The Firewall: Democrats Eye Must-Win Seats

Sep 7, 2010 8:30am

ABC's Amy Walter Reports: Labor Day marks the unofficial kick-off to the election season. And, with just 56 days until Election Day, the outlook for congressional Democrats looks grim. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows deep dissatisfaction with President Obama, the way Congress is working, and the country's economic situation. For the first time, more Americans disapprove of the job President Obama is doing than approve. More ominously for congressional Democrats, among likely voters Republicans lead the congressional ballot test by 13 points – the largest lead for the GOP in ABC News/Washington Post polling since 1981.  Given these it’s easy to understand why Republicans want to nationalize this mid-term election while Democrats want to try localize it.  Even so, things don't look much better for Democrats at the local level either. The House: There's a general consensus among congressional handicappers (including us) that there are at least 74 Dem-held seats in play compared to only 9 Republican seats. Republicans need to net 39 seats to win control of Congress. Insiders say there are about 25-32 House seats where the Democrat candidate is polling behind or tied with a GOP challenger. Handicapper Stu Rothenberg's latest House ratings show 28 Democratic-held seats tilting or leaning Republican. To hold the House, Democrats are going to have to engage in trench warfare – holding the House district by district. By the middle of this month, we should have a better idea if their attempts to undermine their GOP candidates will have gained traction or fallen flat. The New York Times reported this weekend that the DCCC will engage in political triage this fall: ditching candidates who are losing their races in order to save their advertising resources for those races that they can win.  DCCC Chair Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, pushed back a bit on the story, but it’s clear that not all the Democrats who need financial support from national Democrats will get it. The issue, however, isn’t so much which seats Democrats will ditch as much as which will constitute the "firewall" House Democrats will focus on saving.  If Republicans are going to take control of the House, they have to beat Democrats in seats like these: Mark Critz (PA-12), Joe Donnelly (IN-02), Patrick Murphy (PA-08), Scott Murphy (NY-20), Zach Space (OH-18) and John Salazar (CO-03). These are the races to watch in the coming weeks. The Senate: There's a growing consensus that control of the Senate is also in play. To win control of the Senate, Republicans would need to net 10 seats. This means that Republicans would first need to hold all of their vulnerable seats: OH, MO, NH, KY, FL, LA and NC. They would then need to win 10 out of 13 vulnerable Dem-held seats: DE, AR, IN, ND, NV, WI, WA, CA, PA, IL, CO, CT and WV. In the end, the Dem "firewall" will likely come down to WI, NV, CA, and WA.  If Democrats win at least two of these races, they can hold the Senate. Follow Amy Walter on Twitter.

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