By Emily Goodin - 10/13/10 09:05 AM EDT
Democrats are poised to lose Rep. David Obey’s (Wis.) district — one of several long-held Democratic seats in danger of becoming Republican trophies this cycle.
The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll found that Democrat Julie Lassa trails Republican Sean Duffy by almost 10 points in Obey’s district.
Independents strongly favor Duffy; he leads Lassa by 17 points among that group. Lassa leads only among voters above the age of 55, and she is down two points among female voters.
Taking Obey’s seat would be a big win for Republicans, who vowed to turn the 20-term Democrat’s district from blue to red immediately upon his retirement announcement. Duffy had already launched his campaign when Obey bowed out, which gave him a distinct early advantage.
Obey’s seat is one of several the GOP hopes to collect, and The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll will be surveying these long-term incumbents’ districts soon, with results published in the week before the election. If long-term incumbent Democrats are in danger, it will be seen as a token of a huge Republican wave coming this cycle.
The biggest prize of all might by Rep. John Dingell’s (D-Mich.) seat. The “Dean of the House,” who lost his chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) in 2008, is in the race of his life after 27 terms.
An October poll by Rossman/Team TelCom showed Republican Rob Steele up by four points.
Reps. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee; John Spratt (D-S.C.), chairman of the Budget Committee; and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, are also in trouble this year.
And Democrats are likely to lose retiring Rep. Barton Gordon’s (D-Tenn.) seat. The Cook Political Report rates the district now represented by the chairman of the Science and Technology Committee as “likely Republican.”
Wave elections often bring trophies for the winning party. In 1994, when Republicans retook the House majority and won 54 seats, defeated Democrats included House Speaker Tom Foley (Wash.) and Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (Ill.), the legendary chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Veteran Democrats like Dingell and newcomers like Lassa face a couple of key problems this year. In a political season where the momentum has been with Republicans, they are trying to win districts that have been trending toward the GOP. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won Gordon’s, Skelton’s, Spratt’s and Rahall’s districts in 2008.
Sensing the opportunity in a strong year for their party, Republicans are targeting these powerful members, running ads tying them to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Obama.
Republican ads call Spratt a “rubber stamp” for Pelosi; Skelton is said to be “lost” — voting for Pelosi instead of for Missouri; and Rahall is dubbed part of the “Obama-Pelosi team.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent almost $381,000 in Skelton’s district and a little more than half a million in Spratt’s district. Total outside group spending in Spratt’s district (plus the NRCC’s money) is almost $2 million.
Spratt is considered in the most trouble. The Cook Report has the 14-term incumbent in a toss-up race. And Spratt voted for the cap-and-trade bill, the stimulus bill and the healthcare bill, which the GOP reminds voters in the steady stream of ads.
Skelton’s and Rahall’s seats have been long coveted by the Republicans. On paper, these seats read red, but both Skelton and Rahall have held on to them for 17 terms. The GOP hopes the anti-incumbent year filled with angry voters will help propel it to victory in November.
Meanwhile, in the race to keep Obey’s seat, Democrats made their first independent-expenditure ad spending of the cycle in this district, attacking Duffy.
Obama won the district by nine points in 2008, but 54 percent of likely voters disapprove of the job he’s doing, according to The Hill’s poll. And 69 percent of voters said the president is an important consideration in the vote this November.
The parties have invested similar amounts in the race.
The NRCC has spent around $374,000 in this district, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has spent about $368,000.
The Hill polled 10 open-seat races in districts rated toss-ups by a variety of news organizations. Eight of the seats are held by Democrats, and two are held by Republicans.
The Hill’s poll of Obey’s seat was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland from Oct. 2 until Oct. 7. It surveyed 400 likely voters via the telephone, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.
Kevin Cullum contributed to this article.