July 20, 2004
Ginny Schrader

By now, you've probably heard of Ginny Schrader, the Democratic candidate in PA's 8th CD who is the recipient of the good news that incumbent Rep. Jim Greenwood is dropping out. This is good news, as it's a new pickup opportunity in a district that voted for Al Gore and Ed Rendell. Schrader has gotten some love from the blog community, and there's an ActBlue page to make it easier to donate.

Swing State Project makes an interesting point about this latest development.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that as Bush's situation looks more dire, and the prospects for Democrats to retake the Presidency and Congress look better and better, more Republicans will start announcing their retirements. If you're in your 60s, say, and facing the possibility of returning to D.C. in the minority party, the warm embrace of your grandkids - and that cushy lobbying job in the private sector - start to look very tempting.

Makes sense to me, though whether there are enough retirement-age Republicans in potentially competitive districts to really put the majority status of the House in flux is unclear to me.

It's also important to keep in mind that no matter how gung-ho Democrats are this year about retaking the House, it's a tough road to hoe, and it's more than a matter of just 11 seats.

So how could Democrats pick up the 11 seats (or, actually, 12 seats, since Democrats are not contesting a new seat in Texas) that they need to win the majority? First, they need to hold on to all three of their competitive open seats -- in PA-13, KY-04, and LA-07 -- as well as those of at least two of their five endangered incumbents in Texas.


In Texas, Democratic insiders point to seven-term Rep. Chet Edwards as the endangered Democrat most likely to win. He has proven his ability to prevail in tough districts and tough political climates. But GOP state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth has the district's demographics on her side, and she has already proved that she can handle the rough-and-tumble of a campaign. GOP polls in three Texas districts (Rep. Nick Lampson's 2nd District, Rep. Max Sandlin's 1st District, and Rep. Charles Stenholm's 19th district) show the Democratic incumbent trailing.

If Democrats win those races, they would then need to pick up the six competitive GOP-held open seats: LA-03, NY-27, CO-03, PA-15, WA-05, and WA-08. District demographics and solid candidates make LA-03, NY-27, CO-03, and WA-08 the strongest opportunities for Democrats. By the numbers, the Buffalo-based NY-27 is the most Democratic-leaning of the bunch; Gore won the district with 53 percent. Yet Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples is a strong Republican candidate whose moderate profile will be tough for Democrats to attack. In Colorado's 3rd District, a Democratic poll shows potato farmer and Democratic state Rep. John Salazar ahead of all of his potential GOP rivals. Republicans are counting on the conservative lean of that district to push their nominee over the finish line.

Even if Democrats should win all the competitive Republican open seats, they would still be short of a majority by nine seats and would need to start defeating Republican incumbents. Just two -- Rick Renzi in AZ-01 and Max Burns in GA-12 -- are now in toss-up races. The next tier of vulnerable Republicans, which includes freshman Reps. Jon Porter (NV-03) and Bob Beauprez (CO-07), is made up of seven incumbents.

Democrats contend, however, that they have credible candidates in enough other districts (the open seat in NE-01, for example), and against such long-term incumbents as Clay Shaw (FL-22), Phil Crane (IL-08), and Christopher Shays (CT-04), to be able to take advantage of a favorable political environment. If they are correct, then they would not need to win virtually all of the handful of the most-competitive contests. Still, since 1998, only 16 incumbents (five Democrats and 11 Republicans) have lost in November.

(Via Rob.) Once again, the importance of the Texas races is obvious, as each one the Democrats hold is one less seat they have to win elsewhere to get to majority status. I'm of the opinion that the Dems will do better than the models predict in the Congressional races nationwide, but there are still only so many districts that are reasonably in reach, and they'll have to come close to running the table in them. Not impossible, but not at all easy.

Finally, regarding the sound and fury over whether the DCCC is really "supporting" Ginny Schrader or not, I've said my piece in the comments here. The last word on this belongs to Jerome.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 20, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

My friend Brian went up to PA only a few weeks ago when he was hired to be Schrader's campaign manager. I haven't been able to get through to him since the big news broke. It's a pretty exciting story right now. I hope she can hang on and win the seat.

While I think both LA 07 and LA 03 will tip Democrat, the odds are very long on the Dems retaking the house... but I'll stay very hopeful, and work towards such an excellent goal. You Texans do your part, as our states' results are crucial for anything good to happen nationally.

Posted by: oyster on July 20, 2004 9:51 PM

Charles, thanks for the dose of reality. With things swinging the Democrats' way, I think too many of us have started getting over-optimistic about our chances in Nov.

A House takeover this year is possible, but only if a reverse of 2002 happens. And the Senate isn't much better. Most likely, we'll narrow the gap, but Kerry will have to deal with a Rethug Congress.

Posted by: Mathwiz on July 21, 2004 5:45 PM

I should clarify that I realize Dems have some good pickup opportunities in the Senate: open seats in IL, CO, and OK, as well as the race in AK. But we're also likely to lose at least three of the open seats we have to defend in NC, SC, GA, FL, and LA. We only need a net pickup of two seats (one if Kerry wins and MA voters replace him with another Democrat), which is certainly doable but not a cake-walk by any means.

On further consideration, we'd actually need to do better than a reverse of 2002 to retake the House. We wouldn't need a reverse of 1994, but it still looks pretty tough.

Posted by: Mathwiz on July 22, 2004 2:36 PM