By Molly K. Hooper and Bob Cusack - 09/30/12 06:20 PM EDT
House Democrats are targeting dozens of Republicans this fall, but they would especially relish defeating key incumbents hailing from California to New Hampshire.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her lieutenants are boldly predicting they will likely win back the lower chamber. To do that, Democrats would need to pick up a net of 25 seats — which is a tall order.
Steve King (Iowa)
Getting King’s scalp would be big for the left, which has ripped the Iowa lawmaker’s hard line on immigration. King is vying for reelection against Christie Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Former President Clinton has donated to the Vilsack campaign.
Sean Duffy (Wis.)
The freshman won the seat previously held by former Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.). Democrats especially want this one back. Duffy’s opponent, former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, has criticized the freshman for backing Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget.
Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.)
In the 2010 wave, Buerkle defeated then-Rep. Dan Maffei (D-N.Y.), a former staffer for the House Ways and Means Committee. Maffei is now looking to reclaim the seat from Buerkle. It is unlikely Democrats will win the House unless they beat her.
Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.)
Political handicappers have all but pegged the brash, conservative freshman as a one-hit-House-member-wonder. His re-election chances rank in the “likely Democratic” column of competitive odds-making. The outspoken, Tea Party darling of the freshman class opted not to challenge fellow GOP freshman Rep. Randy Hultgren in a nearby district earlier this year. Instead, he is battling 2006 failed Democratic House contender, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth. Recent polls have showed Duckworth with nearly double-digit leads over Walsh.
Rep. Allen West (Fla.)
Defeating the blunt-spoken Tea Party-backed former Army interrogator would be a huge win for Democrats. West’s re-election bid against Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy remains in the “toss up” column of handicappers, though West is considered the favorite. On Thursday, West’s campaign released a poll to local political reporters in the Palm Beach-based district, showing him with a double-digit lead over Murphy. But Murphy has deep support in the party, evidenced by a fundraiser this month with Clinton.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.)
The Democratic dream to oust the 2012 White House hopeful may just be that — a dream. But the Tea Party leader will have to work hard to get reelected. Her opponent, wealthy hotel owner Jim Graves, is seeking to run as an outsider. He has acknowledged he is an underdog, but has vowed to run a “tenacious” campaign.
Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.)
Democrats must defeat Lungren to have any hope of winning the House. Lungren beat his opponent, Ami Bera, by seven points two years ago. Yet, he only attracted 50.1 percent of the vote in a historic year for the GOP. Bera is back for another bid, and figures to be helped by President Obama at the top of the ticket. In their spirited debate last week, Bera and Lungren showed there is no love between them.
Rep. Chip Cravaack (Minn.)
Democrats were caught off guard when Cravaack knocked off 35-year House veteran, then-Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar in the 2010 election. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report says that Cravaack faces obstacles: “His wife took a job in Boston and moved the family to New Hampshire so he’s splitting his time between Minnesota, New Hampshire and D.C. It could be a triangle of doom for Chip Cravaack.”
Rep. Frank Guinta (N.H.)
Guinta ousted 2006 Democratic freshman class member Rep. Carol Shea-Porter two years ago, and the liberal Democrat is back for a rematch. Wasserman said the presidential election will play a large role in determining the outcome of the races in the Granite State, where fellow GOP Rep. Charlie Bass faces another tough challenge
Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Texas)
Democrats have their sights set on reclaiming the south Texas border district that Mexican-American GOP freshman Canseco seized from veteran Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez in the Latino-majority district last cycle. Both parties have pledged to spend a lot of money in a battle for the San Antonio-based district, where Canseco faces Democratic challenger State Rep. Pete Gallego. Wasserman noted that Gallego, a farmer, survived the wave state house election in 2010. Gallego defeated Rodriguez in the 2012 Democratic primary.
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