Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Based on what you are reading, what are your predictions for the midterm elections?

By Aaron Blake
Two weeks before the election, Republicans are choosing their battles on mostly friendly turf, spending heavily in districts won by Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.

Despite a widening playing field, most of the National Republican Congressional Committee's targets remain in districts that went for the Arizona Republican and, often, even more strongly for President Bush in 2004.

Of the 60 Democratic districts where the NRCC has spread around its $30 million in ad buys, 33 are districts McCain won, while 27 were won by President Obama. When you include four districts where the NRCC is such a heavy favorite that it hasn't had to spend money, that means the party is pursuing 37 of a possible 48 seats that were won by both McCain and currently represented by a Democratic congressman -- also known as "McCain-Democrat" seats.

In a 38th McCain-Democrat district -- held by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) -- national Democrats just spent their first money, but Republicans haven't joined the fray yet.

The only McCain-Democrat districts that the NRCC isn't spending in are those held by Shuler and Reps. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Tim Holden (D-Pa.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). The GOP holds some hope in some of these districts (expense may prohibit investing in districts like Altmire's and McMahon's), but many of them are lower-tier targets without big-name recruits that will likely only flip in an absolute bloodbath.

The NRCC is effectively trying to ensure victory in the most vulnerable Democratic districts while also playing in plenty of districts won by Obama. Indeed, they could conceivably win a majority just by winning McCain-Democrat districts.

They think by bringing an aggressive approach early in districts where the demographics are friendly, they have begun to push the Democrats to retrench in districts that are more Democratic-leaning.