Can House Democrats Improve on ’12 Recruiting Flops?

by Stuart Rothenberg March 12, 2013 · 9:51 AM EDT

If Democrats are going to have any chance of netting 17 seats during the 2014 midterms — and taking back control of the House — they are going to have to do a much better job in a handful of districts where their recruiting fell far short in 2012. Here are four districts where they have much room for improvement.

Pennsylvania’s 7th: This Philadelphia-area district is very competitive. It went very narrowly for Mitt Romney in 2012 and for Barack Obama four years earlier. But Democratic nominee George Badey drew just 41 percent against GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan. Badey raised slightly more than $560,000 to Meehan’s $2.6 million, so Democrats need a much stronger fundraiser to test Meehan’s strength.

Pennsylvania’s 8th: Romney and Obama finished in almost a dead heat here last year, and Obama won it comfortably in 2008. But GOP Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick had little trouble with Democratic challenger Kathy Boockvar. He beat her 57 percent to 43 percent. Boockvar’s fundraising wasn’t terrible — she took in $1.45 million — but Fitzpatrick raised $2.67 million in a district covered by the expensive Philadelphia media market.

California’s 21st: Obama carried this district by 11 points in November, but Republican David Valadao crushed his Democratic opponent, John Hernandez, by almost 16 points. Hernandez raised $124,000 to Valadao’s $1.3 million. To make matters worse, Hernandez defeated the party-preferred candidate in the open primary. Valadao is a formidable politician. But a strong Democrat should be able to give him a run. Unfortunately for Democrats, former state Sen. Michael Rubio has left politics and isn’t likely to run in 2014.

Michigan’s 11th: While Romney won this GOP-leaning district by about 5 points last year, Obama won it narrowly in 2008. Still, Democrats found themselves with an unexpected opportunity in 2012 when Kerry Bentivolio won the GOP nomination. Democratic nominee Syed Taj actually outraised Bentivolio, $705,000 to $588,000, but a formidable Democratic nominee with broad appeal might have swiped this seat in an upset. And if Republicans nominate Bentivolio again next year — certainly not impossible — Democrats might have another shot at stealing a seat they shouldn’t have.