Utah’s 4th District — where Republican Mia Love came within 800 votes of unseating Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson last November — tops the list of more than 40 Democrat-held seats targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in next year’s mid-term elections.
Mattheson held onto his seat last fall despite the fact Romney carried 67 percent of the vote in the 4th District. Love, who is mayor of Saratoga Springs, raised more than $2 million for her 2012 campaign and is seen as one of the most promising new faces in the conservative movement. Love received an enthusiastic welcome at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
During a briefing for bloggers at CPAC this weekend, NRCC Chairman Greg Walden described the committee’s top list of targeted Democrat-held seats as the “slippery seven,” because they have so often eluded Republicans’ grasp. In addition to Matheson’s Utah district, the top targets include:
- Nick Rahall, West Virginia 3rd — The district voted 65 percent for Romney, yet the 18-term Democrat incumbent defeated Republican challenger Rick Snuffer by eight points.
- Mike McIntyre, North Carolina 7th — The Democrat incumbent was elected to an eighth term last year by less than 700 votes against his GOP challenger, state Sen. David Rouzer, in a distrrict that Romney carried with 59 percent of the vote.
- John Barrow, Georgia 12th — One of the last remaining “Blue Dog” Democrats, Barrow has managed to hang on in increasingly Republican-leaning Georgia, winning his fourth term last fall by 8 points in a district that Romney won with 55 percent.
- Colin Peterson, Minnesota 7th — The 11-term Democrat got 60 percent of the vote last fall in a district where 54 percent of votes chose Romney.
- Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona 1st — This is a seesaw district that was held by Republican Rick Renzi until he was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2008. Kirpatrick was elected that year, but lost the seat to Paul Gosar in the 2010 mid-terms. After re-districting, Gosar chose not to seek re-election last year and Kirkpatrick defeated Republican Jonathan Paton by about 7,000 votes, while Romney got 50 percent of the vote in the district.
- Ron Barber, Arizona 2nd — In one of the most hard-fought House campaigns of 2012, it was not until 11 days after Election Day that Republican challenger Martha McSally, a former Air Force pilot, conceded to Barber, who had won a June special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In his CPAC briefing with bloggers, the NRCC’s chairman pointed out that President Obama has made re-taking the House for Democrats a political priority of his second term. Recalling the first two years of Obama’s administration, when Democrats under Nancy Pelosi controlled the House, Walden said. “There was an enormous amount of damage done … There were no checks and balances,” he said.
Asked about possible primary challenges to GOP incumbents, Walden said, “I wish we could concentrate on concentrate on beating Democrats.” Discussing the Republican-controlled House’s battles with the White House, Walden said, “We haven’t been good at winning arguments in the mainstream media, and as a result we got run over.”