2008 • Obama 49% • McCain 51% Freshman Democrat Suzanne Kosmas won by a wide margin—57 to 41 percent—in the GOP-leaning district on the state's central east coast in 2008 against an incumbent who had been tied to convicted felon and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But whether she can hold the seat when she's not facing a scandal-plagued competitor remains to be seen. Kosmas originally opposed Obama's healthcare reform bill, but ultimately voted for it. Republicans will no doubt call her a flip-flopper who caved to pressure from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The GOP also figures to paint Kosmas, who previously served as a state legislator, as a career politician. That would contrast with their preferred candidate, Craig Miller, a former Ruth's Chris Steak House CEO. Democrats in turn are expected to call Miller an elitist and point out that he took a multimillion-dollar payout after he was fired by the company. When Miller entered the race in late February, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a news release calling him a "drunk driving enthusiast" for opposing a national blood alcohol standard, presaging a down-and-dirty race. [See Kosmas's campaign fundraising history.]
2008 • Obama 75% • McCain 23% As a district that went so overwhelmingly for Obama, the 2nd, which includes New Orleans, is one of the Democrats' strongest chances of reclaiming a Republican-held seat. Republican Anh "Joseph" Cao captured the traditionally Democratic vote in 2008 after incumbent Rep. William Jefferson was indicted on corruption charges the previous year (he was convicted in November, 2009). Now Cedric Richmond, a state legislator, is a front-runner to take him on. The Democrats are sure to point out that Cao reversed his support of healthcare reform, voting for it before joining his GOP colleagues in voting against it. The election is symbolic, too, notes Isaac Wood, House race editor for Sabato's Crystal Ball. "You know it's a Republican wave if they hold on to that seat," he says. [See which industries give the most to Cao.]
2008 • Obama 38% • McCain 60% The re-election campaign of Democrat Ike Skelton, one of the party stalwarts and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is regarded as an important barometer among strategists. "These are the races where, if you're going to win [control of the House], you've got to knock out the Skeltons," Democratic consultant Peter Fenn says of the GOP. "You need to win some of those old bulls, as well as the younger Turks." The district, which runs from central to western Missouri, is red territory, having gone for McCain in 2008 and for George W. Bush in 2004. And it's clear, adds Fenn, that even a moderate like Skelton "is looking over his shoulder." His challengers include Vicky Hartzler, a former Missouri state legislator who raised $94,000 between January and March, as well as state Sen. Bill Stouffer, who has raked in a little less than half that (they each ended March with a bit under $300,000 in the bank). Skelton took in $150,000 in the same period and has a total of about $1.2 million on hand. Once considered a Democratic lock, the race is now seen as competitive. Skelton faces "strong challengers and a growing realization that [he] is way too liberal for the district," Missouri GOP spokesman Jonathon Prouty said in April. This means, he added, that ending Skelton's 33-year run "now looks achievable." Democrats are vowing not to let that happen. [See an analysis of Skelton's campaign fundraising.]
2008 • Obama 45% • McCain 53% North Dakota's sole House seat has been held by influential Democrat Earl Pomeroy for nine terms, a solid run in a state that consistently votes Republican for president (it went almost 2 to 1 for Bush in 2004). And Democrats clearly have worked to bolster the popular congressman's re-election chances with plum committee assignments. He sits on both the influential Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax laws, and also the powerful Agriculture Committee, which allowed him to help shape the farm bill to benefit his state's many ranchers. Few legislators have the chance to serve on two such influential committees at once, and it seems to be paying off. Pomeroy had more than $1.6 million in the bank at the end of March. Likely Republican challenger and former state House Speaker Rick Berg—who was endorsed by his party for the state's June primary during a recent convention—has contributed more than $100,000 of his own funds and had $344,000 in his campaign account. A late-April statewide poll ran 51 to 44 in Berg's favor. But Pomeroy knows how to run a close race, pollsters say, and his party is optimistic that he can earn a 10th term. "If he loses as an incumbent who's been in there a while—and is quite popular," says Democratic consultant Fenn, "then the Democrats are in a world of hurt." [Read more about Pomeroy's background.]
Corrected on 6/9/10: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the date of North Dakota's Republican primary.