House Control Hangs in Balance

Sporting three competitive House races, Iowa could very well be the state that shifts power in the House. And the most vulnerable of the three is Rep. Jim Leach who faces Democratic political novice Julie Thomas.

All of Iowa's races remain tight in part because of the state's nonpartisan redistricting policies. Leach, who is running for his 14th term, moved from Davenport to Iowa City in order to avoid an incumbent vs. incumbent battle. In the newly drawn 2nd District, Thomas, a pediatrician, has played her strength by making health care a keynote issue.

Meanwhile, Leach suffered a political freefall in the polls; GOP strategists told the Washington Post that Leach's campaign was "... perhaps the worst incumbent campaign in the country."

Nonetheless, national support continues to fly into Iowa, keeping the 2nd District seat "too close to call."

No. 5 — West Virginia's Second District

In West Virginia, it's all about tough talk in a tough re-election. For the White House, backing incumbent Rep. Shelley Moore Capito has a dual purpose: maintaining a GOP seat in the House and testing West Virginia's usually Democratic political waters.

Capito faces Democrat Jim Humphreys, a millionaire who has self-financed most of his own campaign, in a re-match of their tight 2000 contest. Capito campaigns as a compassionate conservative but pays deference to the state's Democratic base by openly disagreeing with the administration; at one point on the campaign trail, Capito vividly described social security privatization as "like playing Russian roulette."

Receiving lukewarm reviews as a campaigner, Humphreys has relied on the state's Democratic bent, basically arguing that West Virginia should simply not be represented by a Republican.

On Nov. 5, West Virginia will decide whether they'll re-elect "a version of Bush", as one analyst described Capito, and many in Washington will speculate on what that means for the real deal in 2004.

Marc Ambinder and Elizabeth Wilner contributed to this report.

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