The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members
By Emily Cahn And Abby Livingston, CQ Roll Call
With a month to go until Election Day, House Republicans are poised to add at least a handful of seats to their majority in the midterms.
Need proof? Look no further than this month’s list of Roll Call’s 10 Most Vulnerable House Members, plus the four incumbents who got honorable mentions: The majority of the names are Democrats facing slogs to re-election in tough districts.
What’s more, nearly all of the Republicans on the list made it due to isolated issues — like campaign problems, personal and legal missteps — instead of the national political environment.
The list does not include competitive open-seat contests, where Democrats could stave off major losses.
Since CQ Roll Call last published this feature in September, two incumbents — a Democrat and a Republican — dropped to the honorable mention category. Both are still as vulnerable as they were in September, but a few of their colleagues now face greater political peril than they do.
Roll Call will publish this list one more time, in the week before Election Day. For now, here is the updated list of the 10 Most Vulnerable House Members in alphabetical order:
Rep. Bill Enyart (D-IL).
Democrats are spending big to paint Enyart’s GOP challenger as unhinged, using footage of state Rep. Mike Bost in a tirade on the state House floor to try and make him unpalatable to voters. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn trails his GOP opponent by double digits in this region in public polling. That imperils Enyart, a freshman who hasn’t yet built a local brand during his first term in office. Crossroads GPS has also thrown money into the mix in this district — a rare occurrence in a cycle where money goes to Senate races. It’s likely a sign Republicans see this as a top pick-up opportunity in the fall.
Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup
Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-NY).
Plagued by a 20-count federal indictment, it’s easy to see how Grimm could lose. Surprisingly, he barely made this list. He’s well-known and has a geographical advantage over his Democratic rival, former New York City Councilman Domenic M. Recchia Jr., in this Staten Island-based district. The bad news for Grimm? His fundraising has dried up since his indictment, and national Republicans are keeping their distance from this district for now. His fortunes could be clear later this month, when polls will show how much damage Democrats’ negative ad campaign has taken on the two-term Republican back home.
Rating: Tilts Democratic
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).
Kirkpatrick is on this list for two reasons: Republicans got their preferred nominee,state Speaker Andy Tobin, and she’s running in a brutal district for any Democrat. Even so, Tobin proved to be a weak fundraiser in the primary. His third-quarter fundraising report will reveal much about the health of his general-election campaign. Democrats are also skittish about Kirkpatrick’s voting record in such a conservative district, but there’s a general consensus she’s a solid fundraiser and a uniquely good fit for the district.
Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN).
Democratic operatives grumble Nolan’s poor fundraising operation and old-school campaign tactics could sink him in this northern Gopher State district. Nolan faces businessman Stewart Mills, an independently wealthy Republican who’s been touted as a top GOP recruit. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending heavily to try and paint Mills as an out-of-touch rich guy who is out to hurt the middle class. The committee hopes it could strike a chord in this working-class district, which has strong union ties.
Rating: Leans Democratic
Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA).
Republicans are bullish their nominee, former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio, can win this San Diego-based swing district. An openly gay Republican who touts himself as a moderate consensus builder, DeMaio has raised huge sums of money in his quest to oust his freshman foe. Democrats have pushed back against DeMaio’s moderate Republican image on the airwaves, coloring him as a Tea Party extremist in this socially liberal but fiscally conservative district. Most recently, Democrats pointed to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of Peters to prove this. Either way, this is gearing up to be one of the closest, and most expensive, races in the country.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV).
He may be Republicans’s No. 1 target of the cycle. The GOP has been devoted to ousting Rahall, better known as “Nicky Joe” in southern West Virginia, since the start of the midterms. Rahall’s campaign against Republican Evan Jenkins has been a long one, thanks to spring ad wars between House Majority PAC and Americans for Prosperity in this district. Both parties are convinced they’ll win this race, and for now, there’s a path to victory for either one of the nominees on Election Day.
Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL).
Schneider faces the Republican he ousted in 2012: former Rep. Bob Dold. The two candidates are raking in cash for their re-election bids, plus outside groups are boosting both nominees. This northern Chicagoland district is another one where Quinn’s unpopularity could drag a freshman down in the Land of Lincoln. Privately, party operatives on both sides say their nominee leads in internal polls and are confident they will win. No matter who claims victory, they do agree on this: It will be a close race.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).
Here’s the problem for elected officials in New Hampshire: The Granite State has proved to be the moodiest in the country, armed with an appetite to throw their delegation out every two years. Shea-Porter represents the tougher district for Democrats, and she doesn’t have the same moderate voting record as her colleagues in similar competitive districts. But her opponent, former Rep. Frank Guinta, has a relatively conservative voting record too. They’ll face off for the third time in November.
Rep. Steve Southerland II (R-FL).
Privately, national Republican operatives cite Southerland as the GOP member they fret won’t come back to Congress. He faces a fierce contender in attorney Gwen Graham, the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham. This is still a tough district for a Democrat, and ousting Southerland will take a herculean effort on the part of Graham, the DCCC and outside groups. But this is a rare offensive spot on the map for Democrats in an otherwise crummy cycle for the party.
Rating: Tilts Republican
Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE).
Terry’s comments during the government shutdown about keeping his pay to sustain his “nice house and a kid in college,” continue to dog him on the TV airwaves in this Omaha-based district. It’s why Terry is in a dead heat against Democratic nominee Brad Ashford in what should be a safer seat for Republicans. Terry may well carry the day, but it will end up costing the National Republican Congressional Committee to save him. The committee just placed a $730,000 ad buy to boost his re-election.
Make no mistake: Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) is in serious political peril this November. But he’s excluded from the October edition of this list because Democrats and Republicans are surprised by internal polls showing him with a little breathing room ahead of the Republican nominee, Martha McSally.
Expecting a tough re-election slog, Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) built up a $1.9 million war chest as of June 30, and acquired a more moderate voting record during his first term in office. In this tossup of a district, he faces former Rep. Doug Ose, a moderate Republican who’s well-known and has the ability to self fund his race. With turnout expected to hit record lows in California, Bera could easily make the final edition of this list.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) is aided by a favorable national climate for his party, as well as a competitive gubernatorial and Senate race boosting GOP turnout on top of his ticket. But his district remains a tough one for Republicans. If he wins, it won’t be by much.
The only reason scandal-plagued Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) is not on the list is because his Republican opponent, Carlos Curbelo, called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Watch for this one to get nasty in the coming weeks.
AFP Photo/Alex Wong