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GOP Struggling to Find Opportunities for Pickups in U.S. House Races

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Yesterday's blog entry detailed how the Democratic Party has become increasingly competitive on a number of dimensions in challenging GOP-held U.S. House districts from 2002 to 2006. Today Smart Politics examines how Republicans have fared along these same measures—is the GOP becoming more or less competitive in Democratic-held districts?

Overall, the numbers are not good for the Republican Party. To begin with, the number of districts in which the GOP failed to even field a challenger was at a post-redistricting high in 2006 (45 races -- more than four times as many districts in which Democrats failed to run a candidate).

Additionally, an increasing number of Republican challengers are flailing in "blow out" races decided by between 50 and 99 points: rising from 32 districts in 2002, to 36 districts in 2004, to 42 districts in 2006.

Similarly, more and more Republican challengers are losing in "very uncompetitive" races decided by between 30 and 49 points: from 70 in 2002, to 73 in 2004, to 83 in 2006.

Democrats are also facing fewer and fewer Republicans breathing down their neck in Democratic-held districts on the cusp of being competitive -- those races decided by between 11 and 29 points -- dropping from 51 in 2004 to 27 in 2006.

Lastly, the number of Democratic districts that are only narrowly-held have fallen from 17 in 2002, to 7 in 2004, to 6 in 2006.

In sum, the Republicans are facing two big problems when looking at trends in party competitiveness:

1. The universe of competitive and near competitive Democratic-held districts has fallen noticeably, providing fewer and fewer good opportunities for GOP pickups in 2008.

2. Secondly, as outlined yesterday, the opportunities for Democratic pick-ups in competitive and near competitive Republican-held districts have risen greatly in the past four years.

Previous post: Seeds for Democratic Gains In U.S. House Actually Planted in 2004
Next post: Many Familiar Faces To Depart Capitol Hill After '06 Election

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Political Crumbs

No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).


The Second Time Around

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


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