Compared to the trench warfare for the presidency and the Senate, House races seem relatively quiet this year. The lack of excitement on the part of national Democrats is due largely to cold mathematical realities: 218 lawmakers make up a majority in the 435-member body, and Republicans figure they have 214 safe seats. That means they need to win just four competitive races to maintain their majority.
For Democrats, the math is much tougher. They have to win most, if not all, of the 10 open seats in addition to ousting several Republican incumbents. In all, they need a net gain of 13 seats-the sort of turnover that hasn't been seen since the Republican Revolution of 1994. Their task is made even harder by redistricting in Texas, which could dislodge up to five Democratic incumbents.
One more thing stands in the way of would-be Speaker Nancy Pelosi: momentum. After the GOP's astonishing 54-seat gain in 1994, the party lost seats in 1996, 1998, and 2000. But Republicans reversed the trend in 2002, picking up six seats and nearly regaining their 1994 majority.
Max Burns is considered the GOP's most vulnerable incumbent in the House. In fact, the freshman Republican has taken to dropping his party label in television ads and-with the exception of a single fundraiser with Dick Cheney-has all but rejected visits from the Republican leadership. The district, which cuts a path through heavily Democratic eastern Georgia, was drawn by state Democrats after the 2000 Census to be a safe Democratic seat-something challenger John Barrow hopes to take advantage of.
What's in a name? Maybe everything, if the name happens to be Clooney. Democrat Nick Clooney, father of Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney, will soon learn whether Tinseltown connections help or hurt in conservative northern Kentucky. Judging from the harsh campaign advertisements, Mr. Clooney and Republican Geoff Davis are in a tight race, despite tens of thousands of dollars flowing to Mr. Clooney from Hollywood stars like Warren Beatty, Drew Barrymore, Nicole Kidman, Michael Douglas, and of course his own son.
Like Nick Clooney, it's likely most people in Louisiana's 3rd District have heard of Republican Billy Tauzin III. His father, Billy Tauzin Jr., has represented the area's sugar cane farmers and petrochemical workers in Congress since 1980. While his 30-year-old son hopes to replace him, he'll first have to survive a six-way "jungle primary" on Election Day to make it to a runoff.
In traditional Louisiana style, the five-way race for the congressional seat in Louisiana's 7th District has become heated-and a little weird. Democrat Willie Mount contends one of the two Republicans is making her look bad with "push polls" that slam President Bush. (Ms. Mount worries conservative voters will think she's behind the attacks.) Meanwhile a national Democratic congressional groups says Republican newcomer Charles Boustany Jr. tried to buy an English title of nobility.
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Both state lawmaker Brian Higgins and county comptroller Nancy Naples are letting their parties' congressional campaign committees pound it out on the airwaves, with Democrats decrying George W. Bush and Republicans charging Mr. Higgins with wanting to raise taxes. Despite-or perhaps because of-the attack ads, the candidates in the neck-and-neck race have yet to define themselves in the minds of their Buffalo-area constituents.
Texas Democrat Max Sandlin could be another victim of the state's redistricting, after Republicans separated him from key parts of his East Texas Democratic stronghold. Mr. Sandlin, a Ways and Means Committee member, released an internal poll showing he had a slim lead. His opponent, appellate court Judge Louie Gohmert, produced his own poll showing it was he who had the edge.
A Texas Tech University poll two weeks before Election Day suggested West Texas Democratic Rep. Charlie Stenholm was in deep trouble, trailing by 30 points. In the lead: District 19 incumbent Randy Neugebauer. As a result of redistricting, Mr. Stenholm, the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee and a 26-year congressional veteran, was forced to run in a district that could easily give George W. Bush 70 percent of its vote on Election Day.
Once identified by liberal 527 group MoveOn.org as one of four House races to really get behind, Arizona's 1st District race has become a laugher. Party leaders thought Democrat Paul Babbitt (whose brother, Bruce, served as Arizona governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior) could unseat freshman incumbent Rick Renzi, who won with only 49 percent of the vote in 2002. But strengthened in part by campaign appearances with Vice President Cheney, Mr. Renzi led in preelection polls by more than 20 points.
With two weeks left in the campaign, Democratic hopeful John Salazar had some bad news to deal with. Not only had his big lead over Republican Greg Walcher slipped to just 5 points, but a campaign staffer inadvertently sent a fundraising e-mail which included foul language directed at his Republican opponent (think Dick Cheney). The gaffe may be enough to spoil the Democrats' chances of picking up this open Republican seat.