As part of the effort to win back the House majority, Democrats are eyeing dozens of districts that have tell-tale political signs of Republican incumbents who might be ripe for takedown.
While more than a few of them constitute an exercise in wishful thinking, among the targets is a special subset of seats that, at the moment at least, seems especially promising for 2012 — the so-called Kerry-Obama districts.
The Republican-controlled seats have the strongest Democratic lineage — districts with a proven track record of voting Democratic in presidential election years. Voters in those districts liked Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in a year when the rest of the nation reelected President George W. Bush and fell even harder for Barack Obama in 2008.
Without winning a good portion of those 14 seats — essentially the lowest-hanging fruit — there’s little chance of a change in House control.
One reason the Kerry-Obama seats are such attractive targets in 2012: Most of the occupants are freshmen, who are typically the most vulnerable members of Congress. Eleven of the 14 districts are represented by first-termers, including Reps. Allen West in south Florida and Sean Duffy in Wisconsin, two of the highest-profile members of the class of 2010.
The bulk of the Kerry-Obama seats are concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest. Pennsylvania is home to five — veteran Reps. Charlie Dent and Jim Gerlach and newly elected Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, Patrick Meehan and Lou Barletta. Two are from Illinois — Reps. Bobby Schilling and Robert Dold. Minnesota (Rep. Chip Cravaack), New Hampshire (Rep. Charlie Bass), New York (Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle) and Ohio (Rep. Steve Stivers) are each home to one seat.
The only West Coast member of the club is veteran Rep. Dave Reichert, who represents a suburban Seattle district.
Democrats expect the higher turnout of a presidential election year and Obama’s voter turnout machine will make their candidates exceptionally competitive in those seats next year.
It’s no coincidence that the 14 Republicans have been among the first to draw serious Democratic opponents at this early stage in the election cycle.
A handful of the rookie Republicans who were unexpectedly swept into Democratic seats in 2010 are of special concern to their GOP colleagues since they appear to be lagging behind in the assembly of well-funded, battle-ready political organizations.