|Illinois' 8th Congressional district (Schaumburg, Elk Grove Village, Roselle, Lombard)
Rating: Likely D for Tammy Duckworth
Analysis: Simply put, Joe Walsh is an amazing retail politician. He comes off as a good listener, he's affable, he's articulate, he's funny, and he's willing to go off of his talking points. Joe's had over 200 town halls and constituent coffees, making him extremely well known and personally liked by many of his constituents. However, his ex-wife's accusations of his being a deadbeat dad really hurt his credibility, and that in conjunction with his strong association with the Tea Party makes the race for IL-08 just a bridge too far, especially against a disabled veteran like Tammy Duckworth. It's scary that a Democratic district can be anchored in northern DuPage County these days. Yowza!
Illinois' 10th Congressional district (Lake Forest, Waukegan, Buffalo Grove, Glencoe, Highland Park, Round Lake Beach)
Rating: Tilts R for Robert Dold
Analysis (*disclaimer* I've worked on this race): Democrats left freshman Republican Bob Dold for dead when his seat, already the toughest district held by Republicans in terms of PVI, was ramped up from 61% Obama to 63% Obama. Democrats carved out Palatine, Arlington Heights, the wealthy, Christian, and Republican parts of New Trier Township (like Winnetka, Northfield, and Kenilworth), and parts of Northbrook and Glenview. All of these areas were crucial for Dold's narrow 2010 victory in which he surprised the political world by beating now-three time loser Dan Seals. What Democrats did not realize is that Dold was an unknown entity in 2010; he was "generic Republican" facing a defined Democrat, and that's how the district as a whole saw him. Dold has done a wonderful job at fundraising, campaigning, and defining himself as one of the House's last true moderates. Meanwhile, his ne'er-do-well opponent, "businessman" Brad Schneider (whose "consulting business" has had no office, employees, and has paid no taxes in over three years), is throwing mud at Dold, calling him a "tea party extremist." Dold's campaign is better organized, has a clearer narrative, and is extremely well funded. You can take Kenilworth and Winnetka's votes out of the 10th district, but you sure as heck can't take its donations out, especially when one of our favorite sons is the incumbent. Schneider could win, thanks to Obama's likely 55-57% performance here, but Dold has campaigned hard enough to garner enough crossover to pull out a ~2-4 point victory. Expect Bob Dold to be back in Washington in 2013. Thanks for creating an extremely strong Senate candidate, Mike Madigan!
Illinois' 11th Congressional district (Aurora, Joliet, Naperville, Plainfield)
Rating: Tilts D for Judy Biggert
Analysis: This district is extremely polarized, with many of its suburban communities being heavily ancestrally Republican and still fairly conservative, and its cities being heavily minority and liberal. Mark Kirk and Bill Brady narrowly won this seat in 2010, but the Presidential year turnout will likely doom Republican incumbent Judy Biggert. Biggert has always been great at garnering white suburban crossover votes, but minorities in Joliet and Aurora are a tougher nut to crack. Bill Foster, while uninspiring, is an inoffensive and moderate candidate who had a reputation for working hard with his nose down in his nearly-two terms in DC before losing to Randy Hultgren in 2010. Judy could still win, especially because extremely Republican southern DuPage County is liable to swing heavily against President Obama in 2012, but I expect Bill Foster to be back in Congress in 2013. Honestly, he's one of the more tolerable Illinois Democrats.
Illinois' 12th Congressional district (East St. Louis, Belleville, Carbondale)
Rating: Tilts R for Jason Plummer
Analysis: This race is possibly the hardest in Illinois to call. Polling has been all over the place in the race for this heavily blue collar, working class district that was vacated by Jerry Costello. Democrats perform well downballot here, but Mark Kirk and Bill Brady won this seat in 2010, and I expect Mitt Romney to be very competitive here in 2012. The race may come down to the lateness of former Illinois National Guard General Bill Enyart's entry. The original Democratic nominee, Brad Harriman, had to quit the race due to medical issues. This left 2010 GOP Lt. Gov nominee Jason Plummer, who's extremely affable but a bit of a lightweight when it comes to policy knowledge, as the better known candidate, and gave him a few months to seek Democratic crossover. Anything ranging from a modest Enyart victory to a narrow Plummer win would not surprise me, although I think Plummer narrowly pulls this one out down in Little Egypt.
Illinois' 13th Congressional district (Champaign, Urbana, Springfield, Bloomington, Carlinville)
Rating: Tilts R for Rodney Davis
Analysis: Congressman Tim Johnson really screwed the GOP over when he retired after winning his primary in the 13th district. To make matters worse, instead of choosing an elected official to run in his place, the local GOP county chairmen picked Rodney Davis, a seasoned and slick political operative who ran the IL GOP victory offices in 2010. Davis gets to face David Gill, a three-time loser to Tim Johnson. Gill, a physician, is a proponent of a single payer healthcare system, along with many other ultra-liberal propositions. Should be an easy match, right? Wrong. Gill's been running a significantly more organized race than Davis has, and Gill gets to count on a large student vote from both the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and from Illinois State University. I expect Mitt Romney to win this district, albeit narrowly, and for Davis to narrowly carve out a victory. All I can say is that I hope someone who deserves the 13th district steps up to be our nominee for this seat in 2014.
Illinois' 17th Congressional district (Moline, Rock Island, Rockford, Peoria, Galesburg)
Rating: Tilts R for Bobby Schilling
Analysis: Simply put, both the Republican and Democratic campaigns here haven't been well organized or well funded. However, President Obama should tank in the 17th, and incumbent Bobby Schilling has the right profile to win reelection. Schilling, the owner of a popular Quad Cities pizzeria and a former union official, is an excellent fit for the hard working, self-reliant, blue collar nature of the 17th district. His opponent, former Moline Councilwoman Cheri Bustos, was hand picked by her godfather, Dick Durbin. Bustos' campaign has been lackluster. It's possible that she's dragged over the finish line by President Obama, but the NRA backed Schilling's had some important endorsements break his way lately, and has been up narrowly in most polling. While the heavily minority sections of Rockford and Peoria added to his district could sink him, Mark Kirk and Bill Brady were able to win in 2010 and Schilling is a far better fit for the district than either of those two. The only question is how much rougher the Presidential year electorate is in this seat than it is in a midterm.