Democrats currently hold five of Wisconsin's eight House seats, but that probably won't last for long. Last week, the Cook Political Report moved WI-08, which encompasses Green Bay, from "toss-up" to "leans Republican." In 2006, Democrat Steve Kagan won the open Republican district, which swung from Bush (55% of the vote) in 2004 to Obama (54% of the vote) in 2008. Republican Reid Ribble, who owns a roofing and construction firm and touts "personalizing" Social Security on his website, now seems to have the upper hand in the race.
And of course you've heard of Sean Duffy, the former Real World TV star and lumberjack turned district attorney. He's competing against Democratic state senator Julie Lassa in the race to succeed long-time incumbent Democrat and appropriator David Obey in WI-07. That race is rated a "toss-up" by Cook.
Now, Cook says Republican state senator Dan Kapanke has a decent shot at winning WI-03, which runs along most of Wisconsin's western border with Minnesota and has been held by Democrat Ron Kind, chief deputy whip, since 1997. The Kapanke campaign sends out this excerpt from the Cook Political Report (subscription required), which moved the seat from "solid" to "leans" Democratic:
As statewide races have deteriorated for Democrats, this usually sleepy Western Wisconsin district has become a tantalizing target for GOP outside groups, including the 60 Plus Association, which has purchased $565,000 in ad time (that goes quite a long way in Eau Claire and La Crosse) to blast Kind for voting for health care reform. GOP state Senator Dan Kapanke, who has won two elections in Kind’s Democratic-leaning home base of La Crosse, has steadily raised $684,000 over the course of the cycle and is hitting Kind on spending and party-line votes.
Kind, who grew up on a dairy farm and was a high school football standout, is tough to demonize and has never had much trouble since winning the district in 1996. But he has never had to run against a well-funded campaign in a horrendous political environment. Democrats have been hitting Kapanke on relatively minor campaign finance discrepancies in press releases all year, but look for them to ratchet up their hits by pointing out that Kapanke, who owns the La Crosse Loggers collegiate summer baseball team, used lobbyist donations to his community nonprofit foundation to finance stadium improvements. Internal GOP polling shows a single-digit race, but Kind still has a lead.
If Wisconsin Democrats lose all three districts, they would only hold districts based in the liberal enclaves of Madison and Milwaukee. You couldn't get much closer to a wipeout, with Republican Ron Johnson on track to take Russ Feingold's Senate seat, Republican Scott Walker on his way to succeeding Democratic governor Jim Doyle, and the state legislature ready to flip to the GOP. Then again, David Plouffe might call it a "colossal failure" for Republicans if they don't take the Milwaukee and Madison seats too. It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.