There may be 435 House races neck-deep in battles across the country this year, but the magic number on everyone’s mind come election day is “39.” That’s the number of seats the Republicans must net to switch party leadership in the new session that will begin in 2011. At this point, no honest political observer can say they know for certain that victory is in the bag for either party.
But there’s far more to the story than just a simple numbers game. Democrats stand to possibly lose some of their most venerable — and in some cases most infamous — members if political winds continue to blow against them. And even if those Democrats pull it out in the end and keep their seats, the days leading up to Nov. 2 will come with frazzled nerves and anxious jitters, something many of them haven’t felt since their early days in the political game.
Massachusetts District 4: Barney Frank (D) v. Sean Bielat (R)
Anyone with a pulse knows Republican House candidates can’t win in Massachusetts just like everyone knew last winter that former Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat would never flip to the GOP.
Veteran Rep. Barney Frank represents a district where a majority voted for Brown in the January special election, and for the first time in years, Frank may have to do some actual campaigning to keep his job. Frank is notorious within and beyond the commonwealth for his larger than life personality, brash attitude, and his ability to lay the smackdown on constituents in front of video cameras. (Sometimes it’s well deserved.)
His chairmanship on the House Financial Services Committee during the recession has made him a big wig on Capitol Hill. He has oversight over the entire financial services industry, power he does not take lightly. In the past three years, Frank has overseen a massive overhaul of the financial industry, which has made him a target of the opposition’s ire.
The election in 2008 was a walk in the park for Frank — he defeated Earl Sholley with 70 percent of the vote. But with the way things are going for Democrats this year, 2010 could demand a bit more effort from the New England southpaw. There’s a 35-year-old Marine named Sean Bielat who is making a run for the seat this year, and Frank’s actions suggest that the political newcomer could be getting to him.
Pundits have pointed to former President Bill Clinton’s campaign stop in Massachusetts as evidence that Frank could be feeling the heat, although polls indicate that he’s still on top.
NEXT: Flamboyant Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson at risk in Florida District 8
Florida District 8: Alan Grayson (D) v. Daniel Webster (R)
What Florida Rep. Alan Grayson lacks in experience, he makes up for in presence and polemics. His first-time election in 2008 makes him new to the game, but the Florida attorney has wasted no time becoming a household name with raucous floor speeches and unfounded campaign ads that make even Washington’s most ruthless political strategists blush.
Grayson burst onto the national scene during the health care reform debate by claiming that Republicans opposed the health care overhaul because they wanted Americans without insurance to “die quickly,” and called the American health care system a “holocaust.”
Combined with his reliable left-wing voting record, it was enough to motivate Florida Republicans to make a serious run for his seat. Former state Senator Dan Webster is the GOP nominee, and according to the only independent poll released earlier this month, Webster is ahead by seven points.
That’s in spite of (or maybe as a result of) a recent Grayson ad that compared Webster to the Taliban in Afghanistan and showed a heavily edited video of Webster appearing to tell a group of men that women should “submit” to them. In fact, Webster, (or “Taliban Dan” as Grayson has called him) was saying the exact opposite: that husbands should steer clear of telling their wives that they should be submissive.
For pure entertainment value, the Grayson v. Webster is definitely a race to keep an eye on. You never know what he’s going to say next.
Illinois District 17: Phil Hare (D) v. Bobby Schilling (R)
The Internet can be cruel to politicians.
Whenever there’s video of an incumbent openly stating that he doesn’t give a rip about the Constitution, there’s a challenger always close by with the YouTube page bookmarked on his iPhone.
A video of Democratic Illinois Rep. Phil Hare surfaced in April that showed Hare in a shouting match with folks in his district over why the Constitution didn’t matter when it came to the health care law.
“I don’t worry about the Constitution on this to be honest,” he told constituents.
When a constituent gave him a chance to clarify, Hare said that on health care at least, the Constitution “doesn’t matter.”
“It clearly doesn’t matter to you!” the person shouted back.
Like Grayson, Hare’s a newbie. He rode the anti-Republican wave into office in 2006 and won re-election unopposed in 2008. He’s facing businessman Bobby Schilling this year, and it appears that a similar same momentum that brought him to the House four years ago could give him trouble in November. According to local polls, neither candidate is breaking 50 percent, but Schilling is up by 3 in the latest survey, which is well within the margin of error.
NEXT: Veteran Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy in electoral trouble in North Dakota.
North Dakota District 1: Earl Pomeroy (D) v. Rick Berg (R)
It can get lonely being the representative from North Dakota. Rep. Earl Pomeroy has been the only one since 1993, which could change come November. (And it’s not because there’s been a baby boom in the Dakota’s that would let them have another rep.) Polls indicate that Pomeroy has been trailing his challenger, state legislator Rick Berg, since Rasmussen began surveying the state in February.
Despite Pomeroy’s efforts to distance himself from his Party, conservative groups have pummeled the 9-term incumbent with ads that focus on his vote in favor of the Democrats’ health care overhaul. (It sounded like a good idea at the time.) Moreover, the National Republican Campaign Committee has taken Berg in as one of their “Young Guns,” and are dropping a ton of dough on his election. (Well, for North Dakota at least.)
Pomeroy is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, and despite voting for the health care bill and the $814 billion stimulus plan, Pomeroy says he’s “not a big government guy.” But his votes on those key issues are enough for his opposition to call him a “puppet” of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Since the ads ran earlier this year, Pomeroy has slammed Pelosi, saying he would not give her “passing grades for the way she handled this Congress.”
Pomeroy’s strategy of distancing himself from Democratic leadership appears to be working. Berg’s lead was cut down to just 3 points in the latest poll.
This is the first installment of an ongoing series about House races in the midterm elections that will appear every Monday leading up to Election Day. The Daily Caller will next analyze the Republican incumbents who are facing serious challenges.
Correction: This article originally reported that Bobby Schilling was an Illinois state representative. He is a businessman.