The re-election campaign for veteran U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson of Connecticut is one of several emerging as an early barometer for Republican fortunes in next year's elections.
"If you're looking for a canary-in-a-coal-mine race, this is one," said Amy Walter, who tracks House races for [the Cook Political Report]. "If all of a sudden you see Nancy Johnson slip, it's a sign other Republicans in similar districts should be concerned." (AP)
Johnson has been strong in her district since nearly losing to Charlotte Koskoff in 1996, and stronger still now that her district includes more of Fairfield County than before. She has easily won her last four elections, including a 2002 race against fellow U.S. Representative Jim Maloney following redistricting. Here's the map of her last two elections:
The article postulates that the ongoing national crisis for the Republican Party could nullify Johnson's advantage as an incumbent, which is considerable. In fact, national trends are one way in which I suggest that the Incumbent Rule--which states that all things being equal, incumbents will win-- can be broken.
It seems like it would take one heck of a national trend to knock off Johnson. She's well-known, she has a very useful public persona as a nice, moderate little old lady, and she has an absolute ton of money in the bank. Her district, which includes part of Fairfield County and most of Litchfield County, is also heavily Republican.
But the article is absolutely correct. If Nancy Johnson finds herself in trouble in 2006, Republicans ought to panic. They already seem a little worried. Here's a telling statement:
National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti predicted a solid Johnson win next fall. "People up there have known Nancy Johnson for years," said Forti. "They know she votes her conscience, she doesn't vote the party line." (AP)
When the NRCC is touting the fact that Nancy Johnson disagrees with the party, they're worried.
Should they be? Paul Vance and Chris Murphy are both good challengers, and either will be able to make a run at Johnson. Still, it's going to take a well-funded, beautifully executed campaign combined with a national backlash against Republicans to defeat her, and there's no guarantee of either of those things coming to pass.
If it does happen, though, the shift in national politics will be seismic.
"Connecticut's Fifth District seen as a bellwether for GOP." Associated Press 21 November, 2005.