The force of the GOP's 2010 wave swept many new Republican lawmakers deeper into Democratic territory than normal. Even before they were sworn in, Democrats targeted those freshman members for immediate defeat in 2012, when both the electorate and the environment were sure to be kinder.
Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill., was among the earliest targets Democrats identified this election cycle, but he is not a prototypical easy mark, despite some fundamental disadvantages. His Illinois 10th District is the most Democratic-leaning in the House represented by a Republican, as measured by President Obama's vote share in 2008. But its residents are hardly unfamiliar with Republican representation. Dold didn't actually win a new GOP seat in 2010; he successfully defended one that has been in moderate Republican hands — most recently now-Sen. Mark Kirk's — for decades, even as its presidential votes consistently went Democratic.
Even after the 2010 wave, Dold was the only House Republican representing a district where President Obama won more than 60 percent of the vote in 2008. After the Democratic-led redistricting effort in Illinois, Obama's 2008 vote in the redrawn 10th topped 63 percent. And yet, less than a week from Election Day, Democrats and Republicans alike think Dold is in the best position of any of the four very endangered Republican incumbents in the state. The nation's politics have turned parliamentary, and fewer and fewer House members represent districts that ever give votes to the other party. But the 10th District's leafy suburbs north of Chicago are among the last places in America to resist the trend toward party-line voting.