In Texas, we have a distorted view of what a “swing seat” is for Democratic targeting. Given our multiple rounds of redistricting, true marginal seats in the traditional sense are hard to find. Texas Democrats either hail from incredibly safe districts, districts that are safe due to demographic trends but not ideology, or Republican districts where great Democrats make an exception (Chet Edwards).
That said, it's encouraging to see not one, but two Republican Congressional seats listed among the top 10 potential “dark horse” breakout races that are causing buzz in the Beltway. And not only that, but they are at the top of the list.
From The Hill…
1. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)
McCaul was technically a lower-tier Democratic target in 2008, but that was really only because his opponent, former TV judge Larry Joe Doherty (D), was raising money like gangbusters. Doherty really didn't have the right profile, and he wound up losing by a pedestrian 11 points – the exact margin of the presidential tally in the district. Now, Democrats have another big-money candidate, with businessman Jack McDonald raising $300,000 in the first quarter. We'll see if he has the right profile, but the fact that he is vice chairman of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce suggests he might. The party has already put McCaul near the top of its target list.
4. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas)
Democrats tried to mount a late charge in 2006 against National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), and they could do it again in 2010 against current NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) only took this suburban Dallas district 53-46 in the 2008 presidential race, and the heavily Hispanic areas have grown at a faster pace than the white areas. Sessions's district is actually probably more fertile ground than McCaul's, but Democrats might not have as good a candidate. Attorney Grier Raggio (D) has an exploratory committee, but it's not clear who else might emerge.
In TX-10, Democrat Jack McDonald expressed earlier today that there is good reason to be paying attention to the 10th yet again, having raised over $634,000 to date with over half a million on hand, even while in exploratory mode and having yet to roll out campaign staff or field. While there isn't a equivalent Democratic response in TX-32 up in Dallas as of yet, the more competitive nature of the district and county coordinated campaign there provides a bit more breathing room for a top notch candidate to get settled.