It’s a bad sign for Democrats when they have more Mid-Atlantic congressional opportunities in West Virginia than in Pennsylvania.
But that’s symbolic of the 2014 midterm election cycle in which numerous Democratic opportunities that look good on paper just haven’t materialized. Four out of five races have dropped off the regional Top 5 Races to Watch list since last summer.
GOP Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick is running strong in Pennsylvania’s 8th District, and his race with Democrat Kevin Strouse should barely be considered competitive at this point. The West Virginia Senate race is competitive, but it doesn’t look like Natalie Tennant has the independent profile necessary to overcome President Barack Obama’s abysmal job rating in the state.
In New York’s 23rd District, GOP Rep. Tom Reed finds ways to make races closer than they need to be, but he is polling well heading into the general-election sprint. And in New York’s 11th District, GOP Rep. Michael G. Grimm is still in the game, despite his numerous indictments. But as Democrats remind voters about his legal troubles, it seems unlikely Grimm will be able to survive and that this will be a hot race come November.
Here are the top five races to watch in the Mid-Atlantic region this fall:
New York’s 1st District. GOP state Sen. Lee Zeldin survived an expensive and bitter primary and now faces Democratic Rep. Timothy H. Bishop in the general election. Races in the Long Island-based district are almost guaranteed to be close, and there is no reason to believe this year will be different. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Leans Democratic.
West Virginia’s 2nd District. The Mountain State isn’t friendly to Obama, but Democrats believe they have a unique opportunity. Former state Democratic Party Chairman Nick Casey is running against Alex Mooney, a former Maryland Republican Party chairman and state legislator. Democrats will drive home the residency issue while Republicans will keep bringing up Casey’s past support for Obama. It should be a great race to watch. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Leans Republican.
New York’s 19th District. The race between wealthy Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge and GOP Rep. Chris Gibson could finally be heating up. Gibson is popular, but questions about if and when Eldridge will spend his personal money have lingered for months. The Democrat is starting a significant, district-wide television buy this week, including airing ads in the expensive New York City media market, as I wrote in a recent Rothenberg Political Report ($). It remains to be seen if it will be enough to put a dent in Gibson’s armor. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilts Republican.
West Virginia’s 3rd District. Some House races are just getting started, but the race between long-time Democratic Rep. Nick J. Rahall II and Republican Evan Jenkins has been going on for months. Rahall’s numbers were cratering earlier in the year after a barrage of negative ads from GOP outside groups. But Democrats fought back, and now the contest is close to even. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Pure Tossup.
New Jersey’s 3rd District. This is the type of competitive district in the Northeast that Democrats need to win to get back to the majority, but that’s a difficult task this cycle. Burlington County Freeholder Aimee Belgard is a credible Democratic nominee, but it will be tough for her to keep pace with wealthy Republican Tom MacArthur. The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating: Tossup/Tilts Republican.
What races would you add to or subtract from the list?
Note: This is the first in a series of regional looks at the most competitive House and Senate races to watch. The Mid-Atlantic region includes Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.