40 in 2010: FL-22

Cross-posted at The Skeptical Michigander

(In order for the Republicans to take back the House in 2010, they need to net 40 seats. It’s a long shot, but it is possible. By my count, there are 85 Dem-held seats that the Republicans have at least an outside chance of winning. That number will change as we get closer to election time, of course. But for now, I’ll be highlighting some of these seats from time to time.)

I’ve got a list of 85 seats I’m looking at. Some are easily obtainable, like ID-3. Some require a decent candidate and a little luck. Some just need a good campaign to reignite the base. And others are long shots. Florida’s 22nd district is one of these long shots. It’s on the blue-ish side of purple, it’s against an incumbent, and the trending demographics are not exactly in the right direction.

Florida 22
Location: Eastern coastline of Florida, ranging from Palm Beach down to nearly Ft. Lauderdale

Incumbent: Ron Klein
Klein first won office in the 2006 wave, taking out a relatively seasoned incumbent 51-47. He then solidified his position in 2008. He tends to be pretty liberal, although can remain moderate under the right circumstances. Pro-bailout, pro-stimulus, pro-cap and trade, pro-public option, pro-gun control, etc. He mostly ducked out of the town hall events, appearing in one where questions from the general audience were not allowed and held a tele-town hall as well. He’s still likely to be a formidable opponent. He’s raised quite a bit of money, and has managed to keep his mouth shut rather than say anything that would turn into an easy commercial. He does face a primary, but it’s probably not going to be tough, and he’s not running for the Senate. All signs point to him as the candidate in 2010.

Cook Partisan Index: D+1
Cook Race Rating: Likely Dem
CQ Politics Race Rating: Safe Dem
Rothenberg Rating: Limited Risk
Larry Sabato: Likely Dem
(Note that, this far away, all these ratings are geared towards the incubent. Take them with a grain of salt)

Previous election results:
Obama 52, McCain 48
Kerry 51, Bush 49
Gore 51, Bush 46
Klein (D) 55, West (R) 45 (2008)
Klein 51, Shaw 47 (2006)

Confirmed Republican Candidates (and their websites):
Allen West
David Brady

A Google search of David Brady turned up nothing on him, nor did any of the typical websites I check. He’s in Florida’s Sec of State website, so I guess he’s in. The fact that he doesn’t have a website or even a single news article about him is pretty telling, however. In fairness, it appears that he just filed his paperwork not too long ago, so who knows? But with absolutely no information on him, he’s apparantly a complete neophyte to politics. And in a Dem leaning district, it’s safe to assume he’s dead in the water.

That leaves Allen West, a retired Army Colonel and the 2008 candidate. Yes, he lost in 2008. But that was a year of strong anti-Republican sentiment. It was also a year that West got no support from the NRCC, which was focused on defense rather than offense. And he only lost 55-45, which isn’t an insurmountable number, and probably better than anyone thought. Difficult, yes, but not insurmountable. West looks to be reliably conservative, which may not be the best strategy for a purplish-blue district, but I’m not campaigning. As one might expect, he looks to be very intelligent and professional (here’s a nice write-up of a speech he gave in 2008), and does a good job of explaining conservative values. He’s written quite a bit about health care, taxes, and spending, which are obviously going to be big issues going into 2010. Apparantly, ~25% of adults in this district are 65 or older, decidedly above-average and may be a key to Republican victory if the health care debate continues the way it currently is going. He’s also strongly against illegal immigration. It should be noted that this is a district that’s 10% Hispanic.

The fact that he already ran once should help him some, as he’s got the name recognition now (don’t know if he had it in 2008) and the organization up and running. His fundraising looks pretty good, with over $250k raised so far (which doesn’t include the last quarter yet), almost half the amount he raised in all of 2008. He also has a decent amount of grassroot support, and has all the social networking deals. He speaks eloquently, and that includes a monthly column in a Florida motorcycle magazine. However, it should be noted that he was very nearly dishonorably discharged from the army for, uh, enhanced interrogation techniques; I don’t know if that will hurt him, or the fact that he was trying to save the lives of his soldiers will be enough to exonerate him in the eyes of the voters.

The other big possibility for this district was Adam Hasner, the FL House Majority Leader. He was interested, then declined. That may be bad news, of course. After all, it could mean that he looked at the possibility, saw no chance, and decided not to risk it. On the other hand, maybe he just wants to play it safe, or maybe he couldn’t raise enough money, or maybe there was something else. No point in worrying about it now that he’s out. The race is still 13 months away, so anything he might have determined now may not be true in the future anyway.

On the whole, this district is hard to predict. Look at the previous Presidential results, for example. No movement at all over the past 8 years. In fact, it may have moved slightly Republican. Is that a good thing? Probably not, since a good chunk of Republican hopes for 2010 rely on the wave of Obama voters dissipating during the midterms. Yet there was no wave in this district. And despite Presidential numbers ticking toward Republicans (relatively speaking), Dem registration has been picking up quite a bit. A new story claims that registered Dems are now tied with registered Reps for the first time this past month, compared to a 37.7% – 37.0% edge in November 08. Not a good sign. Yet with Independents sliding back to the Republican side in national polls, a tied registered advantage may not be enough.

Like I said, it’s a bit of a long shot. Republicans have a solid candidate in West, who’s clearly in it for the long haul. There’s some good signs in the demographics and some bad signs. West may be a sophomore candidate this time around, which should help, but Klein also has an extra 2 years to solidify his support. I’m guessing health care is going to play a big role, given the demographics of the district. If West can keep articulating conservative values and if he gets more financial support, this may be one of the pleasant surprises in 2010.

More Information: Open Congress