MEMO TO: Political Junkies

FROM: Martin Frost

RE: November General Election for U.S. House

This is a memo you will want to save on your computer and maybe even print out and post near your television set. It’s an election-night roadmap for determining which party will win the election for the U.S. House in November. This memo will be particularly helpful to people who like to go to bed early or who don’t like basketball games being decided in the last two minutes.

Drawing from a variety of respected political sources, it is possible to identify 45 Congressional districts that will probably determine the outcome of this year’s election. A total of 37 of these are seats currently held by Republicans and eight are seats currently held by Democrats (or in one case an Independent who votes with the Democrats).

Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to win control of the House.

The good news is that the early-to-bed crowd will probably know the outcome of the election well before midnight eastern time. A total of 30 of these seriously contested seats are in the Eastern Time zone. Another eight are in the central time zone. This leaves only 7 seats in either Mountain Time or Pacific Time zones.

The election will have to be really close for those seven seats to tip the balance one way or the other.

In 1994 when Republicans won control of the House, they did not lose a single seat with a GOP incumbent running for re-election. Democrats probably will need to duplicate that feat this time and that’s why I included some seats that Democrats currently hold. The reason that so many of the contested seats are in the Eastern Time zone is that in this election (unlike a number of previous elections) Democrats have decided to seriously contest a number of moderate Republicans who hold seats in districts that normally vote Democratic for president (13 of the seats in this study were carried by the Kerry-Edwards ticket in 2004 while electing a Republican Congressman).

Here’s the breakdown by time zone and state:

Eastern Time Zone:

Connecticut: Three Republican seats currently held by Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons. Kerry won all three of these districts in the 2004 presidential race. Democrats need to win at least one of these seats. If they win all three, it’s probably lights out for the GOP.

Florida: Two Republican seats currently held by Clay Shaw and Mark Foley. Democrats need at least one.

Georgia: Two Democratic seats currently held by Jim Marshall and John Barrow. Both seats were made somewhat more Republican by a recent redistricting passed by the Republican-controlled Georgia Legislature. Democrats need to hold both.

Indiana: Three Republican seats currently held by Mike Sodrel, John Hostettler and Chris Chocola. The Sodrel race is a re-match with former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill. Democrats need to win at least one seat here.

Kentucky: Two Republican seats currently held by Geoff Davis and Anne Northup. Former Rep. Ken Lucas is trying for a comeback against Davis. Democrats need to win one.

New Hampshire: Two Republican seats currently held by Charlie Bass and Jeb Bradley. Hard state for Democrats. Winning one seat would be a big boost.

New Jersey: One Republican seat currently held by Mike Ferguson. A loss here would indicate a Democratic sweep in the East.

New York: Three Republican seats currently held by Sherwood Boehlert (who is retiring), John Sweeney and Randy Kuhl. One seat would be good for Democrats…more than that would indicate a sweep of the East.

North Carolina: One Republican seat currently held by Charlie Taylor. Any Democratic victory in the South means a big night.

Ohio: Three seats currently held by Republicans Bob Ney, Deborah Price and Steve Chabot and one currently held by Democrat Ted Strickland who is running for Governor. One pick up would be good for Democrats. If Democrats win two or three, the party may be over for the GOP.

Pennsylvania: Four seats currently held by Republicans Jim Gerlach, Mike Fitzpatrick, Curt Weldon and Don Sherwood. Kerry won three of these seats in 2004. Democrats would like to win at least two. If they win three or four, the party’s over for the GOP.

South Carolina: One Democratic seat currently held by John Spratt. He should win but no white Democrat in the South should fail to run hard all the time.

Vermont: One Independent Bernie Sanders who is running for the Senate. Democrats should hold this seat.

Virginia: One Republican seat currently held by Virginia Drake. Just like North Carolina, any Democratic pickup in the South means a big night.

Central Time Zone:

Illinois: One Republican seat held by Henry Hyde who is retiring and one Democratic seat held by Melissa Bean. Democrats need to at least break even and may pick up a seat here.

Iowa: One Republican seat held by Jim Nussle who is running for governor and one Democratic seat held by Leonard Boswell. Kerry won Nussle’s seat in 2004. Democrats need to have a net gain of one here.

Minnesota: One Republican seat held by Mark Kennedy who is running for the Senate. A win here indicates a good night for Democrats.

Texas: One Republican seat previously held by Tom DeLay and one Democratic seat held by Chet Edwards. Edwards has survived worse. Picking up DeLay’s seat would be sweet irony and the sign of a good night for Democrats.

Wisconsin: One Republican seat held by Mark Green who is running for the Senate. A win here indicates a good night for Democrats

Mountain and Pacific Time Zones:

Best shots for Democratic pickups are Republican seats in Arizona held by Jim Kolbe who is retiring and J.D. Hayworth, in California held by Richard Pombo, in Colorado currently held by Bob Beauprez who is running for Governor, in Nevada held by Jon Porter, in New Mexico currently held by Heather Wilson and in Washington currently held by Dave Reichert. If the election depends on seats in these two time zones, it will be a very late night.

Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel and is a scholar in residence at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.

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