As a final look for the moment at re-election prospects of the House Democratic rookies, I’m going to focus on four white, Rust Belt freshmen, two each from Michigan and Ohio: Steve Driehaus, OH1; Mary Jo Kilroy, OH15; Mark Schauer, MI7; and Gary Peters, MI9.
Here are some basics on the four:
This quartet provides a nice mix, with variation in their own victory margin, Barack Obama’s performance in their district, and the racial makeup and levels of college education in their districts. None of the four were among the 11 Democrats who voted against Obama’s stimulus or the 20 who voted against his budget.
Based on this limited, preliminary sketch of the four, if I had to list them from least to most vulnerable, it would be Kilroy, Peters, Schauer and then Dreihaus.
Kilroy won the open seat vacated by Deborah Pryce’s 2007 retirement, though she nearly beat Pryce in 2006. So Kilroy has run strong twice, and almost certainly will not have to face a challenge in 2010 from a politically-revived Pryce. Thanks to Ohio State University, her district, which includes significant chunks of Columbus and Franklin County, has a high rate of college education–in the heart of the so-called “diploma belt.” Though Kilroy benefited from Obama’s solid showing, her win was not dependent on a minority voter surge, as her close defeat in 2006 and the relatively low minority voter district percentage shows.
Gary Peters posted only 52 percent in his 2008 elected, but won by 9 points thanks to third party votes. Still, 52 means 48 percent voted against you, and so it will be important to see what sort of challenger the Republicans recruit here. Peters’ is an even better-educated district than Kilroy’s and he got an even bigger push from a more diverse district than Kilroy’s. Again, given that all of this put him at just 52 percent, quality of opponent here is crucial. Fortunately for Peters, he’s raising cash at a clip that would make Rahm Emanuel proud–fourth best among rookie Democrats in pickup districts.
I’d rank Mark Schauer next, second most vulnerable among the quartet. On the upside, he didn’t get much of a pull from Obama in this district with relatively low levels of college degrees and a small non-white population. Schauer’s victory was partially set-up by the victory of the man he beat: Conservative Republican Tim Walberg, who successfully primaried moderate GOPer Tim Schwarz in 2006, making Walberg a poster boy for what goes wrong when the far right dominates a primary and making the seat a prime target for Democrats in 2006. Though Walberg hinted soon after his loss that he may be back for a rematch in 2010, the tougher challenge might actually come from Schwarz, were he to decide to run.
That brings us to Driehaus. Not only did Driehaus win by a small margin, but he benefitted from arguably the largest Obama coattails, courtesy of the large share of minority voters in the district. Steve Chabot is clearly convinced that Driehaus was a coattail winner: He already announced, on February 9, that he will run to take back the seat, and identified a large minority turnout as “a key factor in our loss, probably the most substantial factor. With the turnout model you saw this past election cycle in a district like mine, it was just impossible to overcome.”
CORRECTION: Sorry, I initially and accidentally had the OH16 (Boccieri) results in the column for Kilroy’s OH15 district. She won by 1, not 10 points, and that said, she surely has a far more tenuous hold on that seat. I’d re-order it from least to most vulnerable as Peters, Schauer, Kilroy and then Driehaus–putting Kilroy slightly ahead of Driehaus despite the closer victory margin because she’s run twice and, so far at least, is not facing the recently-deposed Republican, as Driehaus will with Chabot.