Wolf’s Retirement Opens Another Battleground District for Democrats

Democrats are on defense nationally, but they do have a trio of opportunities in long-held GOP districts.

GLEN ALLEN, VA - AUGUST 17: U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) speaks during a campaign rally of Republican U.S. Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) at West Springfield High School August 17, 2012 in Springfield, Virginia. Rep. Ryan continued to campaign for the upcoming general elections.
National Journal
Scott Bland
See more stories about...
Scott Bland
Dec. 17, 2013, 9:44 a.m.

The polit­ic­al trends clos­ing out 2013 have not been kind to Demo­crats, and their chances of re­tak­ing the House next year are slim. But the year ends with a table of op­por­tun­it­ies set in the lower cham­ber, most re­cently Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Frank Wolf’s an­nounce­ment Tues­day that he won’t seek reelec­tion in Vir­gin­ia. Wolf’s re­tire­ment leaves a third battle­ground, sub­urb­an, Re­pub­lic­an-held con­gres­sion­al dis­trict wide open in 2014, giv­ing Demo­crats the chance to make a strong run at a trio of seats that oth­er­wise would have been far out of reach.

Demo­crats have plenty of vul­ner­able House seats to de­fend in 2014, but all of them thus far are set to have in­cum­bents de­fend­ing them, save for the bright-red Utah dis­trict held by Rep. Jim Math­eson, who also an­nounced his re­tire­ment Tues­day. Mean­while, two-term Rep. Jon Run­yan, R-N.J., de­cided not to run for reelec­tion last month, and Rep. Bill Young died in Oc­to­ber, trig­ger­ing a spe­cial elec­tion in Flor­ida’s Pinel­las County.

All three dis­tricts are an­ces­tral Re­pub­lic­an ter­rit­ory but now split nearly 50-50 in na­tion­al polit­ics. Wolf’s seat, like Young’s, changed dra­mat­ic­ally dur­ing his time in of­fice — from a re­li­ably Re­pub­lic­an area to more evenly split ter­rit­ory over the course of 33 years. In this year’s Vir­gin­ia gov­ernor’s race, Re­pub­lic­an At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Cuc­cinelli car­ried Wolf’s dis­trict in Wash­ing­ton’s sub­urbs by 1 per­cent­age point over Demo­crat Terry McAul­iffe, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg. That’s the same mar­gin with which Mitt Rom­ney won the dis­trict in the 2012 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, while Pres­id­ent Obama won a 51 per­cent to 48 per­cent vic­tory there in 2008.

Obama’s 1-point loss in Vir­gin­ia’s 10th Dis­trict was ac­tu­ally the worst Demo­crats did in any of the three now open seats. Obama car­ried Young’s Flor­ida dis­trict by 1 point and Run­yan’s New Jer­sey seat by 4 points in 2012. Obama’s vic­tory in 2008 helped sweep a Demo­crat, John Adler, in­to the New Jer­sey seat for the first time in dec­ades.

But all three Re­pub­lic­ans, es­pe­cially the vet­er­an ap­pro­pri­at­ors Wolf and Young, com­pletely res­isted the polit­ic­al cur­rents in their dis­tricts in 2012, thanks to built-up years of mod­er­ate repu­ta­tions and force of per­son­al­ity. Run­yan’s 9-point vic­tory was the smal­lest of the trio in 2012.

That made Run­yan and Young par­tic­u­larly rare com­mod­it­ies in this Con­gress, as two of just 17 House Re­pub­lic­ans from dis­tricts that Obama car­ried in last year’s elec­tion. Wolf’s dis­trict falls just out­side that cat­egory; Rom­ney’s mar­gin was barely more than 4,000 votes. Whomever Re­pub­lic­ans nom­in­ate to run in those three open seats, they won’t have the ad­vant­age of time-tested fa­mili­ar­ity that Wolf and his col­leagues would have had in reelec­tion runs.

Mean­while, na­tion­al Demo­crats have can­did­ates ready to go in all three dis­tricts. Just last week, the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee touted Fair­fax County Su­per­visor John Foust’s de­cision to run for Wolf’s seat, and the DCCC has already lined up be­hind wo­men run­ning for the oth­er two open seats: county of­fice­hold­er Aimee Bel­gard in New Jer­sey and Alex Sink, a former gubernat­ori­al nom­in­ee, in March’s Flor­ida spe­cial elec­tion.

House Demo­crats are guar­an­teed noth­ing in 2014, and the cur­rent polit­ic­al cli­mate fore­tells more pain than gain. Over the last two months, they have sur­rendered their lead in gen­er­ic-bal­lot polls. But Wolf’s re­tire­ment opens up a third op­por­tun­ity for Demo­crats to play of­fense in a dis­trict where there was no op­por­tun­ity be­fore.

What We're Following See More »
A DARK CLOUD OVER TRUMP?
Snowstorm Could Impact Primary Turnout
2 days ago
THE LATEST

A snowstorm is supposed to hit New Hampshire today and “linger into Primary Tuesday.” GOP consultant Ron Kaufman said lower turnout should help candidates who have spent a lot of time in the state tending to retail politicking. Donald Trump “has acknowledged that he needs to step up his ground-game, and a heavy snowfall could depress his figures relative to more organized candidates.”

Source:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
A Shake-Up in the Offing in the Clinton Camp?
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

Anticipating a primary loss in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Hillary and Bill Clinton “are considering staffing and strategy changes” to their campaign. Sources tell Politico that the Clintons are likely to layer over top officials with experienced talent, rather than fire their staff en masse.

Source:
THE LAST ROUND OF NEW HAMPSHIRE POLLS
Trump Is Still Ahead, but Who’s in Second?
1 days ago
THE LATEST

We may not be talking about New Hampshire primary polls for another three-and-a-half years, so here goes:

  • American Research Group’s tracking poll has Donald Trump in the lead with 30% support, followed by Marco Rubio and John Kasich tying for second place at 16%. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton 53%-41%.
  • The 7 News/UMass Lowell tracking poll has Trump way out front with 34%, followed by Rubio and Ted Cruz with 13% apiece. Among the Democrats, Sanders is in front 56%-40%.
  • A Gravis poll puts Trump ahead with 28%, followed by Kasich with 17% and Rubio with 15%.
IT’S ALL ABOUT SECOND PLACE
CNN Calls the Primary for Sanders and Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Well that didn’t take long. CNN has already declared Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump the winners of the New Hampshire primary, leaving the rest of the candidates to fight for the scraps. Five minutes later, the Associated Press echoed CNN’s call.

Source:
×