Why is the Democratic party spending so much money to protect seats that are considered safely Democratic? Do they believe that most of the seats that are "purple" are already lost? Perhaps. Perhaps it is because they are worried about certain "safe" districts that aren't so certain. Perhaps it is both. Here's five seats that may flip in November:
California CD 11 (McNerney) Jerry McNerney is in the fight for his political life. McNerney won his first election in 2006 with 53% of the vote and in 2008 got 55% but this year he'll be lucky to get to 50% facing a tough challenge from David Harmer, a politican and lawyer from Pleasanton, CA. Harmer is a tough conservative who is well positioned to win the general election and the national Democratic party is pouring in money to protect McNerney. This district, to the east of San Fransisco mostly based around Stockton is slightly more red than blue and has suffered like most of the rest of the state from high unemployment-the perfect mixture for an insurgent politician to win an election.
Massachusetts CD 5 (Tsongas) Niki Tsongas was first elected in 2007 with 51% of the vote in a special election. Her district to the northwest of Boston is fairly blue and she was unopposed in 2008. This year Republican Sam Maes is her challenger and is is giving her the fight of her life. Maes is a refugee from Cambodia who spent years in a UN refugee camp before being allowed to emigrate to America through a Catholic charity. Most of his family was wiped out in the communist purges in the late 1970s in Cambodia and he doesn't even know how old he is. It is a classic story of someone who came to the US with very little and didn't even know the language but has risen to run for high office. In a district that voted strongly for Scott Brown in the January Senate election I wouldn't be surprised if Maes picks Tsongas off. I fully expect the GOP to pick up Massachusetts CD 10 as well so they have a shot at two seats in the Bay State-something they haven't had for many years.
Michigan CD 5 (Kildee) Dale Kildee was first elected to Congress in 1976 and has rarely had a strong challenger. In 1994 he came close to losing but since then has generally had an easy ride. His district includes Flint which is heavily Democratic and much of the rest of the seat is deep blue. However, John Kupiec, a local Republican will give Kildee a strong challenge this year. Turnout in the Republican primary in Michigan was very high (see the previous post) and Kupiec think he's got a good shot at winning. A life-long resident of the district with strong environmental credentials, Kupiec will be able to spend the rest of the fall campaigning while Kildee will have to race back and forth from Washington. Moreover, Kildee was one of the last holdouts against ObamaCare but folded at the end of the debate and has faced the wrath of the public ever since. Kildee should still win but it is certainly not out of the realm of possiblity that he'll lose.
Missouri CD 3 (Carnahan) Russ Carnahan has spent two unremarkable terms in the House of Representatives. The Carnahan family name is strong in Missouri and Russ was the beneficiary of the name recongition to succeed Dick Gephardt in 2006. However, ObamaCare is very unpopular in the state (see previous posts) and Carnahan eagerly voted for it. He'll face a strong challenger this year in Ed Martin who may be able to knock him off. This race will depend on turnout; how many Republicans and Independents will come out to vote for Martin as part of a protest vote against Carnahan and ObamaCare. The district is blue (areas of St. Louis and counties southeast of the city) but not as deep as Kildee's in Michigan and Carnahan is simply not that talented a politican. If he loses the four scheduled debates and Martin's team can get a good grassroots organization going Carnahan may be sent packing.
Texas CD 23 (Rodriguez) Ciro Rodriguez is a very liberal Democratic politician who has been in and out of Congress for over a dozen years. After losing a primary battle because of redistricting in 2002 he was able to pull off an upset win in 2006 over popular GOP incumbent Henry Bonilla. His district is slightly red and he'll face San Antonio businessman Francisco Canseco in the general election. Rodriguez is vulnerable and he's got a temper-he lost his composure at a recent town hall meeting trying to defend ObamaCare and it was captured on tape. This district covers a large section of the border between El Paso and Laredo and includes San Antonio with about 2/3rds of the residents being from Hispanic backgrounds who tend to vote Democratic. However, this is a very socially conservative section of the country and Rodriquez is very liberal and out of step with most of his constituents. This district is under a lot of people's radar but don't be surprised on Election Night if Ciro is sent home.
If these five do lose than the House Democrats will be in danger of losing over 70 seats-no that's not a misprint.