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WI-7: David Obey’s Departure

A Commentary by Isaac Wood

Thursday, May 06, 2010

David Obey’s retirement announcement reshuffles the House deck for both parties. Democrats are scrambling to ensure other veteran Democrats do not follow suit, after thinking that the retirement tide had been stemmed. For Republicans the odds of a House majority do not look quite as long now that one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s key allies has sidestepped a November reelection battle.

As for the WI-7 race, Republicans were always high on their candidate, Sean Duffy. Now they believe the former Real World star and current district attorney has at least an even-money chance to win the seat. The NRCC has already stressed their continuing support for the first-time congressional candidate, indicating that they are unlikely to try to recruit a new candidate over his head even with the stark change in circumstances. Duffy has already raised significant amounts of money and now he will not have to pit his war chest against Obey’s significant cache. Instead, Duffy will have the fundraising head start and an edge as the more seasoned congressional candidate, if only by a matter of months.

For Democrats, this race is certainly still winnable. In an election cycle where retirements have doomed Democratic chances at more than a few seats, this open seat should be friendlier territory. For every positive sign though, there is a cause for caution. Both Obama and Kerry won this northern Wisconsin district, although Kerry’s victory was by the slimmest of margins. Obey has not faced a close race in the past fifteen years, but much of that is no doubt due to his decades of incumbency, an advantage his replacement on the ballot will not have.

While it is debatable just how Blue this district is, it is undeniably a Blue of some hue. And the Democratic bench is deep here with thirteen Democratic state legislators representing various parts of the district. Until it is known which of them, if any, throw their hats into the ring, the Crystal Ball rates this race as Leans Democratic .

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