In a normal political year, Democratic Reps. Jim Costa of Fresno and Dennis Cardoza of Merced wouldn't worry about their re-election chances because they hold solidly Democratic districts. But in a year of political upheaval, Costa and Cardoza must be concerned about how voter anger in the independent San Joaquin Valley will play in the November election.
Costa and Cardoza must still be considered heavy favorites for re-election. The gerrymandered seats make it almost impossible for a Republican to win. But it would be foolish for them to take their seats for granted this year. An anti-incumbent fervor sweeping the country should make every member of Congress nervous.
After Sunday's controversial health care vote, Republicans think they have an opportunity to pick up seats held by Democrats. It might be 1994 all over again -- the year the GOP took control of the House and Senate during the Clinton administration.
But while that may be a good talking point for party regulars, we're more than seven months from the mid-term elections and a lot could happen on many hot-button issues. The economy remains the most important, and it will determine who runs Congress in January. If Americans have more confidence in their economic circumstances — more of them are employed, home foreclosures are under control, bankruptcies have leveled off — it would be good for Democrats. But if the economic recovery has yet to help middle-class America, Republicans could see big gains in the mid-term elections.
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