Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Maryland talks like a man who knows his days in office might be numbered.
The 86-year-old Republican is fighting an uphill battle to keep the seat he has held for 20 years. State Democrats redrew his long-conservative district last year to give their party a voter advantage.
Mr. Bartlett has since been outspent nearly three-to-one by Democratic challenger John Delaney in a district where about half of the residents have never had him as their congressman — circumstances he acknowledges make him a clear underdog in the waning days of the campaign.
“Obviously, a district like this would be a tough district for any Republican,” Mr. Bartlett said recently. “I’m not the incumbent for a lot of these voters. We know it’s a tough fight, and we’re working very hard to get our message out.”
National political analysts have called Mr. Bartlett one of the most vulnerable incumbents in this year’s House elections, due largely to Mr. Delaney’s deep pockets and the drastic redrawing of the 6th Congressional District.
Maryland Democrats — who control the governorship, both chambers of the General Assembly, both U.S. Senate seats and six of the state’s eight congressional seats — have made a clear effort to force out Mr. Bartlett through redistricting.
The state’s new map added much of left-leaning Montgomery County to the congressman’s Western Maryland district, taking its registered voter makeup from 47 percent Republican and 36 percent Democratic in 2010, to 44 percent Democratic and 33 percent Republican this year.
“This isn’t the sort of rural base that he was used to,” said Jessica Taylor, a senior analyst for The Rothenberg Political Report. “I think the Democrats are really comfortable where this race is and they count it as a pickup. And I think Republicans privately count this as a loss.”
Ms. Taylor said national Republicans have offered little help to Mr. Bartlett beyond their customary donations at the start of the race, fueling speculation that they see the district as a lost cause.
Mr. Delaney, a 49-year-old financier from upscale D.C. suburb Potomac, has spent $3.6 million — about half of which was his own money — in an effort to topple Mr. Bartlett, who has spent just $1.2 million and has long had a reputation as a modest campaigner and fundraiser.
The political newcomer earned the support of state Democrats only after winning April’s Democratic primary, in which he handily beat state Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola — the man for whom party leaders supposedly drew the district.
He argues that his business experience can help to settle the nation’s finances, and says he supports the popular Democratic approach of using spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy to help close the federal deficit.
He also says that the government can drive growth and hiring by spending more on infrastructure improvements and raising education standards.
“You need a mix of additional revenue, entitlement reform and spending reductions,” he said at a debate last month. “That’s the only path forward for this country.”
Mr. Bartlett, a tea party member who lives on a farm in Buckeystown, Frederick County, argues that the government needs to lower tax rates, make deeper spending cuts, reduce regulations and “get out of the way and let America heal.”