As Republicans seem poised to gain a majority in the House this midterm election, two freshmen Democrats appear to be consolidating leads in their must-win districts -- in the blue state of Michigan that will almost surely be turning a shade of purple in November.
Election handicappers have listed the races of Reps. Gary Peters (MI-07) and Mark Schauer (MI-09) as "toss ups" and GOP strategists have pointed out that in order to regain the House, Republicans must take back districts like the 7th and 9th, which they lost in 2008's wave election. Prior to the big Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008 though, Republicans enjoyed strong support in both areas.
A Detroit Free Press/WXYZ-TV poll has Schauer leading his opponent in southern Michigan's 7th Congressional district, Tim Walberg, 45-39 percent, with 9 percent still undecided. This isn't the first time these two candidates have gone toe to toe; in 2008 Schauer eked out a win over Walberg by a just two points.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says the situation for Schauer has deteriorated since then. "We have momentum on our side and a political environment on our side against an incumbent who barely won the (2008) election in the most favorable environment you can have," says NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson.
Democrats disagree with that contention, saying that Schauer has worked hard for his constituents while in Washington. "He has a solid hold on the district despite the changes in the election environment," says Gabby Adler of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
North of Detroit in Michigan's 9th district, Peters holds a five-point lead over his opponent Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski. Republicans argue that the race is still up for grabs and will be a "nail biter" on election night.
Despite Democratic leads at the Congressional level, voters both of these districts are not afraid to cross the aisle. The same poll shows that the Republican Gubernatorial nominee, self-proclaimed "Tough Nerd," Rick Snyder leads his Democratic opponent by 20 percent in Walberg's district and 23 percent in Peters' territory. So far, that enthusiasm has yet to trickle down the ballot to Walberg and Raczkowski.
Both Democrats and Republicans say they will be watching these two races closely on election night, as they could be a bellwether for the night ahead.