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Ranking the vulnerable U.S. House seats in Florida

The Republican Party needs 40 seats to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, and the road runs through Florida. Here's our inaugural ranking, in descending order, of the six House seats in Florida most vulnerable to a party switch this fall.

1. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach. Kosmas is a Democratic freshman who represents a slightly Republican-leaning district — a situation that by itself would be enough to make her vulnerable in a year shaping up to be strong for the GOP. But Kosmas heightened her peril by first voting against her party's health care bill and later voting for it. Her best asset is a messy Republican primary field.

2 (tie). Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello. Boyd, a conservative "Blue Dog" Democrat, is well-funded and has survived seven terms in a Panhandle district not especially friendly to Democrats. Like Kosmas, he faces a weak Republican field led by funeral-home owner Steve Southerland, but this is precisely the kind of seat that tipped from Democrat to Republican in 1994.

2 (tie). Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando. Grayson, an acid-tongued freshman Democrat who represents a slightly Democratic-leaning district running from Ocala to Orlando, has drawn fierce national opposition. Grayson is one of the House's richest members, and he's a tenacious competitor. The GOP primary field is unsettled, including former state House speaker and state Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, state Rep. Kurt Kelly, traffic-signal businessman Bruce O'Donoghue, 2008 primary contender Todd Long and tea party activist Patricia Sullivan.

4. Open seat being vacated by Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow. Democratic and Republican operatives alike agree that this district— represented by Putnam for five terms — could be a sleeper race. The Republican frontrunner is former state Rep. Dennis Ross, while Democrats are counting on Polk County elections supervisor Lori Edwards. Edwards' fundraising has been weak, but she may get a break if Polk County Commissioner Randy Wilkinson, running as a tea party candidate, splits the Republican vote.

5. Open seat being vacated by Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami. In an unusual move, Mario Diaz-Balart is switching districts to seek the seat being vacated by his retiring brother Lincoln. The Democrats are likely to put up their 2008 nominee, Joe Garcia, who came within six points of knocking off the incumbent in 2008. The likeliest Republican is state Rep. David Rivera, who is considered close to Marco Rubio — and whose political aspirations could benefit from those ties this year.

6. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton. Klein, a second-term Democrat, represents a competitive district long represented by Republican Clay Shaw. Two years ago, Klein won a second term by a 10-point margin over Republican Allen West, an African-American former Army colonel with a war chest dwarfed by Klein's. West is back again, this time riding a wave of tea party anger that has brought him a national following — and, unlike 2008, a national base for fundraising. But Klein should have enough money to hit West hard.

Correction: Steve Southerland is a Republican trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello. An earlier version of this story gave his name incorrectly.

Ranking the vulnerable U.S. House seats in Florida 05/19/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 20, 2010 2:25pm]
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