The Hotline‘s House Race Rankings: The House Seats Most Likely to Flip

113th Congress Swearing-in; Rep. John Boehner chosen Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi picked as Minority Leader of the House
©2013 Richard A. Bloom
Jan. 6, 2014, midnight

Ten months from Elec­tion Day, un­cer­tainty is the watch­word in the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives. Demo­crats look very un­likely to pick up the 17 seats they would need to re­take the House ma­jor­ity, and they could lose seats, with the gen­er­ic-bal­lot av­er­age set­tling in­to a slim Re­pub­lic­an ad­vant­age after a tu­mul­tu­ous fall. But the speed of earli­er move­ment against both parties shows why it would be fool­ish to as­sume what’s true today will be true in 10 months.

A race-by-race look at the House land­scape also helps ex­plain why things are un­settled. As far as we see it, there is only one slam-dunk pickup that either side can more or less count on right now. The GOP’s gen­er­ic-bal­lot ad­vant­age and a large class of Demo­crat­ic fresh­men in battle­ground dis­tricts (the party picked up eight seats in 2012) has giv­en Re­pub­lic­ans a great­er num­ber of tar­gets in top races. But re­cent GOP re­tire­ments in some blue-tinged dis­tricts have them es­pe­cially wor­ried — and Demo­crats lick­ing their chops — about con­trol in cer­tain re­gions (though one re­tire­ment, by con­tro­ver­sial Min­nesota Re­pub­lic­an Michele Bach­mann, ac­tu­ally took her seat out of the battle­ground column and back to safe GOP ter­rit­ory). Strategists in both parties, mean­while, worry that they don’t have can­did­ates cap­able of grabbing some of the tough­er dis­tricts on the table.

Most in­ter­est­ing of all, Demo­crats have few pickup op­por­tun­it­ies in the North­east, their strongest area, while Re­pub­lic­ans will tar­get few dis­tricts in the South. That’s be­cause they’ve already won most of them, a long-term trend re­in­forced by “dual waves” in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try in 2012. Demo­crats hold every seat in New Eng­land right now, and the GOP Con­fer­ence is more South­ern — and the South more Re­pub­lic­an — than ever in the his­tory of the Re­pub­lic­an Party.

These rank­ings place dis­tricts in or­der start­ing with the most likely to switch par­tis­an con­trol. Thus, some hotly con­tested races — like Rep. Mike Honda’s chal­lenge from a fel­low Cali­for­nia Demo­crat and Rep. Mike Simpson’s chal­lenge from a fel­low Idaho Re­pub­lic­an — are not on this list. This be­ing an early look, we are only go­ing 30 races deep, but there are one or two dozen more that could def­in­itely be com­pet­it­ive in Novem­ber. We ex­amined a mul­ti­tude of factors to choose and place battle­ground dis­tricts on this list: pub­lic and private polling, can­did­ates’ fun­drais­ing abil­ity, ad­vert­ising pat­terns and out­side group in­volve­ment, loc­al me­dia cov­er­age, and months of cu­mu­lat­ive re­port­ing and ana­lys­is.

Without fur­ther ado, let’s be­gin with the con­gres­sion­al dis­trict most likely to flip from one party to the oth­er this Novem­ber:

1. Utah-04 — Rep. Jim Math­eson (D) is re­tir­ing
Noth­ing is cer­tain in polit­ics, but Math­eson’s re­tire­ment ba­sic­ally cedes the seat to Re­pub­lic­ans. Without his brand name, it’s very dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a Demo­crat over­com­ing the party’s poor per­form­ance levels in this state and dis­trict. (Pres­id­ent Obama just cleared 30 per­cent here in 2012, mak­ing it his 25th-worst dis­trict in the coun­try.) Re­peat GOP can­did­ate Mia Love, who would be the first Afric­an-Amer­ic­an Re­pub­lic­an wo­man in Con­gress if she won, is now the biggest early fa­vor­ite to be­come a House fresh­man in 2015, though Math­eson’s de­cision could spur some more GOP in­terest in the seat.

2. Cali­for­nia-31 — Rep. Gary Miller (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Miller is only in Con­gress right now thanks to a series of post-re­dis­trict­ing flukes, the biggest of which was a split Demo­crat­ic vote al­low­ing an­oth­er Re­pub­lic­an to sneak through Cali­for­nia’s top-two primary along­side Miller last cycle. The party isn’t uni­fied — the DCCC is back­ing Pete Aguilar, EMILY’s List is be­hind Eloise Gomez Reyes, and former Rep. Joe Baca still has some sup­port — but it’s very hard to en­vi­sion an­oth­er re­peat fail­ure here, giv­en the San Bern­ardino dis­trict’s lib­er­al lean (57 per­cent sup­port for Obama in 2012).

3. Flor­ida-13 — Va­cant: Rep. Bill Young (R) died in Oc­to­ber
Young kept this dis­trict safely Re­pub­lic­an even as the polit­ic­al ter­rain shif­ted un­der­neath him over 40-plus years, to the point where Pres­id­ent Obama car­ried it twice. Without Young to de­fend the seat, it is a prime Demo­crat­ic pickup op­por­tun­ity in a March spe­cial elec­tion and in Novem­ber there­after. Demo­crats’ last gubernat­ori­al nom­in­ee, Alex Sink, moved in­to the dis­trict she car­ried in 2010, cleared the field, and just re­por­ted rais­ing over $1 mil­lion in two months. Mean­while, Re­pub­lic­ans Dav­id Jolly and Kath­leen Peters are fight­ing an in­creas­ingly nasty primary, and party mem­bers worry about the dis­trict, des­pite the op­por­tun­ity to test-drive new Obama­care at­tacks in the spe­cial elec­tion.

4. Iowa-03 — Rep. Tom Lath­am (R) is re­tir­ing
Stop us if you’ve heard this song be­fore, but without Lath­am — a strong cam­paign­er, from his loc­al repu­ta­tion to his fun­drais­ing abil­ity — it will be much, much harder for Re­pub­lic­ans to hold this Des Moines-based seat in 2014. Obama car­ried it in 2012, and Demo­crat­ic state Sen. Staci Ap­pel is go­ing to have a big head start on who­ever jumps in. But on the flip side, there may be ad­di­tion­al Demo­crat­ic in­terest here now that Lath­am is out of the way. Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate can­did­ate Dav­id Young, who has a preex­ist­ing fed­er­al cam­paign already go­ing, just jumped at the chance to run here in­stead, and about a dozen Re­pub­lic­ans in all have ex­pressed in­terest in the seat.

5. New Jer­sey-03 — Rep. Jon Run­yan (R) is re­tir­ing
Re­pub­lic­ans have held this seat for most of the past few dec­ades des­pite a Demo­crat­ic lean in pres­id­en­tial polit­ics, and Run­yan won reelec­tion eas­ily in 2012 even as Pres­id­ent Obama car­ried the South Jer­sey dis­trict. But the GOP doesn’t have an in­cum­bent on the bal­lot to pro­tect the seat this year, giv­ing Demo­crats a golden op­por­tun­ity to try and re­align the dis­trict. The DCCC is already lined up be­hind loc­al of­fice­hold­er Aimee Bel­gard, while a num­ber of Re­pub­lic­ans are talk­ing to the dis­trict’s power­ful county party chairs about mak­ing their own bids. The GOP’s con­tro­ver­sial nom­in­ee in last year’s Sen­ate spe­cial elec­tion against Cory Book­er, Steve Loneg­an, has said he’ll run in the dis­trict, though he is not from there. That Re­pub­lic­an primary will be one of sev­er­al that elect­ab­il­ity-minded party mem­bers worry about this year.

6. Vir­gin­ia-10 — Rep. Frank Wolf (R) is re­tir­ing
Like his long­time col­league Bill Young, Wolf kept his seat per­fectly safe des­pite big changes in loc­al polit­ic­al lean­ings dur­ing his ca­reer. Now that Wolf is re­tir­ing, Demo­crats have a real op­por­tun­ity to take ad­vant­age of those changes, which made the 10th Dis­trict one of the closest in the 2012 pres­id­en­tial race. The GOP has a deep bench of po­ten­tial can­did­ates in the sub­urbs out­side D.C., but some strategists are con­cerned the party will choose to nom­in­ate its stand­ard bear­er via a con­ven­tion in­stead of a primary, height­en­ing the chances of get­ting an un­elect­able nom­in­ee. We’re de­fy­ing oth­er pro­gnost­ic­at­ors here a bit, and this open seat is more Re­pub­lic­an-lean­ing than the oth­ers. But open seats are by their nature more volat­ile than races with in­cum­bents, and this dis­trict is too closely di­vided to bump down the list. The oth­er open seats (like Montana’s at-large dis­trict) lean much fur­ther to­ward one party or the oth­er, mean­ing we will need more time to as­sess their com­pet­it­ive­ness.

7. Ari­zona-02 — Rep. Ron Barber (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Barber al­most lost in 2012 un­der un­usu­al cir­cum­stances. Spe­cial-elec­tion vic­tors rarely lose a reg­u­lar elec­tion just months later, but Barber trailed Re­pub­lic­an Martha Mc­Sally on Novem­ber’s elec­tion night be­fore ek­ing out a slim vic­tory thanks to a big edge in pro­vi­sion­al bal­lots and early votes. Now Mc­Sally — who has a great story to tell as the na­tion’s first fe­male com­bat pi­lot — is off and run­ning again, and though she has to clear a primary, Barber has his work cut out pro­tect­ing a seat Re­pub­lic­ans have car­ried in three straight pres­id­en­tial con­tests.

8. North Car­o­lina-07 — Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Just 654 votes sep­ar­ated McIntyre and state Sen. Dav­id Rouzer in 2012, the closest mar­gin of any House race in the na­tion. Rouzer is back for an­oth­er bid in this very con­ser­vat­ive dis­trict, and it’s a bit early to tell what kind of comeback he’s put­ting to­geth­er. Neither can­did­ate’s fun­drais­ing has blown any­one away, though Rouzer has put to­geth­er a more well-or­gan­ized cam­paign more quickly this time around.

9. West Vir­gin­ia-03 — Rep. Nick Ra­hall (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Ra­hall has out­run the polit­ic­al change in West Vir­gin­ia so far, but Obama’s dire ap­prov­al rat­ings here are dan­ger­ous for the vet­er­an in­cum­bent. Re­pub­lic­an groups are already pour­ing money in­to the seat: This dis­trict saw the most TV spend­ing of any 2014 House race in the off-year, in­clud­ing an ad from Demo­crats’ House Ma­jor­ity PAC seek­ing to off­set the tide of con­ser­vat­ive out­side money. Mean­while, Re­pub­lic­ans have a can­did­ate who per­son­i­fies what’s been go­ing on in West Vir­gin­ia: State Sen. Evan Jen­kins was a Demo­crat un­til Ju­ly, when he switched parties and an­nounced his can­did­acy.

10. Ari­zona-01 — Rep. Ann Kirk­patrick (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
This massive East­ern Ari­zona dis­trict skews con­ser­vat­ive, but Kirk­patrick proved a good fit for it last cycle, even though her staunch sup­port for Obama­care puts her at odds with many res­id­ents. Now, three Re­pub­lic­ans, in­clud­ing state House Speak­er Andy To­bin, are vy­ing to win it back. They are already trad­ing ac­cus­a­tions about in­suf­fi­cient con­ser­vat­ism, which will bear watch­ing up to Ari­zona’s late primary. One more thing to keep an eye out for throughout Ari­zona and here es­pe­cially: Kirk­patrick won her second non-con­sec­ut­ive term with less than 50 per­cent of the vote as a liber­tari­an can­did­ate car­ried thou­sands of third-party votes. The GOP-con­trolled state le­gis­lature passed a law this year mak­ing bal­lot ac­cess for third-party can­did­ates more dif­fi­cult to pre­vent such scen­ari­os, but it isn’t in ef­fect yet pending a pop­u­lar ref­er­en­dum. Third-party can­did­ates could again play a role in the out­come here.

11. Cali­for­nia-52 — Rep. Scott Peters (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
No ser­i­ous Re­pub­lic­an con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate has drawn more at­ten­tion for break­ing the mold: Former San Diego City Coun­cilor Carl De­Maio, who is openly gay, has also openly called for his party to deem­phas­ize so­cial is­sues and fo­cus on pock­et­book mat­ters. Demo­crats suc­cess­fully tagged De­Maio as over-con­ser­vat­ive in his los­ing 2012 may­or­al race, but both he and Peters have cros­sov­er ap­peal. A neat map from KPBS shows about two-thirds of Peters pre­cincts also go­ing for De­Maio where their races over­lapped in 2012.

12. New Hamp­shire-01 — Rep. Car­ol Shea-Port­er (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
This seat has switched parties three times in four elec­tions, mov­ing with the volat­ile na­tion­al mood over that time. That’s what gives Re­pub­lic­ans their best chance to re­take a seat in New Eng­land, where Shea-Port­er and Demo­crats shut them out in 2012. Former Rep. Frank Guinta is run­ning again and starts with a big name-ID edge for the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion, but re­cent polling sug­gests he’s still bruised from the last elec­tion, which could be a li­ab­il­ity. Dis­trict voters gave Shea-Port­er much stronger marks in the same sur­vey.

13. Col­or­ado-06 — Rep. Mike Coff­man (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Coff­man took over from ex-Rep. Tom Tan­credo when he joined Con­gress, but Coff­man has had to ex­ecute something of a polit­ic­al re­in­ven­tion on is­sues like im­mig­ra­tion since his dis­trict was re­drawn in­to a swing seat last cycle, when he barely won reelec­tion. Demo­crat An­drew Ro­man­off, the former state House speak­er, has been run­ning against Coff­man for nearly 12 months already, though he may re­gret not chas­ing the seat in a pres­id­en­tial year. (Obama car­ried this dis­trict in 2012.) Giv­en the dis­trict dy­nam­ics, Coff­man and Ro­man­off’s gang­busters fun­drais­ing pace (over $1.5 mil­lion each after the first three quar­ters of last year), the size of the Den­ver me­dia mar­ket, and the high-pro­file statewide races also on tap for the fall of 2014, this is a sol­id early bet to be the na­tion’s most ex­pens­ive House race this year.

14. Cali­for­nia-07 — Rep. Ami Be­ra (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Re­dis­trict­ing and the march of demo­graph­ic change out­side Sac­ra­mento helped Be­ra cap­ture the seat in 2012, but three Re­pub­lic­ans are link­ing him to the pres­id­ent’s health care law and ar­guing he’s part of D.C.’s prob­lems in try­ing to re­place him. The GOP battle for the second gen­er­al-elec­tion spot could get nasty, if his­tory is any guide: Former Rep. Doug Ose’s last race was a Re­pub­lic­an primary brawl against fel­low can­did­ate Ig­or Birman’s old boss, Rep. Tom Mc­Clin­tock.

15. Flor­ida-26 — Rep. Joe Gar­cia (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Gar­cia is rais­ing money hand-over-foot, but he’s been dogged by a weird scan­dal (staffers of his plot­ted to fraud­u­lently cast ab­sent­ee bal­lots, ap­par­ently without the can­did­ate’s know­ledge). Re­pub­lic­an Car­los Cur­belo could be a strong chal­lenger. One un­der­re­por­ted fact about this dis­trict: Gar­cia’s 2012 vic­tory is at­trib­uted to then-Rep. Dav­id Rivera’s com­plete cam­paign melt­down amidst scan­dal but Obama’s mar­gin over Mitt Rom­ney in the dis­trict was al­most ex­actly the same as Gar­cia’s over Rivera. Cuban-heavy Miami is ex­per­i­en­cing something of a Demo­crat­ic shift in na­tion­al polit­ics. GOP Gov. Rick Scott’s ap­prov­al could also be a prob­lem for Re­pub­lic­ans in the Sun­shine State in Novem­ber.

16. Illinois-13 — Rep. Rod­ney Dav­is (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Dav­is has a March primary chal­lenge, but that’s not the obstacle here: He won one of the na­tion’s tight­est races — the closest one Demo­crats lost in 2012 — against a per­en­ni­al can­did­ate, and Demo­crats have got­ten be­hind former judge Ann Cal­lis for a po­ten­tially stronger bid this time. Cal­lis’s long ju­di­cial ten­ure has left be­hind a re­cord that the GOP is already pick­ing away at, though.

17. Flor­ida-02 — Rep. Steve South­er­land (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Demo­crats had an­oth­er near-miss in the Flor­ida Pan­handle in 2012, though the path to vic­tory here slopes steeply up­ward to­ward the end, Heart­break Hill-style. As Stu Rothen­berg has poin­ted out, the last couple of per­cent­age points are a very dif­fi­cult climb for Demo­crats in the 2nd Dis­trict, though Gwen Gra­ham’s fam­ily name, con­nec­tions, and lack of a polit­ic­al re­cord make her a le­git threat to South­er­land, who hasn’t al­ways fun­draised well.

18. Michigan-01 — Rep. Dan Ben­ishek (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Ben­ishek also struggled struggled with his cam­paign at times in the last few years, and polls con­sist­ently showed him mired in the low-40s in 2012 be­fore he pulled out a nar­row vic­tory over re­peat can­did­ate Gary Mc­Dow­ell. Now, Demo­crats have a fresh face in loc­al sher­iff Jerry Can­non, who would have to over­come the Up­per Pen­in­sula’s gen­er­ic­ally con­ser­vat­ive tilt to win.

19. Flor­ida-18 — Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
By the num­bers, this race ought to go high­er, with Rom­ney hav­ing car­ried the dis­trict as Murphy just squeaked by con­tro­ver­sial Rep. Al­len West in 2012. But the GOP isn’t so sure it has a mar­quee chal­lenger here, and there’s a reas­on why some Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­ans pined for former state House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Adam Has­ner, a prodi­gious fun­draiser, last year. Then again, plenty of folks scoffed at Murphy’s vi­ab­il­ity as he set out last cycle, too. No one will ever run away with this dis­trict, but Murphy’s high fun­drais­ing and luck of the draw so far move him a bit fur­ther down the list.

20. Cali­for­nia-36 — Rep. Raul Ruiz (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Re­pub­lic­ans iden­ti­fied a can­did­ate here early: As­sembly­man Bri­an Nest­ande is a vet­er­an of the Bono polit­ic­al ma­chine. But he’s star­ted slowly, es­pe­cially on the fun­drais­ing front. The Palm Springs-based dis­trict is chan­ging rap­idly, which helped fuel Ruiz’s un­ex­pec­ted vic­tory last term and helped Obama ac­tu­ally per­form slightly bet­ter here in 2012 than 2008 des­pite los­ing ground na­tion­ally. If Ruiz can hold his seat and give that change an­oth­er couple of years, con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans may nev­er get an­oth­er chance to re­take the 36th.

21. Illinois-12 — Rep. Bill En­yart (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Cul­tur­ally, this down­state seat — bordered by Ken­tucky to the south and Mis­souri to the west — looks a lot like the type of Demo­crat­ic dis­trict Re­pub­lic­ans have flat-out as­sim­il­ated, Borg-like, over the past few years, though Demo­crats still main­tain a slight gen­er­ic edge here. En­yart won his fresh­man term more eas­ily than Re­pub­lic­ans were ex­pect­ing, though they think state Rep. Mike Bost could give him a run for his money.

22. Geor­gia-12 — Rep. John Bar­row (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Bar­row ran a flaw­less 2012 cam­paign against a flawed op­pon­ent — and he still won with just un­der 54 per­cent. Such is life for the last re­main­ing House Demo­crat in the Deep South. Rom­ney won the seat by 12 per­cent­age points, and Bar­row’s ceil­ing is too low for com­fort no mat­ter how much even House GOP strategists grudgingly praise his polit­ic­al sur­viv­al in­stincts. Re­pub­lic­an Rick Al­len’s deep pock­ets could play a role here.

23. Cali­for­nia-21 — Rep. Dav­id Valadao (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
By pres­id­en­tial per­form­ance, this is the second-bluest seat held by a House Re­pub­lic­an, so the re­l­at­ively un­tested Valadao has to look over his shoulder a bit. But those num­bers also ob­scure some ma­jor is­sues for Demo­crats in the Cent­ral Val­ley. Former Sen­ate staffer Aman­da Renter­ia has Demo­crats ex­cited and may prove to be a strong cam­paign­er, but her party just lost a 2013 state Sen­ate spe­cial elec­tion in a dis­trict that largely over­lapped with the 21st.

24. New York-19 — Rep. Chris Gib­son (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Gib­son has proven a great elect­or­al fit for the dis­trict, even as Obama car­ried the Hud­son Val­ley seat in 2012, but in­vestor Sean Eldridge (who is mar­ried to Face­book cofounder Chris Hughes) brings con­nec­tions and cash to bear on the race, which has Re­pub­lic­ans nervous. They’ve already be­gun savaging Eldridge as a car­pet­bag­ger out of touch with the me­di­an voter, while pree­mpt­ively win­cing at what might hap­pen in an ex­pens­ive race. Demo­crats tried and failed in 2012 to con­vince area voters that they should sup­port a Demo­crat for Con­gress if they were go­ing to sup­port Obama; that will an im­port­ant page in the play­book again in 2014.

25. Nevada-03 — Rep. Joe Heck (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Heck beat back a Demo­crat­ic chal­lenge in 2012 rather eas­ily con­sid­er­ing the seat’s nar­row lean for Obama, and Demo­crat Erin Bil­bray might be a tough­er match­up when all is said and done. The big is­sue in this race so far has been im­mig­ra­tion. Heck has en­dorsed a path­way to cit­izen­ship, but he has op­posed the bi­par­tis­an Sen­ate bill for com­pre­hens­ive re­form, and the biggest im­mig­ra­tion vote he took in 2013 was one to de­fund Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive Dream Act-style pro­gram. Bil­bray has had trouble land­ing punches on the is­sue, but Heck could be a gauge of how im­mig­ra­tion re­form af­fects Re­pub­lic­an pro­spects in di­verse dis­tricts.

26. Illinois-10 — Rep. Brad Schneider (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Demo­crats fi­nally cap­tured this dis­trict in 2012, when it was the bluest GOP-held seat in the coun­try, after years of failed ef­forts. That type of seat of­ten stays put once it fi­nally flips, but former Rep. Bob Dold proved him­self to be a reas­on­able Re­pub­lic­an fit there last term and can run against Con­gress now, in­stead of as part of it. Illinois Demo­crats and Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­ans may have a sim­il­ar worry this cycle: Keep an eye out for wheth­er un­pop­u­lar Demo­crat­ic Gov. Pat Quinn sup­presses en­thu­si­asm for Schneider north of Chica­go.

27. Pennsylvania-08 — Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Fitzpatrick’s easy vic­tory last cycle means that Demo­crats’ first-time can­did­ates have to prove they can make the seat com­pet­it­ive, though it’s an­oth­er dis­trict that split between Obama and a GOP con­gress­man. This is an­oth­er state where Demo­crats hope an un­pop­u­lar gov­ernor (Tom Corbett) drags down Re­pub­lic­an per­form­ance down-tick­et.

28. New Hamp­shire-02 — Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Kuster has only been in polit­ics for a few years, but she has already ac­cu­mu­lated a start­ling re­cord of pub­lic gaffes, in­clud­ing grabbing a cam­era from a track­er, try­ing to grab the mi­cro­phone from then-Rep. Charles Bass dur­ing a de­bate in 2012, and, most re­cently, dis­miss­ing a series of ag­gress­ive ques­tions at a town-hall meet­ing. The dis­trict is Demo­crat­ic-lean­ing — Kuster barely lost in 2010 des­pite that year’s Re­pub­lic­an wave — but it is not im­mune to the na­tion’s polit­ic­al swings, and Kuster may prove to be a li­ab­il­ity to her­self. A small-sample poll from WMUR last Oc­to­ber showed her un­fa­vor­ab­il­ity high­er than her fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ing, in con­trast to her in-state Demo­crat­ic col­league Shea-Port­er, who rep­res­ents a less friendly dis­trict.

29. New York-11 — Rep. Mi­chael Grimm (R) is run­ning for reelec­tion
Demo­crats’ latest chal­lenge to Grimm will be bet­ter-fun­ded than their last, thanks to former New York City Coun­cilor Domen­ic Rec­chia’s con­nec­tions, and the race looks set to be nas­ti­er, too, with Rec­chia and Grimm already go­ing back and forth rais­ing eth­ic­al is­sues about each oth­er. Rec­chia is from Brook­lyn, not Staten Is­land, but Demo­crats are bet­ting he can still make a stronger push there even as Grimm ar­gues he’s more in tune with the dis­trict. This is one of just a hand­ful of dis­tricts where Obama im­proved on his 2008 show­ing last elec­tion, though it’s hard to say how much of that might have been a tem­por­ary ef­fect of Hur­ricane Sandy.

30. Texas-23 — Rep. Pete Gal­lego (D) is run­ning for reelec­tion
As with some pre­vi­ous dis­tricts, the num­bers — in­clud­ing a Rom­ney win here in 2012 — dic­tate that Gal­lego stay on the watch list. But the NR­CC quietly kept re­cruit­ing in this vast West Texas dis­trict after all three Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates were already run­ning, which sends a frank mes­sage about how the GOP views their pro­spects. Part of the prob­lem: Former Rep. Quico Can­seco, the best-known of the three Re­pub­lic­an con­tenders, was sav­aged by Demo­crat­ic ads last cycle, with linger­ing res­ults on pub­lic opin­ion.

Hon­or­able men­tions: New Jer­sey-02 — Rep. Frank Lo­Bi­ondo (R) and Min­nesota-07 — Rep. Col­lin Peterson (D) are both run­ning for reelec­tion
There are nu­mer­ous oth­er dis­tricts we could men­tion. Michigan’s 11th Dis­trict, where reindeer-rais­ing, Santa cos­tume-wear­ing, tea-party Rep. Kerry Bento­volio faces both a primary and a gen­er­al-elec­tion chal­lenge, is par­tic­u­larly in­triguing, as is the col­lect­ive plight of the few re­main­ing Blue Dog Demo­crats in the House. But these two make an in­ter­est­ing pair, and we’re go­ing to ex­er­cise some self-con­trol and just talk about them for a mo­ment. Here’s why.

Peterson hasn’t been ser­i­ously chal­lenged since 1994, and Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans ap­proach that fact from dif­fer­ent angles. Per­haps Peterson is un­touch­able, des­pite his dis­trict’s pro­cliv­ity for Re­pub­lic­ans at oth­er levels of gov­ern­ment. Or per­haps the GOP had nev­er got­ten a good enough can­did­ate in­to the race, at least un­til blind state Sen. Tor­rey Westrom de­clared a bid earli­er this year. It will take a few months to sort out right from wrong here. Pretty much the same goes for Lo­Bi­ondo in New Jer­sey, where the DCCC has got­ten be­hind former pro­sec­utor Bill Hughes, son of Lo­Bi­ondo’s pre­de­cessor. The Re­pub­lic­an in­cum­bent has nev­er got­ten few­er than 59 per­cent of the votes in 10 elec­tions. Peterson and Lo­Bi­ondo have eas­ily res­isted the trend against tick­et-split­ting in the in­creas­ingly par­lia­ment­ary House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives. 2014 could provide the biggest test yet of that res­ist­ance. 

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