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.
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.