Two House races in the Northwest may define the upper reaches of the Republican wave expected to crest nationwide on November 2nd. Both districts have been in the hands of Democrats for decades, with only a couple of exceptions.  Both districts, one in Washington and the other in Oregon, look to be within the GOP’s grasp on Election Day.

Let’s look at WA-03 first.  This district, rated even by Cook, has only had two terms of GOP representation, 1995-1999, in the past half-century.  The current Democratic incumbent, Brian Baird, is retiring, which should give Democrats a boost in avoiding the anti-incumbent mood of this cycle. Yet the Democratic nominee, Denny Heck, now finds himself nine points back of the Republican candidate Jaime Herrera in yesterday’s Survey USA poll of likely voters:

In an election for US House of Representatives in Washington State’s 3rd Congressional District today, 10/13/10, Republican Jaime Herrera defeats Democrat Denny Heck 53% to 42%, according to this latest SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for KING-TV Seattle.

Compared to an identical SurveyUSA poll released 1 month ago, little has changed: Herrera is up a nominal point; Heck is down a nominal point. Herrera has led by 13, 9, and now by 11 points in 3 SurveyUSA polls. There is some volatility among women, where Herrera had led by 6, then trailed by 2, now leads by 5, and among the oldest voters, where Herrera had led by 14, then trailed by 2, and now leads by 6. Other demographic groups show less movement, and Herrera maintains double-digit leads among men, voters under age 50, and independents. Heck has some momentum among lower-income voters.

The chances for a big shift were apparent in the primary, which in Washington is non-partisan, with everyone running and the top two vote-getters going to the general election.  Heck edged Herrera by three, but Republicans outpolled Democrats overall by twelve points.  Little has changed since then.  If anything, it demonstrates that a wave similar to what put the first Republican in this seat in over thirty years in 1994 may be at least as strong in 2010.

In fact, it could be even stronger.  In Oregon’s 4th CD, a poll commissioned by the conservative group Concerned Taxpayers of America (CTA) and performed by Wilson Research Strategies shows the Republican challenger Art Robinson “within striking distance” of incumbent Peter DeFazio.  The sample is on the smaller side (300 likely voters) and has a relatively high margin of error at 5.6%, but in this D+2 district, it’s a bombshell.

  • Generic ballot – 45/44 Republican.
  • Overall ballot poll: Defazio 48%, Robinson 42%.
  • For those who have an opinion on both candidates: Robinson 50%, DeFazio 46%.
  • Recognition: DeFazio 99%, have opinion 93%; Robinson 88%, have opinion 70%
  • Favorability of Nancy Pelosi: 35/56

Wilson says there is “no doubt” that this is a toss-up race.  I’d like to have seen the partisan split in their sample of likely voters, and perhaps a somewhat larger sample to reduce the margin of error somewhat.  However, considering that OR-04 contains Eugene, a major college town, and that the last time a Republican was elected here was 1972 in the Nixon landslide, these results are certainly encouraging.  Not even the 1994 wave made this seat competitive, and since the closest race DeFazio has had was his 61/37 win in 2004, it gives the sense that we’re looking at something even greater than 1994 in less than three weeks.