Previous comfortable margins no re-election guarantee

The race between Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge and Republican Renee Ellmers in North Carolina’s 2nd district has garnered national attention thanks to Etheridge’s taped outburst on a Washington D.C. sidewalk. It also has personal significance for me.:  An: interview I had with Ellmers was my very first and: my friend and distant cousin, Lorie Byrd, works with her campaign. Not long after Etheridge’s tantrum, Jim Geraghty: of National Review Online asked me to look at Ellmers’ chances against Etheridge for: an article he was writing on the race.

One startling item that I uncovered in my research was an internal PAC poll taken in late May which showed Ellmers just 5 points behind the
incumbent.:  Mind you, this poll was taken before Etheridge’s now-famous scuffle.:  I went on to provide Geraghty with a lot more information, but that poll stuck in my mind. I began to wonder in how many other districts across the country this same scenario is playing out. Could it be that there are more, perhaps many more, districts where Democratic incumbents believe they sit in relative security – while the red wave of 2010 threatens to make landfall on their own turf?

For sure, we have precedent of this kind of phenomenon.:  We need look no further than another district in North Carolina 16 years ago.:  That year, 1994, David Price lost to Fred Heineman even though he has routinely earned over 60% of the district’s vote both before and after that upset. But looking to the less-distant past, I found more eye-opening data that help put the potential GOP performance this November in better perspective.

George W. Bush’s second mid-terms in 2006 were no doubt a blue wave election, but they hardly matched the red tsunami we saw in 1994. Yet, entrenched GOP incumbents fell like flies that year. No less than 10 sitting Republicans who got 60% or more of the vote in 2004 failed to win re-election in 2006. In New York, two incumbents, Sue Kelly and John Sweeney, lost that year despite having garnered 67% and 66%, respectively, two years earlier.

The moral of the story? Just because Democratic incumbents might have cruised to victory in 2008 doesn’t mean a return trip is already booked.

The second moral? Given recent electoral history, gains far outpacing the 39 net seats needed for a GOP majority in the House are on the table. Consider that fully 60 Democratic congressmen and women earned their term in Washington on 59% or less of the vote. Consider also that many more who earned better than 60% are in varying degrees of peril – Pomeroy in North Dakota, Herseth-Sandlin in South Dakota, Skelton in Missouri and Etheridge to name a few. And consider finally several seats in which landslide Democratic winners in 2008 are not seeking re-election (MI-1, TN-6, TN-8 and WI-7 for example). If you honestly consider all these factors, it is not hard to envision a pretty sizable tidal wave crashing through the current House majority on November 2.

This post is cross-posted at Scott’s regular website, Election Projection: Visit EP for accurate, objective projections of the upcoming elections from a conservative perspective.

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