You should know by now that I'm on the warpath about Democrat-held seats in blood red districts. There are 69 Democrat held seats that have a net positive Republican partisan voting index (PVI). There are only 8 Republican-held seats that are in similar Democratic territory. We could take back all those seats, not capture anything in Democrat territory, and take back the House with 29 seats to spare.
Over the coming days, I'll outline exactly where I think the "sleeper" seats are, and this past weekend, one more popped on my radar: Utah's 2nd Congressional district.
You might be asking why Utah, one of the most Republican states in the Union, sends a Democrat to Congress, and it's a good question. In a year when Republicans got massacred, McCain still managed 58% of the vote in the Salt Lake City-based UT-2, making it #5 on my PVI-ordered list of Republican targets for 2010.
The vulnerability for now rests on the Democratic side of the ledger. In a sidenote to Bob Bennett's ouster at the state Republican Convention last weekend, Blue Dog Democrat incumbent Jim Matheson was forced into a primary with pro-HCR liberal Claudia Wright. In a shocker, Matheson only managed 55% among party insiders against an opponent with $9K cash on hand.
In a wave year, I'm watching for dozens of mini rogue "waves" to take out incumbents previously thought safe -- think of how Rosty was famously ousted in 1994, or Joseph Cao's shock victory against Dollar Bill Jefferson, or races like Tim Walz vs. Gil Gutknecht or Nancy Boyda vs. Jim Ryun in 2006 that were basically thought safe.
Philpot is an appealing grassroots candidate who could capitalize on a national wave and take the seat, particularly if Matheson is defeated in the primary.
One suggestion is for Republicans to re-register to vote for Wright in the Democratic primary, making this seat a lay-up in the fall. After Alan Mollohan's 12-point thumping in West Virginia and Arlen Specter's fade in Pennsylvania, I wouldn't be so sure that Matheson is a shoo-in here. This would mean voters foregoing the Republican primary between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater, but let's face it, the UT-2 Congressional race is the only one that will change the color on the map from that state this fall.