated GOP base energized by opposition to the president's proposed health-care plan and angry at what they consider reckless spending and high debt.
Taken together, it could be the most toxic environment for Democrats since 1994, when the party lost 34 House incumbents and 54 seats altogether. Democrats currently have a 256-178 edge in the House, with one vacancy. Republicans would have to pick up 40 seats to regain control.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who heads the party's House campaign committee, said he has warned colleagues to be prepared for an exceptionally challenging environment going into 2010.
But Van Hollen said voters will make their choices on the strength of the national economy and will reward Democrats for working aggressively to improve it.
"We passed an economic-recovery bill with zero help from Republican colleagues," he said.
Democrats have gotten off to a much faster start than Republicans in fundraising for 2010. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $10.2 million in the bank at the end of July, with debts of $5.3 million. The National Republican Congressional Committee had just $4 million in cash and owed $2.75 million.
Democrats must defend as many as 60 marginal seats next year, as opposed to about 40 for Republicans. Among those, about 27 Democratic and 13 Republican seats are seen as especially ripe for a party switch.
Some involve incumbents stepping down to run for higher office.
For example, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Penn., is mounting a primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak's seat, until now safely Democratic, will become a top GOP target. The same goes for Louisiana Rep. Charlie Melancon, a Democrat in a GOP-leaning district who also is seeking a Senate seat.
At least one Republican is considered extremely vulnerable: Joseph Cao, of Louisiana, who defeated Democrat William Jefferson after the nine-term incumbent was indicted on corruption charges. The district, which includes most of New Orleans, is considered one of the most Democratic in the country.
Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, whose district covers most of Columbus, Ohio, and its suburbs, and Rep. Steve Driehaus, whose district includes much of Cincinnati and its suburbs, each won with the help of a strong showing among Obama supporters, and each faces a rematch with a candidate who narrowly lost last year.
The "cap and trade" bill that narrowly passed the House last spring is creating headaches for New Mexico Democrat Harry Teague, among others. His district, which John McCain carried in last year's presidential race, is one of the largest oil- and gas-producing areas in the country, and Teague has faced angry crowds back home ever since voting yes.
Teague will face Republican Steve Pearce, who held the seat for three terms before giving it up to run unsuccessfully for the Senate last year.
Without Obama on the ticket, a lower predicted black turnout also could affect Democrats in several tight races in the South. These include Reps. Bobby Bright and Parker Griffith of Alabama, Travis Childers of Mississippi, and Tom Perriello of Virginia, who won by just 745 votes last year in a district that is 24 percent black.
Concerns about Obama's health-care plan and the mounting federal debt could ensnare two first-term Florida Democrats, Alan Grayson and Suzanne Kosmas. Both represent districts along the state's competitive Interstate 4 corridor, heavily populated by independent voters and retirees. Polls show Obama has lost ground among both of those groups nationwide.
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