House diary: Dems hoping to pick-up red districts

Boosted by their success in IL-14's special election, Democrats are now looking in the direction of more districts that are traditionally Republican. And first on their list is Alaska's at-large seat, where Rep. Don Young has been embroiled in a corruption investigation that is threatening the state's entire Republican party. A December poll showed Young trailing his top-tier Democratic opponent Berkowitz.

Now, Young has attracted major Republican competition in the form of a second primary opponent. The state's lieutenant governor, Sean Parnell (whose dad Young defeated in the 1980s) has announced he is running against the incumbent. Young could be saved by his adversaries dividing the anti-incumbent vote, but Parnell's entrance guarantees that there will a tough primary. This is also a rare case in which Democrats would be better off running against the incumbent, so they want Young to survive the primary: The main reason they are competitive in this red state is the incumbent's ethical troubles.

In IL-14, meanwhile, Democrats still have to hold the seat in November to keep it for 2 more years, and Republicans know an incumbent is never as vulnerable as in his first re-election fight. Unfortunately for the GOP, they are stuck with the same candidate they had in the special election (Oberweis) when one of the main reasons they lost it in the first place was Oberweis's divisive image. Now Robert Novak is reporting that Republicans are trying to get their candidate to withdraw so they can attempt to conquer the seat back with a stronger candidate, but it is very unlikely that Oberweis will yield. After all, this is probably his last attempt to win an office after a series of failed elections.

Finally, Republicans will have to defend 4 special elections in May: Louisiana's 1st and 6th districts, Mississippi's 1st and 3rd districts. The runoffs of primaries will be held in the coming weeks, so we will have to wait to get the exact picture of the special elections. But we can already says that LA-01 and MS-03 are too conservative to be in any way competitive, and the Democrats are not fielding candidates in any state to contest the seats. MS-01 is also probably out of reach -- though less dramatically so.

That leaves us with LA-06, whose incumbent (Rep. Baker) resigned from his elected office to make money as a lobbyist. The Republican candidate (probably state Rep. Jenkins) will start as the favorite, but Democrats believe they can create a surprise here depending on the outcome of their primary. It goes without saying that a Democratic pick-up in any of these four
districts would be a huge shock for the GOP, especially when coupled with the loss of IL-14, and it would create major turbulences in the NRCC.

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