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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.

Rating: Tossup

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.

Rating: Tossup

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.

Rating: Tossup

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.

Rating: Tossup

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.

Rating: Tossup

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.

Rating: Tossup

Honorable Mentions:

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

The 10 Most Vulnerable House Members

By Emily Cahn and Abby Livingston, CQ Roll Call

WASHINGTON — Welcome to the general election: Labor Day has passed, nearly every primary has finished, and Roll Call has revised its monthly list of the 10 most vulnerable House members.

Since this feature last published in August, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), lost his primary by a wide margin, while Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), barely survived his, defeating his primary foe by 38 votes.

That opened up two spots in the Top 10 — and there are a plethora of choices this cycle to fill their spots, plus more honorable mentions below.

House Democrats must net 17 seats to win the majority. But most of the names below are Democrats, symbolic of a cycle increasingly favorable to Republicans.

For now, here are the 10 most vulnerable House members in alphabetical order:

— Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ)

Barber faces a rematch against retired Air Force Colonel Martha McSally in the Tucson-based 2nd District. McSally has a storybook biography, and midterm turnout should benefit a Republican. But Barber’s team knows how to win. Operatives from both parties say polling shows a dead heat — with a slight edge to their own nominee.

Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Race Rating: Tossup.

— Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)

Coffman is one of two new names to the list. In the 6th District — which has a virtual partisan split — two of the country’s strongest House candidates are running. Former state Speaker Andrew Romanoff has raised more money than Coffman, a prolific fundraiser in his own right. And both men will need it. The Denver media market will be a crowded one thanks to competitive Senate and gubernatorial contests, and this race is expected to be close to the end. (Coffman also may be a finalist in the liberal HBO comedian Bill Maher’s Flip a District contest.)

Rating: Tossup.

— Rep. Bill Enyart (D-IL)

Enyart is the second new addition to the list. Less than two years since he was sworn into office, he has yet to solidify his support in the downstate 12th District. He must contend with the drag of unpopular Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn on top of the ticket — a precarious position for many Land of Lincoln Democrats. Crossroads GPS, the tax-exempt issue advocacy group led by former White House aide Karl Rove, is also spending here, a sign Republicans see a major opportunity with Mike Bost taking on Enyart.

Rating: Tilts Democrat.

— Rep. Michael G. Grimm (R-NY)

Under indictment for numerous federal tax evasion charges and with little cash to communicate with voters, Grimm’s re-election chances look bleak. Although the trial won’t begin until after the election, Grimm more than earned a spot on this list. Still, there are signs Democrats do not think the race is over yet: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is airing an ad in the Staten Island-based 11th District hitting Grimm on his legal troubles.

Rating: Leans Democratic.

–Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN)

Two Democratic outside groups — House Majority PAC and the super PAC of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union — have been on air for a month, both defending Nolan and attacking his GOP opponent, businessman Stewart Mills, one of the GOP’s most-touted candidates. This early spending, plus concerns about Nolan’s own fundraising, makes it clear how worried the party is about Nolan’s odds.

Rating: Leans Democratic.

— Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA)

Peters is one of a host of freshman Democrats who won their marginal districts in 2012 in states where President Barack Obama’s re-elect produced high turnout. This cycle, he faces re-election against a well-known, local Republican: former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio. With millions already slated to blanket the airwaves here, this district could again feature one of the closest and most expensive races of the cycle.

Rating: Tossup.

— Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV)

Rahall’s political survival is based on a simple calculus: Can his “Nicky Joe” brand survive an onslaught of outside advertising and West Virginia’s animosity for Obama? Democrats are bullish the answer is yes, but Republicans view former state Sen. Evan Jenkins as a terrific candidate for the 3rd District. This race marks just one of a few in the country where both parties sincerely believe they will win this seat.

Rating: Tossup.

— Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)

Like Enyart, Schneider is a freshman member who must contend with Quinn’s drag down-ballot. He’s also had only one term to galvanize support and make a mark on the 10th District north of Chicagoland. What’s more, Schneider is facing a well-known and well-financed opponent, former Rep. Robert Dold, who will have ample funds to make this a race.

Rating: Tossup.

— Rep. Steve Southerland II (R-FL)

Southerland’s district marks one of the first two House seats on the map where both the DCCC and the National Republican Congressional Committee went up with ads — a sign of just how competitive both parties think it will be. That’s surprising, given that Mitt Romney carried this district by 6 points in 2012. The reason Southerland is in trouble? His rival: attorney Gwen Graham. Behind the scenes, Democrats and Republicans say the daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham is the best Democratic recruit of the cycle.

Rating: Tilts Republican.

— Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)

Things were looking up for Terry when a third-party candidate and former Republican dropped out of the contest this spring. It should have allowed him to consolidate conservative support in the 2nd District, which Romney won with 53 percent in 2012. But polling still shows this race in a statistical dead heat. And Terry can’t seem to get out of his own way, making a couple blunders on the trail, including on congressional pay.

Rating: Tilts Republican.
___
Honorable Mentions

By the numbers, Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) should belong on this list, especially since both campaign committees started airing advertisements in the 12th District weeks ago. But Barrow’s own memorable advertisements, plus his survival rate in a district Romney won by 11 points, keep him off of this list — for now.

State Speaker Andy Tobin prevailed Tuesday — a week after the GOP primary — to face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) in the Republican-leaning 1st District. He starts the race at a significant cash disadvantage, but the GOP’s good fortune, plus Kirkpatrick’s district, makes her a narrow miss for this list.

Reps. Timothy H. Bishop of New York and John F. Tierney of Massachusetts also just missed inclusion. They both represent districts that voted for Obama, but past ethical troubles imperil their political futures.

Freshman Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) has plenty of personal problems to battle after he was caught kissing a staffer this spring. But Louisiana’s unique election system provides a path for McAllister to win: He’s tacking to the middle in hopes of advancing from November’s jungle primary, with a Democrat joining him on the December runoff ballot. In that scenario, he is almost assured to survive in this deeply conservative district.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

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