Lonely Days: The three Republican incumbents who could lose in November

Chris Moody Contributor
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If there’s one thing worse than being a Democratic incumbent this election cycle, it’s being a Republican that loses this election cycle.

For three Republican incumbents — Rep. Dan Lungren of California, Rep. Charles Djou of Hawaii and Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana — there is a possibility that they could face an election night with substantially less celebrating than their incumbent colleagues. Despite the strong tide in favor of Republicans this year, these incumbents are facing a potentially rough road ahead.

California District 3: Republican Rep. Daniel Lungren vs. Democrat Ami Bera

In California’s 3rd district, Republican Rep. Daniel Lungren is one of only two Republicans who has been outraised by a Democratic challenger. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Democratic candidate Ami Bera has raised about $400,000 more than the eight-term incumbent. Only 40 percent of Lungren’s campaign contributions have come from individual donors, while Bera can boast that 80 percent of his war chest is from individual donations.

Lungren squeezed by with just 50 percent of the vote in 2008, a year that turned out to be a horrible cycle for Republicans. But even with the change of political winds, Lungren will still face a battle in November. On one hand, recent polling shows that he still holds the lead. Lungren has an eight point advantage, according to a September poll taken by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. On the other hand, he still has not polled above 50 percent, a sign that the race is anything but decided.

“It would almost defy the laws of gravity for survivors of 2008 to lose in 2010,” David Wasserman, an election analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report told the Los Angeles Times in August. But, he continued, “if Democrats can play anywhere, it’s Lungren’s district.”

Despite all of this, Lungren could pull it out and keep his seat. Real Clear Politics has this race leaning toward Republicans.

Hawaii District 1: Republican Rep. Charles Djou vs. Democrat Colleen Hanabusa

The prospects for victory are similar for Hawaii Rep. Charles Djou, the sole Republican incumbent in Hawaii, a notoriously blue state and the birthplace of President Obama.

“This is a very heavily Democratic state, and it remains that way despite whatever else is happening on the mainland,” said Neal Milner, a political science professor and analyst at the University of Hawaii. “It’s just a different situation here.”

Djou won the seat in a special election after Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie resigned to run for governor, a race election expert Rhodes Cook later called “a fluke.” Djou beat out five Democrats for the slot in the special election, but never won a majority. Most election analysts predict that the seat could go either way in his race against Hawaii state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.

“While it first looked like this seat might remain in Republican hands for only a matter of months, it is now certainly possible that Djou could hold on,” wrote Isaac Wood of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Longtime political handicapper Charlie Cook considers this one a “toss-up,” a rarity in Hawaii.

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Louisiana District 2: Republican Rep. Joseph Cao vs. Democrat Cedric Richmond

It was a big, (but not a surprising) deal when Republican Rep. Joseph Cao beat scandal-ridden Rep. William Jefferson for Louisiana’s 2nd district. Even though investigators found $90,000 in illicit cash in Jefferson’s freezer before the election, Cao barely squeezed by. The first Republican elected to Louisiana’s 2nd district in more than a century, Cao is  holding on to a seat that could easily swing back to the Democrats in November.

The Cook Political Report lists Cao’s district as the only race in the state not solidly locked in for Republicans. The latest Public Policy Polling survey puts his opponent, Cedric Richmond, more than ten points ahead, the largest lead of any Democratic challenger.

Although Lungren and Djou still have a solid hope, it is looking more and more clear that Cao might not have a prayer.

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