| You may remember that in the wake of the 2008 elections, I tried out a new quantitative project, developing an index for predicting vulnerability for House members based on a mix of 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.)
I included, of course, what the index would predict for 2010, but with the caveat that things would change as we became aware of more open seats. With a number of open seats in key races now known -- and with SSP Labs gearing up to issue a Competitive House Race Ratings table -- it's time to re-crunch the numbers. Two other important modifications are being included here, too: back in January, we were still relying on 2000-04 Cook PVIs, but now we have 2004-08 PVIs. This can help us more accurately pin down where some of the races are headed, in view of accelerating pro-Democratic trends in, say, California or Illinois and pro-Republican trends in Arkansas and Tennessee. And rather than using 2008 margins in NY-20, NY-23, CA-10, CA-32, and IL-05, I'm using the narrower 2009 special election margins in each of those cases.
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.
I can already anticipate all the objections: it doesn't take into account the quality of the opposition, it doesn't take into account fundraising, it doesn't take into account whether a candidate is uniquely appealing or unappealing or campaign-savvy or rusty, and it doesn't take tough votes into account. That is all true. This is just a simple yardstick for getting the conversation started. And at any rate, if you want something more nuanced, Tom Schaller over at 538 recently put together a chart incorporating some of these other elements and still got... well... some weirder results (Gerry Connolly in VA-11 the most vulnerable? Doesn't seem likely.)
Rather than the 20 I featured in January, I'm expanding the Dem list to 50, as it looks like Democratic vulnerabilities may extend well beyond 20. Not to say that we're definitely looking at anything close to a 1994-sized event next year -- we don't have anywhere near the number of open seats up next year (yet) as in 1994, which was where the GOP did the most damage -- or that Democratic House losses in 2010 will exceed 20, but simply acknowledging that the NRCC has been successful in "spreading the field" by recruiting solid candidates in rarely-challenged Dem-held red districts, and some of the losses may come from seats outside the currently most likely suspects.
Again, some of these names may not be in much danger, because of a combination of their entrenchment and the lack of much of a GOP challenge so far (Chet Edwards, Marshall, Carney). And there are a few names who aren't on the list because they faced token or no opposition last year who are facing potentially worrisome challenges this year (Snyder, Tanner). Finally, bear in mind that some of these might still turn into open seats and get bumped much higher up the list, as some of the oldsters (Skelton, Spratt) might get tempted to say "Screw it" and throw in the towel a few years earlier than planned.
Now let's turn to the vulnerable GOP seats. The good news is: the Democrats start out with 4 pickups likely in their pockets, more vulnerable than any Democratic-held seat, which is a solid bulkhead against GOP gains elsewhere. The bad news is: after that, the pickings get pretty slim.
For comparison purposes, the January charts are over the flip...