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House Vulnerability Index, Version 3

by: Crisitunity

Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 6:17 PM EST

With January coming to a close, silly season on retirements is hopefully also winding down, giving us a pretty clear picture of the open seats on tap for November. With that in mind, let's do one last version of the House Vulnerability Index, accounting for the wave (wavelet? small whitecap?) of Democratic retirements.

In case you missed the previous installments, I've been developing an index for predicting vulnerability for House members based on a mix of Charlie Cook's PVI and previous House election performance. (It turned out to be pretty useful, in that 2006 numbers were pretty predictive of who actually got knocked off in 2008.) Here's a quick recap of how it works. Check out the chart of vulnerable Democrats below, which indicates that Bobby Bright is in the worst shape. Bobby Bright had the 3rd narrowest margin of victory of any Democrat (0.6%, behind only Tom Perriello at 0.2% and Scott Murphy at 0.4% in the NY-20 special), and he's in the district with the 4th worst PVI of any Democrat (R+16, behind only Chet Edwards, Gene Taylor, and Walt Minnick). Add them up for a raw vulnerability score of 7, the worst of any Democrat. Slightly below him you might notice that LA-03 gets a margin of 0 (despite that Charlie Melancon won unopposed in 2008); that's the tweak that I perform for all open seats. With PVI alone (R+12, 13th worst of any Dem-held seat), the raw score is 13, good for 3rd place.

You might remember that in November's installment, I expanded the Democratic list to 50, reflecting the GOP's success at expanding the playing field. Well, I've expanded it again this time, up to 75, not just to accommodate the new red open seats that previously weren't on the list because their entrenched inhabitants had won against little or no opposition in 2008, but also to acknowledge that the danger zone is starting to seep up above 50. Again, not to say that actual losses will be above 50, just that there may be some potential losses up that high on the list. (Eagle-eyed observers will also notice that many of the numbers have shifted down 1 since the previous installment. That's because I'm no longer counting AL-05 among Dem seats, thanks to Parker Griffith's switch.)

DistrictRep. Margin
TX-17Edwards, C.20121
NY-20Murphy, S.25254
TN-04Davis, L.60969
CO-04Markey, B.363470
NY-01Bishop, T.49.570119.5
SD-ALHerseth Sandlin10717124
PA-08Murphy, P.4384127

As always, some of these names that are high up the list may not be in much danger: Scott Murphy and Jim Marshall, for instance, are still lacking first (or second-)tier opposition. And some of the higher-up names are, as we've seen, already in grave danger: Steve Driehaus and Dina Titus, up in the 40s, have seen some alarming polls. This is just a rough guide, looking at the various Reps. relative to one another.

Now let's turn to the vulnerable GOP seats. The only change here is that PA-06 has become less vulnerable for the GOP, seeing as how Rep. Jim Gerlach came back to it. It doesn't change much, though; given his lame performance in 2008, he's still the (UPDATE: second) most vulnerable incumbent (although that's largely by virtue of the Republicans having almost no other vulnerable incumbents). None of the other newly-minted GOP-held open seats comes even close to being interesting (CA-19 is closest, with a vulnerability index of 70).

You might be wondering where Parker Griffith is these days. Even if you bumped his margin rating down to 0 (since he's basically starting from scratch), his R+12 district is #102 among Republicans, so he's nowhere near this vulnerability list. (His vulnerability in the primary, of course, is a whole 'nother matter, but I don't purport to measure that.) You might also notice that I've shortened the list down to 10 here. Frankly, with a few possible exceptions (PA-15, MN-06), there's really not much to see here beyond the top 10.

DistrictRep. Margin
Crisitunity :: House Vulnerability Index, Version 3
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Where would CA-44 rank
on the second list?

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

Not too bad
#13. And CA-03 would be #15. The 3rd's starting to look like a much better bet, based on the fundraising disparity between Bera and Hedrick.

[ Parent ]
Bill Posey and FL-15
Slightly O/T, but GMH, I finally read about the whole alligators/Bill Posey/Colbert story, and I have to say that it is hilarious. So I added it to Posey's Wikipedia page in a neutral tone and with proper citations. :)

More on topic, I noticed that Posey's seat, FL-15, is only R+4, and Republican percentages have been dropping several points per year and Posey only won with 53% of the vote (McCain got 52%, btw). Based on his record of idiocy, he could underperform instead of getting a sophomore bounce...and with his margin of victory already thin plus two more years of Dem-trending demographic change: could a Democrat win here?

Kansan by birth, Californian by choice, and Gay by the grace of God.

[ Parent ]
A couple of corrections
LA-02 is the most vulnerable Republican seat, not PA-06.  And PA-06 is no longer an open seat, since Gerlach got back in.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

Bobby Bright
Considering the fact that he considered running as a Republican in the first place, it is amazing he has not switched.

Libertarian secular Republican, MO-7

Probably knows what Parker Griffith was too stupid to realize.
That he would have little chance to win a Republican primary.

Follow the elections in Georgia at the 2010 Georgia Race Tracker.

[ Parent ]
unfair characterization and not true
according to history. Bright was courted by both parties in 2008 to run for the open seat. He chose to run as a Democrat. I have no problems with Bright and hopes he wins but that's it.  

[ Parent ]
Griffith is a recent GOP convert and went from a Dean supporter to a sudden conservative. Griffith served in the legislature as a Democrat and was considered somewhat liberal.

Bright on the other hand held a non-partisan office before running for Congress, was actively approached by both parties, had support from elected officials in both parties, and he was a Huckabee supporter in the Presidential Primary.

If Bright switched, I think he'd be fine in the GOP Primary. I say this a lot, but he's got a base that's hard to beat. Popular Mayor of Montgomery, and he grew up in the Wiregrass portion of the district. Best of both worlds.

[ Parent ]
I do
respect what he is doing.  He could have run as a GOPer and been safe for life.

Libertarian secular Republican, MO-7

[ Parent ]
I think the Teabaggers
would crucify him for having ever chosen to be a Democrat, and for things like his pro forma vote for Pelosi as Speaker, just like they're crufifying Griffith for those things, and not just for having contributed to Dean, etc.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  

[ Parent ]
However, Bright does not carry the baggage Griffith does (ie: Griffith's Democratic past). Sure, the vote for Pelosi would definitely irk some people, but Bright can easily bring up his independent voting record. Also, in that district, I'd think the GOP establishment would overwhelm the teabaggers in a Primary because that district is one of the few in the South where the GOP has a long standing history.

Bright can honestly run ads saying he has been an independent voice for the district, something Griffith could never do.

[ Parent ]
I also
mean if he had run as GOP in the first place.

Libertarian secular Republican, MO-7

[ Parent ]
I see
But there's an old Jewish saying: If my grandmother had wheels, she would have been a cart. Different situation, different result.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  

[ Parent ]
Why do you think Griffith can't do that?
In his one term in the House, Griffith has voted against every major piece of Democratic legislation.

"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
--  Will Rogers  

[ Parent ]
Actually he was approached by both parties, he chose to run as a Democrat because they would give him more freedom to vote his district over the party line, something the GOP did not entertain.

Why switch now? The environment might be bad for Democrats, but Bright's easily established himself like he promised, someone who votes his district, not the party line.

I'd say he's vulnerable simply because of the historic nature of the district, but his likely opponent's weakness, and her inability to craft a base similar to Bright's, should ensure he wins another term even in this terrible environment. It's difficult to peg Bright as any kind of Obama loyalist. He's a staunch Conservative Democrat, and I think the GOP will have a very difficult time challenging his record.

I'm a big fan of Bright's, might not always agree with him, but, unlike Griffith, he's the real deal, there's nothing fake about him.

Griffith simply wants attention and has no concern for his district (look at the recent NASA stuff, and Griffith's lack of committee assignments).

[ Parent ]
I wonder what Bright's approvals are
They might be pretty good, actually.

In fact, I wonder what the approvals are of every incumbent in the above list.  Including those leaving.

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
I like Bright
because he is a moderate republican in a conservative republican district. He knows if he wanted to be more towards the center then he would have to be a member of the Democratic Party, because if he was a moderate republican then he would get primaried. So while he is a dino I still have deep respect for him.  That is just my view though. I hope that all made sense :)  

Proud member of the Indiana Democratic Party from IN-9.  

[ Parent ]
finally, IA-03 makes your list
I still think Boswell will be ok, but Iowa Republicans think he is highly vulnerable. There are now 5 candidates in the GOP primary, perhaps soon to be 7 candidates.

The line
To me, it looks like 23 IF this is the order that they will be lost. I'm calling it between Teague (NM2) and L. Davis (TN-4). It could go further, such as I fully expect OH-15 with Kilroy to be lost.

To get to 40 they would have to get past UT-2 and Matheson. There are too many above and including Matheson I do not see losing to make loss of the House a possibility. THen again there are 8 past UT-2 I could see going down.

ARGH, just jump to Nov 2010, I'd like to know how bad it's going to hurt.

26, Male, Democrat, TX-26

Nah, wait till Nov 2010
It might very well hurt a lot less.

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
Same here
Rather wait nine months and see what happens. Plus I don't want to fast forward nine months because it's not fun as political junkies to see our work buzz on right past us

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
Same here
Rather wait nine months and see what happens. Plus I don't want to fast forward nine months because it's not fun as political junkies to see our work buzz on right past us

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
Same here
Rather wait nine months and see what happens. Plus I don't want to fast forward nine months because it's not fun as political junkies to see our work buzz on right past us

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
I agree with your prredictions
20-30 seats I see losing. I can't think of them all off the top of my head but i'll name some to see if i'm on track

-Bart Gordon's Open seat
-Mary Jo Kilroy
-Steve Driehaus
-Tom Perriello
-Charlie Melancon's Open Seat
-Walt Minnick
-Frank Kratovil
-Harry Teague..maybe but i'll put him on the list for now
-Eric Massa, sorry way too liberal for that moderate district
Joe Sestak's Open Seat. Now I wouldn't put it in this list but since popular Pat Meehan is running i'm putting it on there for noe despite the Dem lean of PA7 and the great candidate we got in Bryan Lentz.
Now those are 10 districts and i'm short 20. But am I on the mark with these ten atleast?

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
Perriello might be able to save himself
Teague is unlikely to be beaten, IMO.

And Minnick might even save himself too.  Though of course he has a much tougher job than Perriello at that.

Massa I don't know much about.

I've heard Kilroy is underwhelming.  Dear Representative Mary Jo Kilroy, If this is what people think, you may want to fix that.  Your supporter, Glenn Magus Harvey.

I think OH-01 is a 50-50 shot.

Kratovil has about as tough a job as Minnick does.

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

[ Parent ]
Fair assessment
Espically on Teague who's a good fit for the district and when Pearce ran for the Senate in '08 he not only lost to Tom Udall, but lost in his own district. The rest of your assessments I concur outside of Walt Minnick which I think he's gone which is a shame. Perriello I don't know I just keep saying he'll be beat by Hurt because JSmith says so. Once again if he gets beat it will be a shame because it seems to be he really gives a shit about his job and people.  

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
How about Glenn Nye down in VA-02? How safe is his seat?

[ Parent ]
I give it a lean Dem...
Because Nye's record, fundrasing and his low tier opponents. He's not in a Tom Perriello situtation as far as a know.

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
VA-02 is a tossup
Nye's likely opponent is Scott Rigell, who I would argue is stronger than Robert Hurt, because he can self-fund and he has most of the Virginia Beach Democratic establishment locked down (he's tacitly endorsed by Bob McDonnell, although officially McDonnell is neutral in the primary). The teabaggers aren't as strong here in Hampton Roads as they are in Southside, so there's less of a chance of a third-party uprising. And Nye has pissed off the Democratic base with his votes against health care reform and cap and trade.

[ Parent ]
I have them losing 30 seats, but winning 3, for a net loss of 27.  But I have 64 Democratic seats that are not "safe."  So the possibility for a 1994 type debacle remains.

[ Parent ]
I don't see
64 incumbents getting the boot I don't call tis a 1994 election because of the dynamics but 30 seats i'll agree with you on.

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
I'm not saying they'd lose all 64.  But they have over 50 freshman and sophmores.  Not all of them are vulnerable, to one degree or another, but then you have the half a dozen or so retirement seats, and several long-term incumbents, like Kanjorski, Mollholan and Spratt, who could be vulnerable.  So the possibility exists for a net loss of 50 seats or more, as what happened in '94.

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't worry about Kanjorski
Seems to be Corey O'Brien has a legit shot to knock him off. Allan Mollohan ethics charges have been dropped and if Spratt can survive '94 with 52 percent, he'll be fine in 2010. I know you said we lost 60 plus, just 30 your just talking about the possabilities I understand that. But with alot of freshmen and shomophores in '06 and '08 took over districts that were trending their way or cementing their moderation into their districts like Jason Altmire of PA-4 that's why I don't see a 60 plus loss, just 30. As for the retirements, the only ones I know for a fact were losing are Bart Gordon's and Charlie Melancon's. I think we can hold down the fort with the others.

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
By the way, where's Pete Roskam?

party: Democratic, ideology: moderate, district: CT-01

Safe Since 2007

22, Male, Democrat, PA-18.

[ Parent ]
New York
I count 8 Democrats from New York.  Any chance of the election staying off of an advertising blitz come November in that state?

Joe Cooper

Andrew Cuomo can save them all
Except perhaps Massa. The sooner Cuomo gets in to the race, he'll clear out any top tier GOP challengers for the Governor seat at the top of the ticket. Schumer is also completely safe and will dominate across the state. Gillibrand being moderately vulnerable might peak a little GOP interest, but their rank and file in NY will have little to turn out for.    

[ Parent ]
Length of Incumbency
Something else to consider perhaps is length of incumbency... or maybe whether they represented the district before the Dem wave in 2006.  For instance, the likelihood of the Democrats losing at least 10 seats is pretty high. currently has 10+ seats going down to be at 90 cents.  However, I would put the likelihood of Chet Edwards losing at about 30% simply because he won in 2004, which by any measure should have been the year he fell.  In fact, I would bet that Chet Edwards would be closer to the 45th or so seat the Republicans might pick up.

Michigan 2 should be rated vulnerable
Despite the fact that Twitter Pete Hoekstra (MI 2) has consistently run up big numbers in this district, it should, by your accounting, be rated as very vulnerable.  It has a +7 PVI and, by your system, a margin rating of 0 (for all open seats, no?).  Therefore, it's total score is 7, making it the fourth most vulnerable R seat in your table.  The neighboring district, currently represented by Vern "I'm a scientist until the politics get in the way" Ehlers, is a very similar case, with Ehlers recent retirement announcement.  Watch these two races, as they share the Grand Rapids media market, have wildly competitive Republican primaries (full of tea partiers and other right wing loons), and solid D candidates.  The 2nd district candidate is Fred Johnson, who ran respectably in 2008, is a USMC veteran, and is well known and popular in Ottawa County, the Republican base.  D field for MI 3 currently forming, but some big local names certainly getting in.

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