Conventional wisdom, as well as Nate Silver, argues that the Democrats are unlikely to regain the House in 2014 based on historical precedent as well as turnout numbers. At the same time, the Republicans may have more ground to make up than they think — while they kept control of the House this year, they lost the House popular vote in this election.
I’ve highlighted here five congressional districts where the congressional Republican candidate underperformed, and might be vulnerable to a general election challenge in 2014:
1. Michele Bachmann (Minnesota 6th)
Last summer, the Republicans (and Newsweek) all but anointed Bachmann their frontrunner for the party’s presidential nomination. But this year, she was fighting for her life in a reelection race against Jim Graves in a district where Romney defeated Obama by 15 points, and it’s not the first time this has happened. Politico fills us in on how Bachmann beat her 2010 challenger Tarryl Clark by only three points. On November 6th, Bachmann beat Graves by just 4,927 votes (or 1.2%) after spending six times as much as he did ($12 million to his $2 million). Bachmann might finally be defeated in 2014 if her Democratic opponent can raise the funds necessary to match her advertising budget.
2. Dan Benishek (Michigan 1st)
In the same Michigan district where Romney garnered thirty thousand more votes than President Obama, Republican incumbent Dan Benishek only beat his challenger Gary McDowell by just over two thousand votes, less than 1% of the vote. McDowell improved dramatically on his 2010 performance, where he lost to Benishek by 11 points, even as President Obama performed much worse in the district that he won in 2008. Longtime congressman Bart Stupak (D) represented the 1st Congressional District before Benishek, and McDowell’s improved performance this year might indicate that Democrats have a shot at regaining the seat in 2014.
3. Tom Reed (New York 23rd)
Incumbent Tom Reed’s race against Nate Shinagawa was closer than observers expected in the Republican-leaning 23rd congressional district in New York. He won by only 3.8 points in a district that had a significant Republican registration edge. Reed outspent Shinagawa three to one in a race that was largely ignored by the Democratical Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The Ithaca Independent reports that “[b]oth Ithaca mayor Svante Myrick and county Democratic party chair Irene Stein commented on the funding gap from the DCCC, who apparently felt the 23rd was unwinnable.” NY-23 may turn blue in 2014 if the DCCC helps their candidate match Reed’s fundraising.
4. Christopher Collins (New York 27th)
Chris Collins narrowly defeated his opponent, incumbent Kathy Hochul, by just 1.4 points in “the most heavily Republican district in New York State." Both parties spent heavily in this race, with nationally prominent politicians such as Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner all participating in fundraisers for them. Collins’ small margin of victory will almost certainly mean that the DCCC will be targeting this seat again in 2014.
5. Keith Rothfus (Pennsylvania 12th)
Rothfus defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Critz by just 3.6 points in a district where President Obama lost by seventeen points. Both candidates benefited from outside money in a race that had the largest influx of money from outside groups in the nation, although Rothfus received a higher proportion of it. Critz also suffered from redistricting, as he had only previously represented 30% of the newly drawn district. Another indicator that might show Rothfus is a weak candidate? He currently leads in a poll on the Politics PA website as the PA congressman most vulnerable to a general election challenge in 2014.
What other House Republicans do you think will be vulnerable in 2014?