- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Warning on Friday the 13th that a “Category 5 Hurricane Heads for House GOP,” political prognosticator Charlie Cook declared that “a 30-seat gain today for Democrats is more likely to occur than a 15-seat gain, the minimum that would tip the majority.” Fellow election forecaster Stuart Rothenberg projected a Democratic gain of 18-25 seats in the House. Whether or not the storm comes, the current supporting data are revealing.

Indicative of the uphill battle facing Republicans is the fact that four scandal-tarnished GOP seats (former Florida Rep. Mark Foley, former Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, Ohio Rep. Bob Ney and Pennsylvania Rep. Don Sherwood) threaten to be taken over by Democrats. This, despite the fact that the average margin of victory in the last two general elections for Messrs. Foley, Ney and Sherwood was 47, 66 and 86 points, respectively, and the fact that President Bush won 64 percent of the vote in Mr. DeLay’s district in 2004.

Mr. Cook says no Democratic seat is involved in a “toss-up” election, while four GOP seats are rated as “lean[ing] Democratic” and 25 other Republican seats are considered “toss-ups.” Mr. Rothenberg has ranked six GOP-held seats as “toss-up/tilt Democratic”; and all 14 of his “pure toss-up” seats are held by Republicans.

In addition to the seats formerly held by Messrs. Foley and DeLay, there are two other open seats held by retiring Republicans (Jim Kolbe of Arizona and Bob Beauprez of Colorado) that Mr. Cook has rated as “lean[ing] Democratic.” When electoral information is arranged as follows — (year GOP incumbent was first elected; incumbent’s victory margin in 2004; and in 2002; and the percentage of the vote President Bush received in the incumbent’s district in 2004) — here are the data for Mr. Kolbe’s seat (1984; 24 points; 30 points; 53 percent) and for Mr. Beauprez’s seat (2002; 12; 0.1; 48).

According to Mr. Cook, Connecticut, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania all have three “toss-up” elections for GOP-held seats. Connecticut seats include those held by Rob Simmons (2000; 8; 8; 44), Chris Shays (1987; 5; 29; 46) and Nancy Johnson (1982; 22; 11; 49). The Indiana seats are held by Chris Chocola (2002; 10; 5; 56), John Hostettler (1994; 9; 5; 62) and Mike Sodrel (2004; 0.5; NA; 59). The Ohio seats are held by Steve Chabot (1994; 20; 30; 50), Deborah Price (1992; 20; 33; 50) and the open seat currently held by the recently convicted Ney (1994; 32; 100; 57). The Pennsylvania seats are held by Jim Gerlach (2002; 2; 3; 48), Curt Weldon (1986; 19; 32; 47) and Mr. Sherwood (1998; 86; 86; 60). Florida has two “toss-ups”: Clay Shaw (1980; 28; 22; 49) and the open seat being vacated by Katherine Harris (2002; 11; 10; 56). New York also has two: Tom Reynolds (1998; 11; 51; 55) and the open seat being vacated by Sherwood Boehlert (1982; 23; 49; 52).

Other Cook-designated “toss-ups” include GOP seats held by Kentucky’s Geoff Davis (2004; 11; NA; 63), New Mexico’s Heather Wilson (1998; 9; 11; 48), North Carolina’s Charles Taylor (1990; 10; 13; 57), Virginia’s Thelma Drake (2004; 10; NA; 58) and Washington’s Dave Reichert (2004; 5; NA; 48). The final group of GOP “toss-ups” are open seats being vacated by Illinois’s Henry Hyde (1974; 12; 30; 53), Iowa’s Jim Nussle (1990; 12; 15; 46), Minnesota’s Mark Kennedy (2000; 8; 22; 57) and Wisconsin’s Mark Green (1998; 40; 49; 55).

Sobering though these forecasts are, it must be noted that not a single vote has been recorded yet. The fate of the Republican majority still rests overwhelmingly in the hands of registered Republican voters — if they vote.

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