The House has been relegated to subplot status in the 2014 midterm elections, with the Senate majority in play and the House majority, well, not. That doesn’t mean, though, that the House is boring or inconsequential.
The race for the House matters because the size of the GOP majority has real bearing on legislation that is passed (or not) over the final two years of President Obama’s time in office. It also determines the extent of the difficulty Democrats will face to win back the House in 2016.
So, here is the 10,000-foot view of where things stand in the House: Republicans, as they do in the Senate, have many more good pickup opportunities than Democrats. (The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political handicapping service, has 13 Democratic seats rated as toss-ups, versus three GOP-held seats.)
But, Republicans worry that a fundraising deficit and some problems with candidates in key seats will hold them back from having a really big year. And while seven of the 10 most vulnerable incumbents on our list below are Democrats, two of the top three are Republicans.
Here are the 10 incumbents most likely to lose this fall.
10. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.): Nolan is back in Congress more than three decades after he left it. GOP challenger Stewart Mills, an heir of the well-known family that owns the Mills Fleet Farm chain, has gained plenty of attention for his appearance (He looks like Brad Pitt. Seriously.) This is a pretty swingy district, but it has a long-standing Democratic tradition and remains one of the last big rural districts in the Democrats’ column.
9. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.): Schneider faces former congressman Bob Dold (R), whom he defeated in an extremely tight 2012 race. It’s expensive to buy airtime in this suburban Chicago district. The National Republican Congressional Committee has not yet reserved advertising time here but says it still intends to spend money.
8. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.): Coffman’s district east of Denver was redrawn with a slight Democratic lean before the 2012 election. And although he survived two years ago, he was under 50 percent, and he’s got a tougher opponent this time in former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff. Romanoff, you might recall, is the guy who came within eight points of defeating then-appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary. The challenger has narrowly outraised the incumbent so far.
7. Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.): There won’t be another showdown between Garcia and embattled former congressman David Rivera, who dropped out of the GOP primary in July. That’s a good thing for Republicans, who have long viewed Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo as the best possible nominee in this year’s race.
6. Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.): This is one of three top-tier House races featuring a gay Republican challenger, and it’s probably the best chance for history to be made in that regard. But Peters got a big break recently when the Chamber of Commerce endorsed him over former San Diego city council member Carl DeMaio (R). The Chamber backs very few Democrats, so that’s big for Peters — especially when it comes to claiming the “moderate” mantle.
5. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.): The longtime incumbent is trying to win reelection in a district that went 65 percent for Republican Mitt Romney in 2012. If Rahall won, he would almost surely occupy the most conservative congressional district held by a Democrat in the 114th Congress. His opponent is state Sen. Evan Jenkins, a former Democrat who switched to the GOP to challenge Rahall.
4. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.): Republicans narrowly averted disaster here when state House Speaker Andy Tobin squeaked by controversial rancher Gary Kiehne in the GOP primary. Now they are well-positioned to compete for this swing seat in the fall. Kirkpatrick lost her GOP-leaning seat once, in 2010, before reclaiming it in 2012.
3. Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.): On one hand, Southerland is running in a district that Romney carried two years ago. On the other, polls show him in a close race against Democrat Gwen Graham. It certainly doesn’t hurt Graham that she has a famous name: Her father is former senator and governor Bob Graham (D).
2. Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.): Barber barely defeated Martha McSally (R) in 2012. She’s back this year for another try and is considered one of the GOP’s top recruits. Romney narrowly won here in 2012, and with President Obama’s approval rating as low as it is these days, Barber has to be worried.
1. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.): When it comes to running for reelection, let’s just say it’s not a good idea to threaten to throw reporters off balconies or get indicted. Grimm has done both. The good news for Grimm is that his trial over business and tax fraud allegations won’t be until after the election. And although it’s hardly unheard-of for someone like Grimm to win reelection in New York while under indictment, former New York City council member Domenic Recchia (D) is definitely the favorite in this swing Staten Island-based district.