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In what is already a strange cycle, operatives on both sides are bracing for surprises on election night.
Rumors flew last week about a surprise poll or errant television reservation that could spell doom for an incumbent considered a safe bet for re-election a week ago.
Some of these suggestions were just that — rumor. But many operatives are convinced Tuesday night will feature at least one upset.
Here are the under-the-radar races keeping strategists excited and worried Tuesday night:
House Republicans are on track to make gains this cycle, but two weeks before Election Day, it’s still unclear whether the party will procure a wave of double-digit gains in their quest to extend the majority.
Members of Congress and operatives alike note this is a toxic time for Democrats on the ballot that should result in huge losses for the president’s party. But a race-by-race evaluation of the House map shows Republicans are more likely in a position to pick up a net of around six seats this cycle.
“After two successful cycles for House Republicans, the playing field confines the upper limits of pickups that can be had,” said Brock McCleary, a Republican pollster.
Public surveys show President Barack Obama’s unpopularity, as events in the Middle East and Ebola on the home front drag down Democrats coast to coast. House Democrats are defending more seats than Republicans this cycle.
But this midterm is shaping up to be one of the most perplexing in recent memory. Both parties are on offense, and both parties are on defense. In private polling, dozens of races are too close to call. Given the unpredictability, it’s also possible the next 14 days could exacerbate Democratic losses.
Here’s why most political operatives estimate Republican will have a net gain in the mid-single digits:
The end of primary season is nigh, and Republicans are now optimistic their slate of House candidates will yield a net gain of female members in the conference after November.
Republicans are now focusing their efforts on a specific slate of top female candidates with a strong chance of coming to Congress.
On Tuesday morning, a top aide to Rep. Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican and leading voice in the conference for women, emailed Capitol Hill colleagues and K Street allies to highlight these female candidates, according to an email obtained by CQ Roll Call.
“As many of you know, my boss, Ann Wagner (MO-2), and Congresswoman Diane Black (TN-6) have worked over the last year to recruit, support and promote Republican women candidates for Congress across the country,” wrote Christian Morgan, Wagner’s chief of staff. “As we are winding down Primary season, I wanted to send you a list of our top candidates.”
Morgan named the following candidates: Full story
Former Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, a safe bet to win her Utah House race this fall, expressed interest in joining the Congressional Black Caucus in a recent CQ Roll Call interview.
“I think I will. I will consider joining because I think that in order to affect change, you can’t do it from the outside in,” Love said. “You have to do it from the inside out. I’m going to see if I can make a difference there.” Full story
Former Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love earned ample support from Utah Republicans on Saturday to win her party’s nod for the House — and most likely become the GOP’s first black congresswoman.
One of the GOP’s most-touted prospects, Love received 78 percent of the delegate votes and put away the nomination at this year’s state Republican convention, according to the Deseret News. Her primary rival, businessman Bob Fuehr, garnered about 22 percent of the vote.
In Utah, GOP candidates who meet a 60 percent threshold at the convention can bypass a June primary. The all-day convention took place in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.
The candidate: Businessman Bob Fuehr
The member: Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson is retiring from Congress after seven terms.
The district: Utah’s 4th is House Republicans’ most certain pickup this cycle. Matheson had a unique political brand and without him in the equation, the battle to watch for this seat is the GOP nomination process. Fuehr will face off against Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love.
For an ambitious Republican, there is no more attractive House seat than that of retiring Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah — but the congressman’s former foe could be strong enough to hold off a run on the seat.
Matheson’s retirement announcement Tuesday turned a top GOP pickup opportunity into a seat for which national Democrats may not compete for the foreseeable future. No names of potential candidates emerged in the immediate aftermath, but anyone jumping in now would face a truncated timeline and a challenging race for the GOP nomination ahead.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who lost to Matheson by 768 votes in 2012, got a jump on the GOP competition by kicking off her campaign early this cycle. With the state’s top campaign operative on board and nearly $700,000 in the bank by the end of September, there is a sentiment in the state that her head start could be too much to overcome. Full story
Updated 3:00 p.m. | Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, announced on Facebook Tuesday afternoon that he “will not seek reelection to the House of Representatives.”
This essentially takes his seat — the heavily Republican 4th District — out of play for Democrats. Full story
The National Republican Congressional Committee announced on Thursday 36 candidates who have achieved the committee’s “On the Radar” status.
This ranking is the first of three levels of the committee’s fundraising and infrastructure program. Earning this status means the NRCC “will help to provide candidates and their campaigns the tools they need to run successful, winning campaigns against their Democratic opponents,” according to an NRCC release.
The final level is “Young Gun” status.
“These 36 candidates all provide a stark contrast to their liberal opponents, whose support of ObamaCare and this Administration’s big-government, job-destroying agenda has taken a toll on the American people,” NRCC Chairman Greg Walden said in a statement.
Four of those rated are former members who lost re-election bids in 2012: former Reps. Robert Dold and Bobby Schilling of Illinois, Frank Guinta of New Hampshire and Nan Hayworth of New York.
Some of the other challengers are running in the same districts.
Now that all of the House fundraising reports are due, here is CQ Roll Call’s look at the winners and losers in the fundraising game.
Quarterly fundraising offers a quantitative window into the efficiency of a campaign — as well as a candidate’s drive to win. A number of challengers raised more money than incumbents this cycle, while other incumbents are racking up huge sums.
To see a full rundown of the House fundraising landscape, check out CQ Roll Call’s House fundraising chart. Even better: Bookmark it.
Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., in the 26th District
$442,000 raised, $801,000 in cash on hand
Garcia’s strong fundraising might be the best news he’s had in a few months. Two members of his official staff resigned during the second quarter amid an investigation into alleged corruption. But despite his legal troubles, he proved to be one of the top House fundraisers in the second quarter.
Former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican in California’s 52nd District
$488,000 raised, $470,000 in cash on hand
DeMaio raised nearly a half-million dollars to challenge freshman Rep. Scott Peters, a Democrat who brought in $363,000 for this competitive district. Peters still holds the cash-on-hand edge with $526,000 in the bank. Full story
The second-quarter reporting due date arrived Monday, spurring a flurry of fundraising announcements ahead of the midnight deadline.
Look for CQ Roll Call’s fundraising charts to detail counts from every 2014 Senate race, as well as dozens of top House races, in the coming days.
In the meantime, here’s a round up of Monday’s second-quarter fundraising announcements.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden signaled that he plans to stay on offense in 2014 with the aim of expanding his party’s 17-seat majority.
In a Wednesday memo to the House Republican Conference obtained exclusively by CQ Roll Call, Walden says his committee will be “aggressively expanding the playing field” thanks, in part, to Democratic recruitment struggles.
“The question facing Democrats is how, if they are struggling on their home court, will they ever win the Republican-leaning districts they need to regain the majority?” Walden wrote to his colleagues.
He went on to highlight Democratic candidates who dropped their House bids early in the cycle, framing them as recruitment failures. He named-checked former candidates such as hotel magnate Jim Graves in Minnesota’s 6th District and former state Sen. Staci Appel in Iowa’s 3rd District.
Walden also cited promising polling in a handful of House seats held by Democrats, including:
By most metrics, these House members probably should have lost already.
And yet, like the white whale in “Moby Dick,” these races have a habit of slipping away from the opposition.
The following handful of House members win re-election by defying the odds. They represent unfavorable districts and withstand millions in negative advertisements — yet they stay at the top of the opposition’s target list cycle after cycle.
Here’s what you may have missed “At the Races” on Monday …
What we’re mulling on Monday …