Charlie Cook revised a number of race ratings yesterday, and all of them show Republican weakening across the country, including some of the most unlikely places:
AZ-05 Hayworth Lean Republican to Toss Up
CA-11 Pombo Lean Republican to Toss Up
CO-04 Musgrave Lean Republican to Toss Up
CO-05 Open Likely Republican to Lean Republican
IA-01 Open Toss Up to Lean Democratic
KS-02 Ryun Likely Republican to Toss Up
MN-01 Gutknecht Lean Republican to Toss Up
NE-03 Open Likely Republican to Lean Republican
NH-02 Bass Lean Republican to Toss Up
OH-02 Schmidt Lean Republican to Toss Up
WY-AL Cubin Lean Republican to Toss Up
CA-50 Bilbray Likely Republican to Lean Republican
Some of these can be partly explained by the local circumstances of each race, but all of them are falling in line with the national trend. Wyoming’s at-large House race was made more competitive when Rep. Cubin apparently threatened to slap her disabled, Libertarian opponent (who suffers from multiple sclerosis) after a feisty debate, saying, “If you weren’t in that chair, I’d slap you across the face.” Unfortunately for Rep. Cubin, she did not have Rush Limbaugh on hand to tell Libertarian candidate Thomas Rankin that he was just faking his symptoms and putting on an act–that would have shut him up! The good folks in Wyoming apparently have taken a dim view of threatening to slap people who are in wheelchairs. Go figure.
Jean Schmidt, whose vulnerability I first mentioned here, is being hurt by the general anti-GOP feeling in Ohio, which is obviously intense. But she also been hurt by her basic personal unpopularity that has dogged her since she won the special election over Paul Hackett (this is the woman, if you’ll recall, who also called the decorated veteran John Murtha a coward because of his Iraq war views, which went over like a lead balloon). She probably didn’t help herself with her recent “nuclear waste storage in this district might be a good idea” statements.
NE-3, my favourite potential upset of the year (in part because I started paying attention to it a little before most people thought it was all that competitive), really has become much more competitive and has jumped onto the radar of most of the political experts almost for the first time this week. This is entirely driven by the combination of discontent with the national GOP, a bad Republican candidate for western Nebraska (Club for Growth doesn’t have a lot of fans out there, it seems) and a stellar Democratic candidate in Scott Kleeb.
The collapse in Hayworth and Musgrave’s support can really only be explained by the national mood. These districts have provided fairly safe Republican seats, and both representatives are multi-term incumbents without any scandals, gaffes or wildly unpopular positions for their districts. The relatively solid Republican Mountain West is beginning to look a lot more shaky. Bilbray and Pombo have been getting weaker for weeks, so their inclusion here is less surprising, and Mr. Bush’s last-ditch bill-signing in Pombo’s district (for a bill that Pombo sponsored) has apparently done the latter no good. In fact, the association with Bush may very well be the cause of this most recent weakening in Pombo’s position. Their political vulnerability is particularly remarkable in a year when Schwarzenegger is set to win re-election handily, which ought to help Republican candidates throughout California.
Jim Ryun is an athletic legend and, to the best of my knowledge, a local hero in his district and ought to be as safe an incumbent as there is. I must confess that I cannot explain why his seat is endangered beyond general discontent with the ruling party. I first drew attention to the odd vulnerability of Ryun’s seat here. This will be another one of those cases where the national party’s misdeeds and errors will end up bringing down a solid conservative representative for apparently no other reason than his party affiliation.
It has begun to feel a lot more like 1994 now, as normally perfectly safe incumbents who shouldn’t even be in close races are possibly on the verge of being voted out in districts where they ought to have every advantage.