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June 29, 2006

Eighth District loses spot on list of hottest races

Posted by David Postman at 7:57 AM

Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics has his latest Crystal Ball report out this morning and Washington's Eighth Congressional District has dropped off the "Dirty Thirty" list of competitive House races.

In February the race between Republican Congressman Dave Reichert and political newcomer Darcy Burner made the list and was labeled "Leans Republican." It's gone today, though, and relegated to the list of the next 20 races to watch around the country.

Sabato is one of the country's leading political prognosticators and widely considered an expert on Congress. David Wasserman, the House editor for the Crystal Ball, told me the race was downgraded not because of anything that happened in the Eighth, but because other races around the country became more competitive.

Sabato's Web site now lists the race as "Likely Republican" but Wasserman said that is a mistake that will be fixed soon, and listed as "Leans Republican" once again. Wasserman said he's been impressed by Burner's fund raising. But he looks at more than just money in deciding how to rate a race.

"The kind of candidate Darcy Burner is will have the biggest impact on how well she is able to out-perform what Dave Ross was able to do two years ago. ... They'll certainly be following her around waiting for her to slip up."

On the national picture, Sabato's assessment echoes what Burner's pollster, Celinda Lake, told me last month needs to be done to win in the Eighth. Sabato says:

"Democrats have succeeded in placing national issues of great consequence front and center in individual races for the House, but they have thus far failed to establish a truly national narrative to frame the battles in each of their targeted districts within a single, compelling context."

And overall, he says:

"The Republican margin in the House of Representatives may be more tenuous this year than it has been in any election cycle since its inception in 1994, but a larger wave than currently exists must build in order to completely erode the GOP's 15-seat edge, and by no means has the party in power already been swept out to sea."

UPDATE: By e-mail Sabato adds a bit more about Washington's hottest congressional race and how it will follow national trends.

"There's no question WA-8 will be competitive, but it will take more than the micro-wave for the Democrats we now see to wash out Reichert. Political conditions have stabilized for the Republicans, at least for now. But if the macro-wave develops in October, Reichert could be swept away."

UPDATE: Speaking of rankings, Republican Mike McGavick's campaign draws my attention to the National Journal's Hotline rankings of Senate races that reports a "slightly improved climate" for McGavick against Sen. Maria Cantwell.

There's no big change, but there are some good tidbits for McGavick in the rankings. Hotline calls him "the GOP's best Senate challenger in the country." There's a cautionary note that the race could slip from its position as the seventh hottest Senate race. But I bet this line is on the wall of McGavick headquarters this morning:

"But right now, we can't imagine ever viewing any other Democratic incumbent as more vulnerable than Cantwell."

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