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Projections: GOP keeps control of House

Published On: Nov 07 2012 12:10:04 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 05 2012 09:02:22 PM CST
U.S. Capitol, House of Representatives.jpg

Jim Bourg/Reuters

Republicans will maintain majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, CNN projects.

Going into the election, Republicans control the House by 242-193. Though all 435 members faced voters on Tuesday, control of the chamber rested on some 50 to 60 races that were considered competitive, some of them because of redistricting.

The number of swing districts has shrunk in recent years as GOP legislatures have shored up their seats and Democratic-led state houses have strengthened their party's districts.

Democrats needed to pick up 25 Republican seats to regain control.

Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats noted that 58 Republicans represent districts won by Obama in 2008; they pointed to those wins as a template to a successful election night, but by shortly after 9 p.m., CNN projected that they would not achieve their goal.

Speaker John Boehner told CNN on Sunday that the GOP "might" pick up more seats in the House.

"I feel pretty good about at least maintaining the numbers that we have," Boehner said. "After winning 65 seats from the Democrats in the 2010 cycle, and all the experts been talking about how many seats we're going to lose -- five, 10, 15 -- but I never bought into the idea that we had to lose any seats."

David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report, said Democrats were waging competitive campaigns in just 32 of those districts -- not enough to regain control of the House.

Stuart Rothenberg, an independent campaign analyst, projected last week that Democrats will gain two to eight seats.

A senior House GOP campaign official predicted last week to CNN that Republicans would gain four to six seats.

The battleground for many of these House races has tilted increasingly toward the Northeast and the Midwest, after a number of moderate Democrats lost in Southern districts in the 2010 midterms.

In Illinois, Democrats see opportunities to defeat tea party freshman Rep. Joe Walsh, seven-term Rep. Judy Biggert and a moderate Republican freshman, Rep. Bob Dold.

Democrats have also set their sights on freshmen Reps. Nan Hayworth, Chris Gibson, Ann Marie Buerkle, and Michael Grimm in New York.

Democratic campaign officials say they can upset several GOP incumbents in California.

But California Rep. Xavier Becerra, one of Pelosi's top lieutenants, acknowledged, "We'd need a wind" to get the kind of gains that would put Democrats back in control.

Two years after the tea party helped Republicans seize control of the House, it has faded as a factor.

House Republican candidates are still stressing the core issues that the tea party movement pushed in 2010 -- less government and a focus on cutting federal spending and the deficit -- but Republican candidates are "not wearing the tea party label on their sleeves," one senior GOP strategist working on House races said recently.

Democrats, bolstered by polling that shows that many voters blame the tea party for gridlock in Washington, have tried to try to pin the label on virtually every Republican incumbent and challenger.

The "Tea Party Republican Congress has a 13% approval rating," House Democrats' campaign chief Rep. Steve Israel of New York told reporters last month. He said Democrats have a chance to regain the majority because "there is a deep sense of buyer's remorse spreading throughout this country."

With the bulk of this cycle's competitive races concentrated in districts represented by more moderate members of each party, the outcome of this election could mean an even more polarized House in 2013.

The GOP conference could include more conservatives and fewer moderate Democrats, whose ranks were decimated in 2010. That could tilt the Democratic caucus leftward.

A recent study by the Cook Political Report found that the number of swing districts in the nation dropped from 164 to 99 over the last 14 years. That decline has widened the ideological divide between the two parties.

"There's a remarkable reduction in the number of members who have an incentive to compromise," Wasserman told CNN.

Key House race snapshots, compiled by Adam Levy and Robert Yoon, CNN Political Research:

Arizona 1: Jonathan Paton (R) vs. Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D)

Open Republican-held seat

This redrawn district covers most of northern and eastern Arizona. The Democratic nominee is Ann Kirkpatrick, who was elected in 2008 and was swept out in the Republican wave two years later. The Republican nominee is Jonathan Paton, a former state senator. Kirkpatrick has a sizeable fundraising advantage over Paton, but national Republicans have invested heavily to help close the gap in TV ads. This seat is a top priority for both parties.

Arizona 2: Rep. Ron Barber (D) vs. Martha McSally (R)

Democrat Gabrielle Giffords would have run here had she sought a fourth term. Giffords is recovering after being shot in January 2011 in Arizona. Her district director Ron Barber, who was also wounded, won a special election to fill her seat when she resigned last January. His opponent is Republican Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and combat pilot. Barber had a financial advantage at the start of October though McSally has remained competitive on the airwaves. Still, Barber is expected to win.

Arizona 9: Kyrsten Sinema (D) vs. Vernon Parker (R)

New district

The battle for this new district pits Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, a former state senator, against Republican Vernon Parker, the former mayor of Paradise Valley. Both parties have invested heavily in the race, though a Democratic super PAC has tipped the TV ad war balance of power slightly in the Democrat's favor.

California 30: Rep. Brad Sherman (D) vs. Rep. Howard Berman (D)

Merged district

One of the nastiest House races of 2012 is between two incumbent Democrats due to redistricting and the state's new primary system, in which the top two finishers advanced to the general election. Rep. Brad Sherman has at least one advantage over Rep. Howard Berman: He represents more of the redrawn Sherman Oaks-area district. Sherman won the primary with 42.4% of the vote compared with 32.4% for Berman. The remaining votes were split among five candidates. The race hit a nasty patch last month, when the two men shouted at each other at a public forum. Both have received heavyweight endorsements. Independents and Republicans could play the decisive role.

California 31: Rep. Gary Miller (R) vs. Bob Dutton (R)

Seven-term incumbent Rep. Gary Miller faces a tough challenge from a fellow Republican in a race also determined by California's new primary system. Miller's opponent is Bob Dutton, a state senator and businessman. Miller represents none of this redrawn district, while Dutton represents much of it in the state legislature. Money could play a decisive role: At the start of October, Dutton had only $58,000 in the bank; Miller's war chest held $816,000 on October 17. Miller edged Dutton in the June top-two primary, 26.7%-24.8%, with the remaining 49% divided among four Democrats. Those Democratic voters will likely decide whether Republican Miller returns to Washington for an eighth term.

California 36: Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) vs. Raul Ruiz (D)

Rep. Mary Bono Mack, who is seeking an eighth full term in the House, is a frequent target of Democrats hoping to pick off a Republican in a Democratic district. This year, she finds herself fending off a strong challenge from Democrat Raul Ruiz, a Mexican-American, Harvard-educated physician. His background could appeal to the district's growing Hispanic population. But Bono Mack has survived strong challenges before and has a moderate voting record. She also prevailed over Ruiz in her first one-on-one matchup, the June "top-two" primary in which they appeared together on the same ballot.

California 44: Rep. Laura Richardson (D) vs. Rep. Janice Hahn (D)

Merged district

Redistricting has forced another pair of Democratic incumbents to face off this November. Rep. Janice Hahn won a July 2011 special election to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. Rep. Laura Richardson was elected in a 2007 special election to replace the late Juanita Millender-McDonald. Hahn appears to have an advantage due, in part, to an ongoing ethics saga for Richardson that has resulted in a reprimand and $10,000 fine by the House Ethics Committee for campaign finance violations involving her congressional staff. Hahn also enjoyed a huge fundraising and cash-on-hand advantage at the start of October. Hahn trounced Richardson in the primary.

Florida 9: Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) vs. Todd Long (R)

New district

In just one term in Congress, Democrat Alan Grayson mastered the art of making headlines with his blunt and abrasive rhetorical style. During the debate over health care, he said the Republican health care plan was, "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly." He also said on CNN that Republicans were "foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals." In a 2010 TV ad, he called his Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, "Taliban Dan." Although he quickly became a hero among liberals, Grayson went on to lose his bid for a second term by a staggering 18 points.

Grayson is running in a new district in the Orlando suburbs and his Republican opponent is Todd Long, an attorney, small businessman and conservative radio show host.

Florida 18: Rep. Allen West (R) vs. Patrick Murphy (D)

Rep. Allen West is a top target for Democrats The freshman Republican's sharp rhetoric during his first term has not endeared him to colleagues across the aisle. For instance, West last summer e-mailed Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz that she was "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives." West's Democratic opponent is Patrick Murphy, a businessman and executive with a construction firm. West has a huge fundraising advantage but Murphy has been running ads and the race is competitive.

Florida 26: Rep. David Rivera (R) vs. Joe Garcia (D)

The race in Florida's southernmost congressional district is a rematch of 2010, but the dynamics could not be more different. Republican incumbent David Rivera was elected in the Republican wave two years ago. Democrat Joe Garcia, a former Miami-Dade County Democratic party chairman, lost by nine points. The key difference this time is that Rivera has been dogged by scandal and ethics issues. The district is still Republican-friendly and Garcia entered the final stretch in better position than two years ago.

Georgia 12: Rep. John Barrow (D) vs. Lee Anderson (R)

Democratic incumbent John Barrow is fighting for his political life in this heavily Republican district, which is far better than Republicans had expected would be the case at this point when they drew the district's boundaries. According to an analysis by the Cook Political Report, President Barack Obama's 2008 vote in Barrow's new district is 44%, compared with 55% under the old lines. Despite the unfavorable political landscape, Barrow has made the race competitive. He has far outpaced his Republican opponent, state Rep. Lee Anderson, in fundraising. He also has been in general election mode from the start compared with Anderson, who emerged weakened from a competitive primary.

Illinois 2: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) vs. Brian Woodworth (R)

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s biggest obstacle to a ninth full term in Congress might be himself. Jackson has been on medical leave since June for an undisclosed ailment, which his office later described as a "mood disorder."

In August, Rep. Patrick Kennedy told CNN that his longtime friend and colleague was suffering from "serious depression -- deep, deep depression."

In mid-October, CNN confirmed that Jackson was the subject of a federal investigation over possible financial improprieties. In late October, Jackson released a campaign robocall to constituents saying he was undergoing treatment for "several serious health issues" and asked for "your continued patience as I work to get my health back."

Republican opponent Brian Woodworth, an attorney and university professor, has criticized him for leaving the district unrepresented. Despite his absence, Jackson is expected to win.

Illinois 8: Rep. Joe Walsh (R) vs. Tammy Duckworth (D)

Freshman Republican Joe Walsh is high on the list of most-endangered GOP incumbents. Walsh barely won his seat in 2010 and redistricting has made it more Democratic. He has the additional misfortune of running in a presidential election year when favorite son Barack Obama is heading the ticket for the other party. Walsh has made headlines with a number of controversial statements, including his assertion that medical science has advanced to the point where abortions are never necessary to save a woman's life. Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a decorated Iraq war veteran, led in fundraising and entered the final stretch with an advantage.

Illinois 10: Rep. Robert Dold (R) vs. Brad Schneider (D)

Republican Robert Dold won this Democrat-friendly district in the Republican wave of 2010, replacing fellow Republican Mark Kirk, who ran for the U.S. Senate. The redrawn district is more Democratic-friendly, but Dold has kept the race competitive. His Democratic opponent is businessman Brad Schneider, who emerged battered from a competitive primary. Dold entered the final month of the campaign with a huge cash advantage but Schneider has benefited from sizable TV ad buys from the national Democratic Party and from a pro-Democratic super PAC, but he was trailing the overall TV ad dollars invested by Dold, the national Republican Party and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Iowa 3: Rep. Tom Latham (R) vs. Rep. Leonard Boswell (D)

Merged district

Iowa was one of 10 states to lose seats in Congress because of redistricting, setting up a member-on-member showdown between two veteran lawmakers in a merged Des Moines-area district. Democrat Leonard Boswell represented much of this new district in the late 1990s. Republican Tom Latham has a fundraising advantage due in part to his friendship with Boehner. The cash advantage is apparent on the airwaves, where Latham has outspent Boswell, even when counting the considerable assistance the Democrat received from his national party. Boswell is no stranger to tight races. He survived the Republican wave of 2010. The presidential race will boost Democratic turnout, but his new district has many more "red" counties than the one he represented for 10 years. The race will be competitive.

Iowa 4: Rep. Steve King (R) vs. Christie Vilsack (D)

Republican incumbent Steve King's bid for a sixth term in Congress has been his toughest. King won re-election in his old western Iowa district with 66% of the vote in 2010, and he never dipped below 59% in any of his previous races. This year, he faces a new district and a tough new challenger in Democrat Christie Vilsack, Iowa's former first lady and the wife of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The good news for King is that his enormous new district in the northwest part of the state comprises mostly counties won in 2008 by John McCain. King has had a fundraising advantage over Vilsack. But Vilsack is the strongest candidate Democrats could have fielded. She has been competitive financially. The political makeup of the district is still a reach for a Democrat.

Louisiana 3: Rep. Charles Boustany (R) vs. Rep. Jeff Landry (R)

Merged district

As in California, redistricting and a "top-two" primary system have forced two incumbent lawmakers of the same party into a November showdown. Republican Charles Boustany, a surgeon elected in 2004, faces freshman Republican Jeff Landry, an attorney and businessman, former police officer and tea party favorite. Boustany represents more of the new district than does Landry, but the freshman proved he is capable of pulling off surprises when he defeated the better-known former Louisiana House speaker in the 2010 primary. Under state law, the November election will serve as an open primary, in which the top two finishers will advance to a December runoff if no one gets a majority.

Maryland 6: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) vs. John Delaney (D)

Republican Roscoe Bartlett's bid for an 11th term appears to be his last. The long-time western Maryland representative was a target for Democrats who redrew the district last year. As a result, his once-safe seat now stretches from the state's westernmost point to include a piece of heavily Democratic Montgomery County and now reaches almost to the District of Columbia border. His Democratic opponent is John Delaney, a wealthy businessman. Delaney pulled off an upset in the Democratic primary over Rob Garagiola, a state senator with a string of endorsements from party establishment types, including Gov. Martin O'Malley. Bartlett has little hope of pulling off a miracle.

Massachusetts 4: Joe Kennedy III (D) vs. Sean Bielat (R)

Open Democratic-held seat

When Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island left office in January 2011, it ended his family's 64-year streak of service in Congress that began with the swearing-in of freshman congressman John F. Kennedy. In 2012, Democratic congressional candidate Joe Kennedy III, grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, hopes to begin a new streak by replacing retiring Rep. Barney Frank in the 4th Congressional District. Kennedy, a former prosecutor and Peace Corps member, is heavily favored to win; no member of his family has ever lost a race in Massachusetts. His opponent is Republican Sean Bielat, a businessman and Marine Corps reservist.

Massachusetts 6: Rep. John Tierney (D) vs. Richard Tisei (R)

Rep. John Tierney is in danger of becoming the first Democrat since 1994 to lose a U.S. House race in Massachusetts. The eight-term incumbent has been dogged by a financial scandal involving his wife and her brothers and an illegal gambling operation. The Republican nominee is Richard Tisei, a former state senator who is openly gay. Tierney has been targeted by more than $3 million in ads this cycle from Tisei, the national Republican Party and pro-Republican groups, eager to defeat a Democrat in Massachusetts. The district is Democratic but the ongoing scandal appears to have taken a toll. A September Boston Globe/University of New Hampshire poll had Tisei with 37%, Tierney with 30% and 30% undecided.

Minnesota 6: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) vs. Jim Graves (D)

Tea party favorite Michele Bachmann was a shoo-in for re-election when she folded up her presidential campaign in January. Ten months later, Bachmann still has the advantage but she faces a tough challenger in Jim Graves, a wealthy businessman. Graves waged a competitive race in October, spending $1.2 million in TV ads, compared with $1.7 million for Bachmann. The conservative congresswoman has never posted huge numbers on Election Night, but redistricting has made her district slightly more Republican. Defeating a high-profile conservative like Bachmann would be a nice win for Democrats, but she is not at the top of the list of vulnerable Republican incumbents.

Nevada 4: Steven Horsford (D) vs. Danny Tarkanian (R)

New district

There's a competitive race in Nevada's newest congressional district. The nominees are Democrat Steven Horsford, the state senate majority leader, and Republican Danny Tarkanian, a businessman and son of UNLV basketball coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian. The younger Tarkanian was a 2010 U.S. Senate candidate, but placed third in the Republican primary. The two candidates have been evenly matched in terms of fundraising as well as assistance from their national parties and from outside groups in terms of TV ads. The district leans slightly Democratic.

New Hampshire 1: Rep. Frank Guinta (R) vs. Former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D)

As was the case in 2010, Republican Frank Guinta and Democrat Carol Shea-Porter face off in the battle for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District. This time, Guinta is the incumbent and Shea-Porter is the challenger. Shea-Porter was elected in the Democratic wave of 2006 and served two terms before losing to Guinta in 2010, 54%-42%. The two are fairly evenly matched in fundraising.

New Hampshire 2: Rep. Charlie Bass (R) vs. Ann McLane Kuster (D)

Republican incumbent Charlie Bass faces Ann McLane Kuster. Kuster lost to Bass in the general election in 2010 but is running again, and she has outraised Bass, though they started October with roughly the same amount in the bank. The Democrat has far outspent her opponent on the airwaves even though the national Republican Party has invested funds on behalf of Bass. A WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll from early October had Kuster at 38%, Bass 35%, with 25% unsure. The district is more Democratic than the state's other region, which works in Kuster's favor.

New York 24: Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) vs. Former Rep. Dan Maffei (D)

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle was elected in the Republican wave of 2010 and now has to defend her seat from the man she defeated. Democrat Dan Maffei, a longtime Capitol Hill staffer, won this upstate New York district in 2008 after it had been in Republican hands for almost 30 years. He lost the seat to nurse and tea party favorite Buerkle in one of the closest House races that year. The two have been evenly matched in fundraising and TV ad spending. The district now leans slight more Democratic, which doesn't help Buerkle, who managed to win this seat by only about 600 votes.

North Carolina 7: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) vs. David Rouzer (R)

Democratic Mike McIntyre is running a competitive race despite a newly redrawn district that skews heavily Republican. The Republican nominee is David Rouzer, a state senator. McIntyre, an eight-term incumbent, leads in fundraising and has kept even with ad spending by pro-Republican outside groups and the national Republican Party. Rouzer has stayed off the airwaves. Like fellow southern Democrat John Barrow in Georgia, McIntyre is showing strong signs of life in a district that appears to have been drawn to end his career.

Ohio 9: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) vs. Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher (R)

Samuel Wurzelbacher, better known as "Joe the Plumber," became a conservative icon in the 2008 presidential race when he challenged then-candidate Obama on tax policy at a campaign event. Republican John McCain even mentioned him during the third presidential debate. Four years later, Wurzelbacher is running for Congress in a quixotic race against 15-term incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur, who is a safe bet for re-election. Kaptur handily defeated fellow Democrat Dennis Kucinich in a primary earlier this year.

Ohio 16: Rep. Jim Renacci (R) vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D)

Ohio's most competitive House race pits freshman Republican incumbent Jim Renacci against three-term Democratic incumbent Betty Sutton. Since August, the two have benefited from about $2 million in ad spending on their behalf from parties and outside groups, while Renacci's campaign has about doubled Sutton's campaign in ad spending. the merged district, located in northeastern Ohio near, but not including, Cleveland, Akron, and Canton, leans Republican but the race remains up for grabs.

Tennessee 4: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) vs. Eric Stewart (D)

Republican physician Scott DesJarlais was elected to Congress in the Republican wave of 2010, defeating Democratic Rep. Lincoln Davis. He was a safe bet for re-election until a recent revelation that he had pressured a girlfriend to have an abortion a decade ago. DesJarlais was separated from his wife at the time. The Democratic nominee is Eric Stewart, a state senator. He has begun making an issue of the incident but the impact on DesJarlais' campaign in this rural, conservative district remains unclear.

Texas 23: Rep. Francisco Canseco (R) vs. Pete Gallego (D)

Republican Francisco "Quico" Canseco is one of many freshman members elected in the GOP wave of 2010 who now finds himself in a competitive race for a second term. Canseco was a wealthy commercial real estate developer when he won his third bid for this seat two years ago, defeating Democratic incumbent Ciro Rodriguez. After a legal battle over the redistricting process, Canseco ended up with a district that is slightly more Democratic -- President Obama carried it in 2008 with 51%, according to the Cook Political Report.The Democratic nominee is Pete Gallego, a state representative who defeated former Rep. Rodriguez in the primary. Hispanics make up 66% of voters.

Utah 4: Rep. Jim Matheson (D) vs. Mia Love (R)

As Utah's only Democratic member of Congress, Jim Matheson is used to close races. He barely squeaked by in 2010 with 50% of the vote. This year may prove to be Matheson's toughest race yet. His Republican opponent is Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs who would become the first female African-American Republican to serve in Congress. Love is a rising star in the party and was giving a prominent speaking role at this year's Republican National Convention. The two have been relatively evenly matched in fundraising. This is one of the most competitive and highest profile House races in the country.

Wisconsin 1: Rep. Paul Ryan (R) vs. Rob Zerban (D)

Being named Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate has not affected Paul Ryan's chances at getting re-elected to the House. He is a safe bet for against Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban.

Ryan has been asked multiple times whether he's hedging his bets by running for re-election while also running for vice president but the question is irrelevant. Ryan was tapped for the ticket after the deadline had passed to have his name removed from the House ballot. He's far from the first running mate to run for two jobs at once. Vice President Joe Biden was in the same position in 2008.

Wisconsin 7: Rep. Sean Duffy (R) vs. Pat Kreitlow (D)

Rep. Sean Duffy was one of the higher-profile freshmen elected in the Republican wave of 2010. He was a former Ashland County district attorney and tea party favorite, but he was probably best known for his work as a professional lumberjack athlete and ESPN commentator and as a cast member on MTV's reality show "The Real World." This year he faces a tough challenge from Pat Kreitlow, a former state senator and former local TV news anchor. Redistricting gave Duffy a more-GOP-leaning district. He also enjoys a financial advantage. Despite these advantages, this remains the most competitive House race in Wisconsin.