Analysis: A Good Year May Not Save These Three Vulnerable House Republicans

Analysis: A Good Year May Not Save These Three Vulnerable House Republicans

By Nathan L. Gonzales, CQ Roll Call

WASHINGTON — In his recent column, “Weak GOP Candidates May Need More Than a Good Year,” Stu Rothenberg pointed out how a handful of underperforming Senate candidates could cost Republicans the majority. Similarly, though the House of Representatives is not in play, a trio of GOP incumbents could cost their party larger gains in the House.

Even as the House landscape continues to shift in Republicans’ favor, Reps. Lee Terry of Nebraska, Steve Southerland II of Florida and Michael G. Grimm of New York are perched atop the list of most vulnerable incumbents. And it’s not hard to see why.

Terry, Southerland, and Grimm are all vulnerable because of self-inflicted wounds, and a great Republican year might not be enough to save them. Meanwhile, some of their colleagues, such as Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, David Valadao of California and Chris Gibson of New York, are facing much brighter re-election prospects — despite being early targets and representing more Democratic districts than Terry or Southerland.

Terry handed Democrats a gift during last year’s government shutdown, when asked if he would continue collecting his paycheck.

“Dang straight,” he said. “I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

His comments have allowed Democrats to keep the issue on the table in the 2nd District, even though it has faded virtually everywhere else.

In addition, Terry is not known for running the strongest campaigns, often making races closer than they needed to be. This could be the year it finally catches up with him.

A late, explosive television ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee could change the dynamic in the race, but if it doesn’t, the congressman will lose. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race is Pure Tossup, for now.

Southerland handed Democrats a gift by holding a men-only fundraiser while running against Gwen Graham, one of Democrats’ strongest candidates anywhere in the country. There is nothing illegal about the event, but many GOP strategists considered it politically tone deaf at best.

Also, it didn’t help when the congressman tried to joke about it by mentioning a “lingerie shower.” You can probably file that one under, “Things a male Republican officeholder should never say.”

Similar to Terry, Southerland has not been known for running strong campaigns. But he may have been insulated by the polarized nature of the 2nd District. There is no guarantee Southerland can count on that life preserver this year. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race is Pure Tossup, for now.

Grimm handed Democrats nearly two dozen gifts with a 20-count indictment in April. The charges include alleged fraud, tax evasion and perjury in a case involving how he managed his Manhattan restaurant before he was elected to

Congress. Now, Grimm has made himself politically toxic. The NRCC isn’t helping him like it normally would for a vulnerable incumbent, and Grimm’s own fundraising has lagged since donors don’t often flock to indicted politicians with legal bills.

But Democrats have been attacking Grimm for weeks on television, and it hasn’t been enough to bury the congressman. What’s more, Democrats have given Grimm the best present of all, an opponent from Brooklyn in a Staten Island-based district.

At the end of last week, we shifted the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race from Tossup/Tilts Democratic to Pure Tossup, a move in Grimm’s favor. But he would likely be coasting to re-election if it wasn’t for that pesky upcoming trial.

Photo: House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans via Flickr

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