Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Roll Call sizes up McIntyre-Rouzer and probable fate of other Blue Dogs.

Verne Strickland Blogmaster / October 17, 2012

It is three weeks before Election Day and a handful of incumbents are already seeing the writing on the wall. They won’t be coming back to Congress. It’s time to look for other gainful employment or merely enjoy the quiet pleasures of forced retirement.

North Carolina Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell hasn’t been able to overcome strong Republican challenger Richard Hudson in a dramatically redrawn district that now favors the GOP. He is a sure bet to lose Nov. 6. The same fate awaits Maryland Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who remains a heavy underdog against John Delaney (D) in a district that doesn’t resemble his old one.

Two of the most fascinating races this year involve Blue Dog Democrats who face seemingly impossible situations but appear to be holding their own. While their political fates remain very much in doubt, Georgia Rep. John Barrow and North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre no longer deserve to be written off. (That could change in even a few days, of course.)

Barrow seemed like a lost cause for his party after Georgia Republicans redrew his district, making a competitive seat look quite Republican. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the redrawn district with more than 55 percent of the vote, while President George W. Bush carried it with more than 60 percent when he won his second term.

Barrow was one of a relative handful of Democrats to vote against the House’s Affordable Health Care for America Act (and the final bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) and the Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill. He has strong candidate skills, which might be why Anderson is coming up with excuses for not debating him.

Polling suggests the race is close, and Republican strategists are hoping that the district’s fundamentals can carry Anderson to victory. But at least one unreleased survey shows Barrow with strong personal ratings and opinion of Anderson sliding as voters get more information about him.

When Republicans redrew North Carolina’s Congressional districts, it was clear that Kissell and Rep. Heath Shuler (D) were gone. But McIntyre looked to have a fighting chance to survive — though not much more than that.

In fact, McIntyre has looked strong in polling so far, and the only question is whether the reported GOP bump in the state following the first Obama-Romney debate has changed the dynamics in a district that McCain carried with more than 57 percent and Bush won with more than 61 percent in 2004.

Republican challenger David Rouzer served as an aide to North Carolina GOP Sens. Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole. A former staffer at the Agriculture Department with a laid-back Southern style, he appears to be a pragmatic mainstream conservative rather than a tea partyer.

McIntyre voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” and for repeal of the health care reform law. He also voted for the GOP’s Cut, Cap, and Balance bill, and he has been a reliable vote for conservatives on most controversial social issues.

Republicans are hoping district voters ignore McIntyre’s moderate votes and focus on his party label. That is more likely to happen in the campaign’s final weeks, but so far the Congressman has run a very good race and can’t be counted out.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.