There’s almost no doubt that the Republicans will gain back some ground in the House in 2010, barring some sort of epic meltdown or epic brilliance by the Democrats. The problem for Republicans, of course, is that they’re so far behind that “some ground” doesn’t need much. At this point, they need to get a net increase of 40 seats in order to regain majority status. Needless to say, that’s quite a challenge. Can they do it?
To answer that, I’m looking at Ike Skelton. Skelton represents MO-4, and has been for over 30 years. Just to give you an idea of what this means, this is a district that voted for John McCain in 2008. And by that, I mean McCain beat Obama 61-38. In other words, this is an extremely conservative District. And yet, Skelton’s a Democrat. And he’s been around for 30 years. He survived the 1994 elections. He survived the early 2000s. Clearly, he’s an example of a Congressman that people like. Despite the fact that his electorate is the type that undoubtedly despises Pelosi’s agenda, they have no problem giving the job to one of her allies (96% of the time, at least).
I’m not going to get into why that’s the case. But clearly, this is a guy who knows how to win elections. Hence why he’s my bellwether for whether or not 2010 will be a wave. If the Republicans can pull off a victory here when they couldn’t do it at any time in the past, it means there really is a national movement afoot. It means that the Tea Party has tapped into something powerful, that people really are sick of the status quo.
It’s not as if this should be that hard. Again, this is a R+14 district. Skelton’s 77 years old and hasn’t had a serious opponent in ages. His 2008 opponent, for example, barely spent any money and had never been in office before. Skelton’s fundraising numbers, while not bad by any means, aren’t anything special. And he’s been in hiding during this recess, not willing to talk to incumbents about the oh-so divisive health care debate. Shouldn’t this be time that this conservative district says enough is enough?
And it seems that the Republicans might sense it too. Remember when I said this guy hasn’t faced a serious opponent in forever? State rep Vicky Hartzler and State Sen Bill Stouffer are both running on the Republican side. An honest to goodness primary between two elected officials? It’ll be interesting to see if either of these two can gather any momentum. Still, the fact that they’re willing to risk taking on a 30 year incumbent means they think the winds are changing.
If Skelton loses, I’d say there’s a good bet the Republicans will make that 40 vote threshold. If Skelton wins, expect the Democrats to remain in charge.