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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Jarman: Index Shows ‘Most Vulnerable House Members’

David Jarman has an insightful post, “The most vulnerable House members in 2014, in two charts” up at Daily Kos. Jarman has developed a “House Vulnerability Index,” which “proved to be quite accurate” overall in 2010 and hinted at a couple of upsets that actually occurred. Jarman explains:

How the Index works is by combining the two elements that I discussed in the two prevoius weeks’ diaries: The House districts occupied by Republicans that have the most Democratic-friendly presidential results (and vice versa), and the districts where the incumbent members won the narrowest victories the year before. That way, it downplays members who had a close call (probably because they were running in open seats, without the benefit of incumbency) but who are likely to be protected by the blueness or redness of their districts, and it downplays members who are in “crossover” districts but have gotten entrenched and rarely attract top-tier competition. Instead, it casts the spotlight on those House members who fall into “perfect storm” territory of future vulnerability, of being in both difficult districts and having had a difficult election themselves.

Jarman has quite a bit to say about particular House races, and his insights are well worth a read, especially by those who want to more closely monitor the 2014 mid terms. As for vulnerable Republicans, he observes:

You’ll notice that, compared with the Democratic table, there aren’t a lot of vulnerable freshmen near the top of the list. (With 2012 winds blowing in a fairly Dem-friendly direction, Democrats won most of the close races in swing districts). In fact, once you get outside the top 10 or so, there really isn’t that much to see on the list in terms of inviting targets; you start getting into the territory of guys like Scott Rigell and John Kline, who are largely unremarkable and who just perform largely in line with their district’s leans … but who are in districts that are Republican-leaning enough to protect them, absent a wave.
As you make your way down the list, a few names do pop out as outliers, and these are races that will no doubt be competitive. That includes Dem-leaning CA-21, where David Valadao’s large victory margin was aided [by] Democrats getting saddled with a poor candidate; with a better Dem candidate, he’ll face a tougher race, although in this mostly-Hispanic district, he’ll also be helped by extra-large falloff in a non-presidential year. That also includes MN-06, where Michele Bachmann just gives you so much material to work with, so much so that even an R+10 district might not be enough to get her over the top.

Jarman’s model doesn’t yet provide a metric for predictions, since it’s still early in the cycle. “…We’ll need more information about how much of a wave is building,” he adds “in order to determine how far up the table the waves will splash and how many people get taken down.” But in his conclusion, Jarman does venture sort of an ‘all other things being equal’ guestimate: “As it stands right now, it looks like a rather status quo election, and I’d be surprised to see more than five or ten seats changing hands in either direction.”
The wild cards which could improve the 2014 outlook for Dems going forward would be if reports of much-improved Democratic GOTV, technological advantage and significantly better candidates are accurate. But it’s not likely we will have a clear fix on that admittedly optimistic scenario until after the votes are counted.

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