By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 9:46 PM
It's no secret that House Democrats are headed for a very tough election on Nov. 2.
But Democratic strategists are privately hoping that amid the large-scale seat losses they are nearly certain to endure, the volatile national political climate and distaste with the goings-on in Washington will allow them to pick off just enough Republican-held seats to narrowly hold the House majority heading into the 112th Congress.
Polling does suggest the electorate's disgust is not isolated to Democrats - although the majority party will feel its effect more acutely as the side in charge of all three levers (White House, House and Senate) of political Washington.
In a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted earlier this month, thirty-four percent of registered voters said Democrats deserved to be reelected this fall, while 31 percent said the same of Republicans. Asked which party they trust to better handle the issues of the day, 40 percent of registered voters named Democrats and 38 percent chose Republicans.
Those numbers - along with others like them in various national polls - are regularly cited by Democratic strategists as evidence that there may be some silver linings in the ominous electoral clouds building on the horizon.
So, where should you look to find these silver linings? Here's a look at seven of Democrats' best pickup opportunities this fall:
- California's 3rd District: Rep. Dan Lungren is a rare species these days - a Republican member of Congress from California. After failing to break 50 percent in his 2008 reelection, Lungren is a major target for Democrats who are touting the candidacy of physician Ami Bera. The Sacramento-area district is a partisan jump ball; President Obama won it by 1,592 votes out of more than 329,000 cast in 2008.
- Delaware's at-large seat: As Rep. Mike Castle battles perennial candidate Christine O'Donnell in Tuesday's Republican Senate primary, the seat he leaves behind is a major Democratic opportunity. Former lieutenant governor John Carney (D), who lost a run for governor in 2008, is the heavy favorite in the fall.
- Florida's 25th District: An open seat occasioned by the retirement of 21st District Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R) and the decision of his brother Mario Diaz-Balart (R) to leave the 25th for the more friendly confines of the 21st - got all that?- gives Democrats a chance in this heavily Hispanic, South Florida seat. Joe Garcia (D), who nearly upset Mario Diaz-Balart in 2008, is running again - this time against state Rep. David Rivera (R).
- Hawaii's 1st District: Republican Rep. Charles Djou won this race in a May special election thanks, at least in part, to the fact that state and national Democrats were unable to unite behind a single candidate. Djou won't have that luxury this fall, as state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D) is the preferred choice in a district that is not only the one Obama calls home but also where he won 70 percent in 2008.
- Illinois' 10th District: Democrat Dan Seals twice tried to unseat Rep. Mark Kirk (R) from this affluent suburban Chicago district where Obama took 61 percent in 2008. He failed both times. But with Kirk running for the Senate, Seals is a slight favorite against businessman Robert Dold (R).
- Louisiana's 2nd District: Rep. Joseph Cao (R) was a lone bright spot for Republicans in 2008, knocking off scandal-tarred Rep. Bill Jefferson (D) in this New Orleans district. But the heavily Democratic nature of the seat - Obama won it with 75 percent in 2008 - coupled with state Rep. Cedric Richmond's (D) convincing primary victory makes Cao the most endangered GOP incumbent in the country.
- Pennsylvania's 15th District: For the past several election cycles, Democrats tried unsuccessfully to lure Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan into the race for this Allentown-area seat. He finally said yes this time around, and Democrats think his Bethlehem base and outsider profile give them a shot to upset Rep. Charlie Dent (R) in a district Obama carried by 13 points in 2008.
If Democrats netted all seven -- not likely -- it would increase the number of seats Republicans would need to gain to retake the majority to 46. That's a more difficult proposition even in an unpredictable electoral climate like this one.
Chris Cillizza "The Fix" The Washington Post firstname.lastname@example.org