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Eating Their Own

The Detroit Tigers lured first baseman Prince Fielder away from the Milwaukee Brewers during the offseason. But the Tigers already had an all-star first baseman in Miguel Cabrera. Not to worry. The Tigers will shift Cabrera to third base so they can get both big bats in the lineup. Meantime the Miami Marlins picked up all-star shortstop Jose Reyes over the winter. But the Marlins already featured all-star shortstop Hanley Ramirez. So Ramirez shifts to third base. And in 2004, the New York Yankees traded for then-shortstop Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers. Only the Bronx Bombers already had a superstar shortstop: Yankee captain Derek Jeter. So Jeter remained at shortstop and Rodriguez learned a new position: third base.

Oh, if it were only that easy in politics. Especially when the decennial Census forces states to reallocate the distribution of House seats. States retool Congressional districts based on population fluctuations and political fabrications. And inevitably, some lawmakers get squeezed as reapportionment boards, state legislatures and federal courts vaporize old districts and contrive new ones out of whole cloth.

It ain't pretty.

In other words, what if the Tigers brought in Prince Fielder...and Fielder and Miguel Cabrera had to wage a battle royale in spring training over who made the club? The same with the Marlins' Reyes and Ramirez? Or, if the Yankees had to choose between Jeter or A-Rod?

Um, Yankees fans...don't answer that last one.

Congressional redistricting infuses American politics with a healthy dose of competition as some lawmakers jockey for position. A case study in this unfolded Wednesday as veteran Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, announced his retirement after 16 terms. California didn't lose or gain any seats. But a special commission in the Golden State crafted a new map which tossed multiple sitting House members into the districts of one another.

Dreier found himself in a district which was nearly 50 percent Democratic and barely a quarter Republican. In fact, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) even touted his California colleague as a potential Senate candidate. But Dreier decided to hang it up. As did Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Wally Herger (R-CA) after their districts dissolved.

Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) faced similar circumstances after the state blended his seat with one currently held by Rep. David Price (D-NC). Miller also retired.

But there are those who choose to stay and fight, even if it means running against a fellow Member of Congress...often a fellow member of your own party.

You think the gigantic fireball that erupted on the track during Monday's Daytona 500 was hot? Try some of these races.

"It is not fun," conceded Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA).

Pennsylvania lost one Congressional seat after the Census. So after the state reworked the maps, Altmire finds himself running in the same district as Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA).

Altmire first won election to Congress in 2006. But he helped Critz secure a seat in Congress in 2010 via a special election to succeed the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA).

"I campaigned for Mark," said Altmire. "I went door to door with him."

You can bet that Altmire and Critz won't be doing any of that as they approach the April 24th Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.

The entire slate of member versus member primaries starts next Tuesday in the Buckeye State. Ohio lost two seats to reapportionment. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) will face Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) in the general election. Rep. Steve Austria (R-OH) blasted House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for his role in designing a district that pitted him against Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). Austria then decided to step aside and not seek a third term.

So there's one marquee contest on the docket next week. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), the most-senior woman in the House, is now locked in a battle with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Kucinich even flirted with running for Congress in Washington state.

Another member-on-member contest surfaced Tuesday when Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) announced he would run in the same district as Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO).

"This is a mess," lamented one exasperated Democratic official after learning of a Carnahan-Clay matchup.

"I'm no stranger to crazy primaries," said Carnahan. "I had a crazy, ten-person primary in 2004 after Congressman (Richard) Gephardt retired."

But that primary wasn't a member-on-member engagement.

The challenge for lawmakers facing incumbent members of their own party is to find a way to distinguish themselves and defend why they are running where they are. Carnahan said he's had "good relationships" with Clay. But he blamed his opponent for the circumstances they both found themselves in.

"It's unfortunate that he (Clay) worked for these maps. Had we stuck together we could have defeated these maps," said Carnahan.

In early June, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) finds herself running against Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA). Hahn is a newcomer to Congress. Richardson is facing a full-blown investigation from the House Ethics Committee. That race bears watching. But many are looking to the donnybrook between Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA).

Berman says there's an inherit complication in these intra-party squabbles.

"There are fewer issues differences," said Berman. "It's not a huge ideological clash."

Berman's theory may help explain the gambit of Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) in a possible contest with Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA). Sure, they're both Republicans from southern Louisiana. But that doesn't always mean lawmakers vote the same on big issues. Landry immediately cites his vote against hiking the debt ceiling last summer. Boustany voted for it.

"Nothing good comes easy," Landry said. "If it means I took tough votes, then fine."

But like Altmire, Landry is also banking on portraying himself as the Congressman who is running in his "home' district.

"(Boustany's) district went away," Landry said. "The question is whether I seek re-election or whether Charles decides to challenge me."

But Landry is careful to note, he hasn't declared his candidacy yet. So the issue of who's the challenger may be in the beholder.

Such is the case in Iowa where Reps. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) and Tom Latham (R-IA) are waging a general election tournament. For Boswell, he only has one of his old counties in the redrawn district: Polk County which hosts Des Moines, Iowa's largest city. But Boswell suggests the new district is his.

"Reapportionment put (Latham) in with (Rep. Steve) King (R-IA)," Boswell said. "It didn't put us together. (Latham) decided to move."

Mitt Romney may have won Michigan's GOP primary this past Tuesday. But Reps. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) run in the House primary on August 7.

Peters is going for a third term. Clarke is seeking his second. But Clarke believes that getting his district blended together with Peters presents him with a unique opportunity. Clarke already defeated then-Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI) in the 2010 primary. Clarke believes he could bolster his giant-slayer bona fides if he defeats Peters.

"I'm new here. The best way to establish your credibility is to beat an incumbent," said Clarke. "If I do it again, people will know it's not a fluke."

But perhaps the most compelling member v. member altercation won't even be a race for a seat in the House. Events of the past two days may be responsible for triggering it.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) shocked Washington on Tuesday when she announced she would retire after this term. That immediately spurred speculation about the future of Maine's two House members: Reps. Michael Michaud (D-ME) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME). Republicans are desperately trying to win control of the Senate this fall. But Snowe's retirement dealt those chances a blow and boosted opportunities for the Democrats.

Snowe's seat is one which Democrats could win and maintain control of the Senate - on the backs of either Michaud or Pingree.

"This is a seat that could decide the balance," said Pingree. "(The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) sees it really as pivotal."

Both lawmakers are talking like Senate candidates. When asked if she thought she was moving toward a run, Pingree responded "absolutely. I'm proceeding as if (I'm going to)."

Michaud said he'd make a decision about his political future by next Wednesday.

"I think I would be a good fit for a statewide race," Michaud said.

Even though Michaud and Pingree represent different districts, Maine is a state of media concentration. Many of Maine's media outlets are centered in Portland, Bangor and Augusta. That means that voters statewide know both Michaud and Pingree.

In sports, the addition of a new player usually makes a team better - if one of the players can successfully tackle playing a new position. In that case, both players and the team win. But this is politics. Only one player is assured victory. And that sets the stage for some serious upheaval with sitting lawmakers defeating sitting lawmakers in the pending primaries and general election this fall.