Democrats argue Ellington is also a strong candidate and are hopeful he can give Crawford a tough race, but his win diminished their chances there.

They were also dealt a blow in South Carolina, where the party's preferred candidate, attorney Preston Brittain, appeared to lose to carpet-bagging former Georgia state Rep. Gloria Tinubu (D), creating an even steeper hill in a new district that leans only slightly Republican.

The state Democratic Party is challenging whether Tinubu got the 50 percent of votes necessary to avoid a runoff, arguing that votes received by a candidate who was no longer running should be counted and thus lowering her share of the vote below the required 50 percent, but even if they win that legal battle Tinubu had a solid lead over Brittain in the first round of voting and would start off with an edge in the run-off.

Democrats had already lost their original top recruit, state Rep. Ted Vick (D), who dropped out of the race after being arrested for drunk driving and possession of an unlicensed firearm with a female college student in the car.

All three districts are the types that gave Democrats their majority in 2006 and 2008, but broke sharply for the GOP in 2010. They were going to be uphill climbs for the Democratic Party this year anyways, but the party's chances in each district just got slimmer — and so did their chances at winning back control of the House.