Overall, Republicans need to gain 39 seats to reclaim the majority. While all 435 House seats are at stake every two years, the nonpartisan analyst Stu Rothenberg has estimated that 88 seats are in play. Of those, 76 are currently held by Democrats. Among the most vulnerable are the 31 freshman Democrats seeking reelection, and Kilroy is considered to be in one of the tightest races because she is in a rematch of a race she won in 2008 by only 2,311 votes.
“Trouble is an understatement for many of them,’’ said David Wasserman, who follows House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which rates nearly three-fourths of the freshman Democrats as being in competitive races. “They’ve won under ideal circumstances. They haven’t had to run in a neutral political environment, let alone a difficult political environment.’’
The freshman Democrats face a conundrum: They have few of the trappings of incumbency (longtime name recognition and a list of accomplishments) but many of its downsides (being portrayed as part of a broken system in Washington).
Voting lockstep with leadership has not helped some of these Democrats separate themselves from the idea of a "broken system in Washington."
Consider the case of Mary Jo Kilroy, who's running against Republican Steve Stivers.
Representative Mary Jo Kilroy, one of nearly three dozen freshman Democrats elected on the coattails of President Obama, has been true to her campaign vows. She supported virtually every component of the Obama agenda, and she recently stood beside House Financial Services chairman Barney Frank of Newton to declare her pride in backing a financial regulatory bill.
Now, however, the Ohio Democrat is in the midst of a bitter reelection campaign, forced to defend her vote on financial reform. And health care. And climate change. And federal stimulus spending.