Thursday, May 22, 2014

Incumbents Looking Good for November in U.S. House Races

If you’re looking for interesting U.S. House races in Indiana, this may be your year to be disappointed.

Only one of the nine races for United States Representative offers any kind of intrigue or punch. The rest of the races should return the incumbent back to Congress.

Let’s get the easy ones out of the way first.

In U.S. House District 1, Democrat incumbent Pete Visclosky will face Republican Mark Leyva again. This will be the seventh time that two have fought it out before in the Fightin’ First, and Visclosky has cleaned Leyva’s clock each of the six previous times. In fact, since he was elected, no one has come remotely close to knocking off Visclosky. The closest race he faced, percentage wise, was a 12-percentage point win over John Larson in 1994, 56-44 percent. In 2010, Visclosky prevailed, 59-39 over Leyva. That was the last time the two battled. Look for a similar or wider margin in 2014. Prediction-Visclosky by 20-25 percent.

Up in Indiana HD 3, Marlin Stutzman looks safe. While the opportunistic Republican may be looking at a run for Senate or Governor in the future, he appears to be safely in this Congressional seat for the time being. Justin Kuhnle prevailed in a narrow win over Tommy Shrader on the Democratic side. Kuhnle ran in 2012, but he was unsuccessful in that race. He has a hill to climb in this heavily-red district. Prediction-Stutzman by 20-25 percent.

Indiana’s Fourth Congressional District is Todd Rokita’s to lose. The incumbent Republican will face educator John Dale in the district once called “No Republican Left Behind” by Dr. David Sanders. The district isn’t as red now with Kokomo drawn into it, but it’s still plenty red to send Rokita back with a big victory. Dale will be a good candidate, but numbers are numbers. Look for Rokita to take a long and hard look at running for Governor if Mike Pence runs for President in 2016. Prediction-Rokita by 20-25 percent.
Incumbent Susan Brooks dusted her primary challengers, and she will face teacher Shawn Denney who defeated two other Democrats to face the one-term Republican. Denney’s challenge will be to try to turn some of the reddest areas of Indiana’s Fifth District blue come Election Day. He has a great shot to win the northern part of Marion County, but he’s likely to struggle in the Northern suburbs of the city where many elections are decided in May between Republicans. Prediction-Brooks by 15-20 percent.

The Sixth District covers the Southeast part of Indiana, and Republican Luke Messer looks to return with a similar margin that he produced in 2012 when he won the seat, 59-35 percent, over Democrat Bradley Bookout. Susan Hall Heitzman will be Messer’s Democratic opponent this time around. The bed-and-breakfast owner and former teacher is a good candidate, but the problem, once again, as it was for Bookout, is the way the district is drawn. It just covers a lot of Republican territory. Prediction-Messer by 15-20 percent.

The crafters of Indiana’s 7th Congressional District tried to move Andre Carson to the southern tier of Marion County to weaken him. So far, the veteran Democratic legislator has outpaced what supposedly is the baseline of the district. Carson takes nothing for granted, and he won’t take Republican Cat Ping lightly. That said; Election Day is not likely to be the “cat’s meow” for Ping. The closest anyone has come in a regular election to Carson is 21 percentage points. Marvin Scott was defeated 58-37 percent by Carson back in 2010 in the old 7th District boundaries. I look for Carson to exceed 60 percent of the vote and probably come closer to 65 percent on Election Day. Credit Ping, she promises to run a campaign on the issues. Prediction-Carson by 20-25 percent.

The old Bloody 8th has become a Republican stronghold despite the pockets of Democrats scattered throughout its boundaries. Larry Bucshon may not be as conservative as some Republicans like, but he’s proven durable. The good doctor scared away a potential primary challenger in the form of Richard Mourdock before it started and cruised to a Primary win. He will battle Democrat Tom Spangler, who ran unopposed in the Primary. This district can be won by the right Democrat. That may be Spangler, but Bucshon will be tough to beat. Prediction-Buschon by 10-15 percent.

The last incumbent-safe (or at least incumbent safer) district is the 9th. Todd Young is seen as a rising star in the Republican Party. Young must avoid embarrassing stories like CNN uncovered about his tax issues. The fact that the story has gotten little traction locally and was glossed over showed that people aren’t paying attention yet. He won’t have that luxury in a higher-profile race. Young has a higher-profile opponent than last time around when he defeated Shelli Yoder by 10 percentage points. Democrat Bill Bailey is a former State Representative and Mayor of Seymour. That means he’s well-known in the district. Bailey probably put the tax story in his back pocket to spring on Young at the right time. There’s potential that district’s rating may change, but I think Young probably wins on Election Day. We’ll see how the race goes. Prediction-Young by 8-13 percentage points (reserve the right to change the rating of this
I have left the best for last, District 2. Due to the length of this post, I’ll leave that one for tomorrow.

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