Districts that voted McCain in '08 hold key to GOP takeover

By Dan Balz
Washington Post staff writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 12:20 PM

If you want a road map to a Republican takeover of the House this Election Day, look no further than the congressional districts won by John McCain in 2008 that are now held by Democrats.

There are currently 48 such districts (there were 49 after the '08 election but one Democrat switched parties), and in The Post's final analysis of competitive races, 43 of those districts are in play.

Twelve now lean toward the Republicans and 21 others are considered tossups. That would get the Republicans three-quarters of the 39 seats they need to take back the majority.

The most likely to change hands is the 2nd District in Arkansas, an open seat where Republican Tim Griffin is heavily favored. Others leaning toward the GOP include Colorado's 4th, the 2nd and 24th in Florida, the 2nd in New Mexico, the 29th in New York, the 6th and 8th in Tennessee, and the 17th in Texas, where Barack Obama managed to win just 32 percent of the vote.

The head winds Democrats are running into in some of the tossup districts are clear from a look at Obama's vote totals there from two years ago. In Tennessee's 4th, Obama got only 34 percent against McCain. Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis is struggling to hold that seat.

Several veteran Democrats are in trouble for the same reason. Obama won just 38 percent in Missouri's 4th, where Rep. Ike Skelton is fighting for his political life. Obama did better in South Carolina's 5th, winning 46 percent, but incumbent Rep. John M. Spratt Jr., is in deep trouble there.

Rep. Gene Taylor in Mississippi's 4th has done everything possible to distance himself from Obama, including his announcement that he voted for McCain two years ago. Obama won just 32 percent there.

Even competitive districts that are at least leaning Democratic in The Post's analysis could be difficult to win Tuesday. Watch Kentucky's 6th District. Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler won 65 percent of the vote two years ago, but Obama won just 43 percent. Chandler isn't in the top tier of endangered Democrats, but if he goes down, Republicans are looking at a very big night.

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