Republican prospects for retaining a House majority had been looking up since Labor Day. Most prognosticators projected Democrats to win a slim majority of the House seats or come within a few seats of majority. However, several Republican mishaps may cost them the House this November.
Consider three seats that in any year should be solid Republican districts: OH-18, TX-22, and FL-16. Even PA-10 is looking more and more like a possible Democratic pickup, though not as much as the other three seats.
OH-18: The District here voted for Bush over Kerry by 15% in 2004 as it handed Republican incumbent Robert Ney a 32% victory over the Democratic candidate. Earlier in the year, Ney became a target of corruption investigations. While Ney vehemently insisted that he would not retire from the House, as investigations commenced Ney was forced to resign. He left Zach Space, the Democratic candidate, with a huge fundraising advantage over newcomer GOP candidate Joy Padgett. Ney also left a black mark on the Republican party in the district. All analysts now consider this seat at best a Democratic pickup or at worst toss-up. I personally feel that Padgett would have won this seat if Ney had pulled out earlier, but he put her at a huge disadvantage by waiting so long to resign.
TX-22: It is hard to find someone who knows nothing about the Tom DeLay scandal. The partisanship of this District matches almost exactly that of OH-18. The District gave Bush a 14% win over Kerry in 2004 and gave DeLay a 29% margin. DeLay was forced to resign his House seat, but did so after the primary in order to allow the state Republican Party the opportunity to select their own candidate. However, Texas state law requires that DeLay keep his name on the ballot or move out of the state in order to remove his name. DeLay chose the second option, claiming to move to Virginia. Lawsuits ensued, and the Texas court system ruled that he must keep his name on the ballot. In order to win this seat, Republicans need to elect a write-in candidate. They proceeded to pick the worst kind of candidate for a write-in campaign: one with a hyphenated last name. Most prognosticators consider this a Democratic pickup. I personally feel that no Republican write-in candidate had a chance; the procedure is too long and complicated for the average voter.
FL-16: This Republican blunder emerged yesterday. Republican incumbent Mark Foley resigned his seat after evidence of his sexual interaction with congressional pages was exposed. To view one of his IM conversations with a 16-year-old congressional page, click here. Warning: The conversation is sexually explicit. The District was considered a pretty safe Republican seat though not as safe as TX-22 or OH-18. As per Florida state law, Foley’s name must remain on the ballot. Republicans can nominate a new candidate, but that person will receive only the votes casted for Foley’s name. If this was not the case, I would expect a Republican win here. However, I personally would be uncomfortable voting for Foley on the ballot, even he is not the real candidate. Most analysts consider this seat at best a Democratic pickup and at worst a pure toss-up.
PA-10: Don Sherwood admitted to sex-scandal that rocked this rural Pennsylvanian district. He won the primary with 55% over a candidate that had less than $5,000. Polls have even shown Democrat Christopher Carney leading Sherwood in the general election match up. The District went for Bush by 20% over Kerry in 2004 and Sherwood was unopposed in that election. Most people doubt that Carney could pull off a victory today, but he is closing the gap with Sherwood. This district is rated at best for Republicans a weak hold and at worst a toss-up.
Republicans have handed Democrats 3 seats towards a majority and given them an opportunity to pick up another. Democrats now have more options and only need to invest heavily on moving 12 districts. Republicans can not afford any more blunders unless they want to guarantee a Democratic majority in the House in November.
By the way, I am Tom from Election Predictions. Justin has invited me to post regularly on election polls and tight races. For more complete coverage, check out my site.