Why This Race?

Because it's a bellwether.  It's a "safe" Republican district with a undistinguished freshman incumbent, Randy Kuhl.  If Kuhl loses, a whole lot of other party loyalists are going down the tubes.

By the numbers, Randy should have an easy win.  Though he's a freshman, he represents a district with a large Republican plurality. He beat his Democratic opponent in the last election by a 10 points.

But, this year, Randy has a two major problems.

The first is his voting record.  Since his election in 2004, he's voted with the majority in the House on almost every substantive issue. When he's bucked the majority, he's done it to support Bush.  His vote against stem cell research is a good example.

In other words, Kuhl has never voted against the President on a substantial issue. Unlike his predecessor Amo Houghton, who voted against the war in Iraq, Randy is in the President's pocket.

Randy's second problem is his opponent.  In the last election, Randy went up against young, inexperienced Sam Barend.  Sam made a few mistakes in her campaign, most notably when she tried to make Randy's nasty divorce a campaign issue.  She was also a 26-year-old running her first campaign in a district where the median age increased 4 years (to around 38) in the last census.

This year, Randy's opponent is a 24-year Navy veteran and cancer survivor, Eric Massa. Most of the superficial reasons to vote against Barend won't be around this time, and Massa will be able to make hay with his longstanding opposition to the war in Iraq.

If a political analogue of fantasy football existed for political junkies, it would be hard to draft better players than Kuhl and Massa. Kuhl is perfect because he has few qualities other than loyalty to Bush.  He's like the control in a scientific experiment.  Massa is perfect because he's impervious to the mudslinging on the war that might otherwise cloud the election.  I can't wait to watch Kuhl's attack ads, because they're going to have to go beyond the usual "cut and run". 

We've just passed the 90 day mark in this race.  We have three interesting months ahead.  Hold on, because it's going to be a hell of a ride.