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The Terminal Ten: The most vulnerable House seats in the country

at 03:04 PM ET, 07/13/2012

Some House seats are going to change hands in this November’s election; there is no doubt about this fact.

A volatile electoral environment has conspired with the once-in-a-decade redistricting process to create upwards of a dozen seats that are now expected to change parties. These seats were either so close in 2010 that they are expected to flip back in a more neutral environment, or were changed so significantly in redistricting that they now favor the other side.

Below, we look at the 10 most vulnerable seats in the country, with No. 1 being the most vulnerable and No. 10 the least. Don’t be surprised if all of these switch parties this November.

Beyond these seats is when the real battle for control of the House begins. (While these split 50/50 between parties, the next crop of vulnerable seats includes more Republicans seats.)

To the line!

10. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.): With Barrow’s district getting about 15 points more Republican — perhaps the biggest shift in the country that made the district one that would have gone 59 percent for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 — one might wonder why this doesn’t rank higher on our list. In short, it’s because Barrow is a survivor. Like Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Barrow has shown he can survive in conservative territory in spite of the ‘D’ next to his name. The reason Barrow is on this list and the others aren’t is that his district just got so much tougher.

9. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.): Buerkle won this Democratic-leaning upstate district by a razor-thin margin in 2010 — and it got about a point tougher in redistricting — but she hasn’t shied away from partisan warfare in Congress. The man she beat, former congressman Dan Maffei (D), is hoping to use her opposition to the health-care law and her support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget against her. If any race is a referendum on those policies, it’s this one.

8. Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.): The former teacher and light-fundraising two-term congressman got a break in 2010, when Republicans were unable to land a top- or even second-tier recruit against him. This time, the primary runoff to face Kissell is one of the most-watched contests in the House, with outside groups lining up being former congressional aide Richard Hudson and conservative favorite Scott Keadle. Either would give Kissell a run for his money in a district that was already competitive and got about 10 points more Republican (57 percent McCain).

7. Oklahoma’s 2nd district (Democratic-held seat): We still don’t know who the candidates are in the race for the retiring Boren’s seat; there are runoffs on both sides. What we do know: Republicans are bullish on the last Democratic seat in the state. And the presidential primary earlier this year (Obama lost 40 percent of the Democratic primary vote to a slate of nobodies) is a reminder that having Obama on the ballot won’t do the Democratic nominee any favors.

6. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.): After redistricting, Dold sits in the most Democratic seat currently held by a Republican. He’s a moderate, but so is the Democrat running against him, Brad Schneider. Why isn’t Dold higher on this list? Because he’s got a lot more cash than Schneider and has been using it to campaign hard in his new district. Dold won’t take this one laying down.

5. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.): Maryland Democrats gave the veteran Republican a very tough district that includes little of his old territory, and self-funding businessman John Delaney earned plaudits for his upset in the Democratic primary over state Sen. Rob Garagiola. The 85-year-old incumbent is the underdog here.

4. North Carolina’s 11th district (D): Retiring Rep. Heath Shuler’s (D-N.C.) district was already conservative, and now it’s the reddest district in the state (58 percent McCain). Enter Shuler’s former chief of staff, Hayden Rogers, who won the Democratic nomination but is fighting an uphill battle. The good news for Democrats is that they’ve shown an ability to hold seats in Appalachia even in a tough environment. GOP businessmen Vance Patterson and Mark Meadows face off in a runoff on Tuesday; the winner will be the favorite in November.


Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) speaks at CPAC Chicago's Conservative Political Action Conference at the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont , Ill. on Friday, June 8. (AP Photo/Daily Herald, Mark Welsh)
3. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.): This district would be hard for Republicans to hold even if Walsh wasn’t ... well, Walsh. As it is, the GOP has a candidate who has numerous videos showing him getting way-too-excited at town halls and recently complained that his opponent talks too much about her service in Iraq. It doesn’t help Walsh that that opponent, former Veterans Affairs official Tammy Duckworth (D), is a war hero who lost both her legs, but don’t forget that she also raised $900,000 this past quarter and is running in a former swing district that got much friendlier for Democrats.

2. Arkansas’s 4th district (D): Democrats’s choice candidate in this race, attorney Q. Byrum Hurst, lost in the primary runoff, and nobody has much confidence that state Sen. Gene Jeffress (D) can hold this conservative-leaning seat. Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Tom Cotton (R), meanwhile, is a rising GOP star who raised half a million dollars in the second quarter.

1. North Carolina’s 13th district (D): North Carolina Republicans turned Rep. Brad Miller’s (D) district from a 40 percent McCain district into a 54 percent McCain district. Miller retired, and then Democrats nominated a candidate who had dropped out of the race due to health problems. That candidate, state employee Charles Malone, is now back in the race, but he stands little chance against former U.S. attorney George Holding (R). Holding’s one vulnerability right now is that he’s the one who initially brought the charges in the failed case against former senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.

 
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