In the states that I will label the Great Lakes there are 6 seats scene as vulnerable or open to party hopping. Three are in Michigan, and 1 each from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Altogether these four states send 49 Representative to Congress. Of the 6 vulnerable seats half receive this status by virtue of the retirement of the Republican incumbent. Let's look at them individually.
A) Indiana's 9th. This has got to be one of the saddest political turn arounds on this election cycle. The former incumbent is Todd Young, who after 3 terms in the House as a Conservative darling saw his opportunity to advance to the Senate with the retirement of fellow Republican Dan Coates. His path was clear...until the Democrats persuaded Indiana's favorite son, Evan Bayh to enter the race. Bayh is polling 11% over Young and may be the ultimate grand slam winner of 2016 by being the man who gets credit for returning the Senate into Democratic hands--and Young will be free to pursue a lucrative lobbying career. In the mean time, his former seat is wide open and being contested by Republican Trey Hollingsworth and Democrat Shelli Yoder. Hollingsworth is a classic carpetbagger--which is his only negative. He relocated from Tennessee to run in this race with the full financial blessing of the Republican Party writ large. His actual name is Joseph Albert "Trey" Hollingsworth III! If elected, he would also be the richest member of the House. On this pedigree alone the Democratic Party believes that it's candidate, Shelli Yoder stands a chance to claim this seat for the Democrats. Yoder is a former Miss Indiana and member of the University of Indiana faculty as a visiting lecturer. She was at least born in Indiana. Neither one of these candidates has stellar credentials, Yoder espouses traditional progressive stances and Hollingsworth is for tax cuts and pro-business economic views. In the end, I give this one to Hollingsworth, but would love to be surprised!
B) Illinios' 10 rests on the north side of Chicago and is held by Republican Representative Robert Dold. This district is a perennial party jumper and always attracts attention and lots of campaign bucks. Dold first won the seat in 2010, then Democrat Brad Schneider won it in 2012. In 2014, Dold re-won the seat, and now in 2016, he again faces Brad Schneider for the retention of the seat! It's a freaking political teeter-tauter. I predict that this year it will go back to Schneider in an election that will favor Democratic candidates across Illinois.
C) Wisconsin's 8th is an open seat. Republican Representative Reid Ribble is retiring--how's that for alliteration? Running from his own party to replace him is former Marine Captain Michael Gallagher. Gallagher left the Marines in 2013 after seven years of active duty. He has worked as a foreign policy advisor to Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. He claims the mantle of conservative with a strong Christian faith and love of the Packers. He believes in intervention, has called building a wall between the United States and Canada "a legitimate issue for us to look at." He opposes a woman's right to choose in reproductive rights. He is a "confirmed bachelor" and opposes equal rights for LGBTQ citizens. On the Democratic side, Tom Nelson who currently holds the post of Outagamie County Executive is the progressive candidate. He has maintained a balanced budget as county executive for 5 years, supports infrastructure up-grades and financial security for senior citizens. Both men have studied at Princeton University. Wisconsin is trending Democratic in this cycle, it's rebounding from the austerity brought to the state by its Governor Scott Walker, and I'm feeling like the wave will push Nelson to the House.
Three seats fall into competitive in Michigan.
D) Michigan's 7th is held by Tim Walberg, a 5 term incumbent in a district marginally rated as leaning Republican. He won his first election by a margin of 4%, and then 2% in the following election. After the 2010 census, his seat was redrawn to be much safer and he's won his last two contests with margins of 11% and 12%. His Democratic opponent is Saline's former mayor and state Representative, Gretchen Driskell. Driskell is younger and dynamic, and Walberg is rightfully an establishment candidate from an obstructionist party in congress. In my district this would be a no-brainer, but in Michigan's 7th it may end up being close, but I just am not ready to say she can triumph over Walberg with his entrenched operation and war chest. I give it to Walberg.
E) Michigan's 10th district is an open district for the first time in 14 years with the retirement of popular Republican Representative Candice Miller. Her Republican heir apparent is Paul Mitchell who is come back for a second bite at this apple having run and lost a campaign for the 4th district seat in 2014. He steers clear of the social third rail issues and focuses his campaign on a strong defense, a balanced budget and support for agriculture. His opponent is Frank Accavitti Jr. Accavitti ran for state Senate in 2010 and lost. His message is long on generalities and short on specifics. It really matters little; I honestly can't see this one leaving the Republican column.