Up Close: How Three Vulnerable Democratic 'Freshmen' Are Faring

It's become a common refrain this year:

Democratic members of Congress are in trouble and the Democrats who are most in trouble are those "freshmen" coming to the end of their first terms in office.

Rep. Betsy Markey, D-CO.

Rep. Betsy Markey, D-CO. Will Powers/Associated Press hide caption

itoggle caption Will Powers/Associated Press

On Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR correspondents report in from three districts represented by those supposedly endangered Democrats:

Cory Gardner, Republican candidate for Congress in Colorado.

Cory Gardner, Markey's Republican challenger. Kristen Wyatt/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Kristen Wyatt/AP

— From Colorado, Kirk Siegler of member station KUNC looks at the race between incumbent Rep. Betsy Markey and Republican Cory Gardner. Kirk says that "unlike some vulnerable Democrats, Markey defends her votes in favor of the health care overhaul and the energy bill with its cap and trade provision. Even in the recession, northern Colorado's green economy has added jobs. But Markey’s Republican challenger Cory Gardner has taken aim at that cap and trade vote and the rest of her brief record."

— In North Carolina, according to Julie Rose of WFAE, Rep. Larry Kissell is hoping his "no" vote on the healthcare overhaul will convince some voters that he's an independent-minded Democrat. Republican challenger Harold Johnson, not suprisingly, is trying to paint Kissell as something else — saying in TV ads that the Democrat has "voted with (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi over 90 percent of the time."

— And in Connecticut, says Craig LeMoult of WSHU, Rep. Jim Himes is stressing one word as he campaigns: "independence." He's got an ad claiming that "after just two years, Jim Himes is New England’s most independent Congressman." Republican challenger Dan Debicella, though, points out that Himes supported the Democratic-crafted health care overhaul.

The Markey-Gardner race in Colorado and the Kissell-Johnson race in North Carolina, by the way, are both among the "key House races" in our Election Scorecard project. NPR's Ken Rudin has given the Colorado contest a "LEAN-R" rating, meaning he thinks the Republican has a good chance of winning. Ken calls the North Carolina race between Kissell and Johnson a "toss-up."

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