New Frontline Program Incumbents

By Jim Ellis

March 9, 2017 — In February, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced the first round of its Patriot Program, the system where GOP House members help raise funds to support those in the most politically marginal districts. Now, the Democrats have countered.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s leadership has included 19 incumbents in their Frontline Program’s first wave, an usually large number.

Of the 19, 10 should be considered truly vulnerable top-tier targets. They are:

• Tom O’Halleran – AZ-1 – 50.7% win percentage – Trump district
• Stephanie Murphy – FL-7 – 51.5%
• Charlie Crist – FL-13 – 51.9%
• Brad Schneider – IL-10 – 52.6%
• David Loebsack – IA-2 – 53.7% – Trump district
• Rick Nolan – MN-8 – 50.2% – Trump district
• Josh Gottheimer – NJ-5 – 51.1% – Trump district
• Carol Shea-Porter – NH-1 – 44.3% – Trump district
• Jacky Rosen – NV-3 – 47.2% – Trump district
• Sean Patrick Maloney – NY-18 – 50.8% – Trump district

O’Halleran comes from a largely rural, politically marginal Arizona district that normally votes Democratic but with small margins. Murphy and Gottheimer defeated incumbents, so their closer win percentages actually are stronger than they appear. Former Gov. Charlie Crist also defeated an incumbent but clearly under-performed in a seat that was re-drawn to elect him.

Rep. Loebsack has the most Democratic seat in Iowa, but still can’t secure the district. His last three win percentages have been 53.7 (2016), 51.1 (2014), and 49.7 (2012). The same is true for Rep. Maloney in New York’s 18th District. His scant 50.8 percent showing in November was actually an improvement over his 2014 win percentage (47.7).

The 10th District of Illinois and New Hampshire’s 1st District go back and forth between the parties in virtually every election. Minnesota’s Rep. Nolan is considering running for governor, so this seat may open. Rep. Rosen will have her hands full in seeking re-election in her marginal Clark County (NV) seat that she carried by only one point against a perennial candidate.

The next group should be considered second-tier targets:

• Ami Bera – CA-7 – 51.2% win percentage
• Salud Carbajal – CA-24 – 53.4%
• Scott Peters – CA-52 – 56.5%
• Annie Kuster – NH-2 – 49.7%
• Ruben Kihuen – NV-4 – 48.5%
• Tom Suozzi – NY-3 – 48.9%

Rep. Bera has won three close elections against three different opponents, including an incumbent. Expect his win percentage to grow next time. Rep. Carbajal is a freshman who should have little trouble locking down his Santa Barbara County-anchored district. San Diego’s Rep. Peters’ victory margin continues to grow, and he is becoming ever more difficult for Republicans to dislodge.

New Hampshire is the most inconsistent swing state in the country, and any election can seemingly produce surprising results. The 2nd District is the more Democratic of the state’s two CDs, so it is likely that Kuster will return to winning in the 55 percent realm, as she did in 2014.

Kihuen and Suozzi took seats that nominally vote Democratic. It is probable that neither will face particularly strong opponents in 2018.

The final three should not be considered targets:

• Raul Ruiz – CA-36 – 62.0% win percentage
• Elizabeth Esty – CT-5 – 58.0%
• Cheri Bustos – IL-17 – 60.3% – Trump district

Expect this trio to continue winning by ample victory margins.

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