Ratings Changes in 10 Districts
Cook Political Report (subscription)
September 9, 2010
CA-11 Jerry McNerney Lean D to Toss Up
The only California Democrat sitting in a district drawn to elect a Republican in 2002, McNerney has always had a target on his back this cycle. Look for Democrats to get on the expensive Bay Area airwaves and tag Republican David Harmer as an out-of-touch credit card executive who took a big bonus before the bank bailouts. But Harmer, who runs as a “constitutional conservative” and can actually call himself a Reagan Republican (he spent some of his childhood in Reagan’s office while his dad was serving as lieutenant governor), is running a more energetic campaign than the last two GOP nominees did.
This is really two districts in one: rural San Joaquin County is a big problem for Democrats this year, and Harmer also has some demonstrated appeal in the East Bay (he took an impressive 43 percent of the vote last November in the uber-Democratic 10th CD special election). Meanwhile, McNerney is emphasizing his work opening a new veterans’ hospital, but a continued high unemployment and foreclosure rate here means voters want answers on jobs. Most polling shows McNerney ahead by single digits, but under 50 percent and clearly in more trouble than others in the California delegation. This race is virtually guaranteed to tighten as Harmer introduces himself, and it joins the Toss Up column.
CA-20 Jim Costa Likely D to Lean D
With unemployment in and around Fresno well above the national average, and high anxiety in the agricultural community, Costa’s only saving grace is the Democratic lean of this carefully carved district. When Republicans are competitive statewide, as they seem to be this year, they often sweep this part of the valley (even George Bush won this seat narrowly in 2004). Republican farmer Andy Vidak’s campaign has been slow to raise money but the inexpensiveness of the Fresno media market could make this an appealing target for outside groups. It doesn’t hurt Vidak that the GOP’s chief recruiter, neighboring Rep. Kevin McCarthy, is keeping a close eye on what’s going on in his backyard.
CA-44 Ken Calvert Likely R to Solid R
At the outset of the cycle, Democrats had high hopes for teachers’ union official Bill Hedrick, who came within several thousand votes of beating Calvert in 2008 with a lot of help from record Hispanic turnout and zero help from Washington. But with all quiet on the Calvert ethics front and better offensive opportunities elsewhere, this race is once again off the DCCC’s radar screen. Calvert got his wake up call in 2008 and the larger political environment doesn’t hurt.
CO-07 Ed Perlmutter Likely D to Lean D
Democratic insiders say they’re pleased there isn’t a more paranoid incumbent in the country than Perlmutter, and this district’s growing Hispanic percentage (up to 27 percent) is helping it move in the right direction for the second-term Democrat. But Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier won the August primary convincingly and is a strong challenger whose background as a veteran, charter school backer, and an African-American Republican put him on plenty of “rising stars” lists long before he jumped out of the Senate race and into the House race. Perlmutter has strong union backing and still has the edge, but this is a competitive race.
CT-04 Jim Himes Likely D to Lean D
By hitting GOP state Sen. Dan Debicella as an extremist early on the airwaves, Himes is making a play for many of the independents and soft Democrats who voted for liberal GOP Rep. Chris Shays for more than a decade before Himes beat him in 2008. The problem for Himes is that Democratic turnout in this Fairfield County district’s core cities, like Bridgeport, goes way down in midterm election cycles. Connecticut doesn’t look like an awful state for Democrats at the top of the ticket, but Debicella’s $504,000 in the bank at the end of July means he’ll be able to make an ample case against Himes on cable TV and in the mail. Democrats say Himes is outside the danger zone, while some GOP polling shows this race a dead heat. Give Himes a slight edge, but Shays’ voters will ultimately decide this race.
GA-02 Sanford Bishop Likely D to Lean D
A poll taken for Baptist preacher and state Rep. Mike Keown’s campaign by Public Opinion Strategies last month showed the Republican within striking distance of Bishop, trailing 50 percent to 44 percent. The problem for Keown is that the stark racial polarization of this district (the African-American Bishop is winning close to 90 percent of the black vote but Keown is winning over 80 percent of the white vote) will make closing that gap a harder task than it looks. But, Keown is running a serious campaign and Republicans in south Georgia are unusually energized while Democrats are counting on a competitive governor’s race to bring their base to the polls. Give Bishop the edge, but he hasn’t had to run a real campaign in years.
NY-04 Carolyn McCarthy Solid D to Likely D
This southwest Nassau County-based district is now close to 20 percent African-American, and gave President Obama 58 percent of the vote in 2008. But when African-American turnout has gone down in the off years, McCarthy’s percentages have occasionally dipped. She received 53 percent of the vote in 1998 and 56 percent in 2002, compared to 61 percent in 2000 and 63 percent in 2004. Since her highly emotional win against the NRCC-backed Frisa in 1994, McCarthy has expanded her portfolio from gun control to nutrition and other issues, and toyed with challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary last year. But when she declined that race, rumors swirled about her desire to slog through another run for this seat – rumors top Democrats adamantly deny.
Last fall, Republican Ed Mangano came out of nowhere to upset Democratic Nassau Executive Tom Suozzi, narrowly carrying the 4th CD in the process. Quietly, Republican recruiters turned their attention here, hoping to lure popular Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray into the race. They even took a poll that showed Murray in a dead heat with McCarthy. But with Murray taking a pass, Republicans will choose between attorney Frank Scaturro, who has raised more money and is running as the anti-establishment candidate, and Nassau County legislator Fran Becker, the choice of the once-powerful county GOP machine. This seat hasn’t garnered a lot of national attention, but keep an eye on it.
NY-19 John Hall Lean D to Toss Up
As a Democratic sophomore trailing a GOP opponent in cash on hand, Hall sticks out like a sore thumb. But what’s more troubling for Hall is that while Republican primaries are raging elsewhere in the state, ophthalmologist Nan Hayworth is the odds-on favorite in the homestretch for her nomination. This high-income district is as politically divided as any in the state, and Hayworth’s moderate stances on social issues may be closer to the middle of the district than Hall’s brand of progressivism. Hall has a lead today, but Democrats privately express concern over whether they will be able to bail him out when Hayworth gets better known. This race joins the Toss Up column.
OH-18 Zack Space Lean D to Toss Up
Space has gotten away with weak opposition for two cycles in a row, and though GOP state Sen. Bob Gibbs is an improvement, he isn’t Republicans’ ideal candidate. Still, even after Space has leveraged his huge cash advantage to soften up Gibbs on his legislative record during the Taft years, we haven’t seen numbers move in Space’s direction. That’s understandable given this district’s serious Republican lean and Space’s votes with Democratic leadership. Internal polling on both sides has shown Space ahead by single digits but well under 50 percent, and in this climate, that’s not enough of an advantage to justify keeping this race in the Lean Democratic column. Welcome to another district where the NRCC may not even be investing in the race, but the GOP candidate will be competitive anyway.
PA-10 Chris Carney Lean D to Toss Up
While both parties know an onslaught of attacks on underfunded GOP attorney Tom Marino (Democrats are already going after “Casino Marino” in press releases) is about to hit northeastern Pennsylvania airwaves, it’s increasingly clear that Carney starts from a weak position and will have to dig himself out of a hole. While Republican polling shows Carney down anywhere from a handful of points to double digits, Carney hasn’t released any of his own polling, suggesting his health care vote took a serious toll in this very Republican district. Marino’s campaign still isn’t top notch and he is prone to mistakes on the campaign trail, but his team has redoubled its efforts to raise money and the low cost of advertising here means outside groups could easily pick up some of the slack.
Ratings Changes in 10 Districts