(AP) - In the congressional district that's home to the Kennedy family compound, a Kennedy public skating rink and a Kennedy museum, the heart of liberalism is beating uneasily.
Republican Jeff Perry is making a serious bid to take over a seat held by Democrats for nearly 40 years - and it's just one of nearly 100 seats across the country that now appear under at least some threat of slipping away from the majority party and giving control of the U.S. House to the GOP.
At least 75 House seats - the vast majority held by Democrats - are at serious risk of changing hands, and roughly 25 more where Democrats were assumed to have the upper hand have tightened in recent weeks, raising the possibility that some could flip to the Republicans as well.
Perry, a Massachusetts state representative, is in one of those contests here in the 10th Congressional District, which stretches from Quincy, just outside Boston, along Cape Cod and across to the vacation playgrounds of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. He is talking tough on taxes, immigration reform and the health care law, and he's locked in a competitive race with Democrat William Keating for the open seat.
It's a surprising turn in
Republicans have long believed they have a chance to win back the House, and possibly the Senate. Now, emboldened by polls showing even more of their candidates running strongly, they're reaching into territory where Democrats were thought to be safe, in races from
Even the longest-serving Democrat, Rep. John Dingell of
The Republicans' strategy is part psychology and part raw numbers: By targeting lawmakers once viewed as safe, the GOP can goad Democrats into spreading their money and energy across more races. By placing more bets around the map, however long the odds, Republicans increase their chances of reaching the 40-seat gain that would drive out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and hand them House control.
Emotions are high.
"I think people are fed up with the government," said Weber, 41. "They're fed up with the overspending. They're fed up with the bailouts. It has not helped the economy, whatsoever. And we really do need change we can believe in."
Other voters also suggest the Democrats have reason for alarm.
"There's so much dealing; power tends to corrupt," said Philip Faulk, 57, a jewelry store owner from
Faulk, an independent, says he leans Republican.
Dan Kapanke of
Ruth McClung, a 28-year-old scientist working for a
Says McClung: "We have a lot of grass roots that are fighting for it. It's politics, but I think we want it more than they do."
Some of the more long-shot GOP challengers are being propelled by the tea party movement. McClung, for example, won movement support after Grijalva called for a boycott of Arizona when his home state enacted a tough immigration law that's since been blocked by a federal judge.
"We about two months ago said that was a tactical, logistic mistake," said the congressman. "It was bound to tighten up."
Other Republicans are backed by nationally known surrogates such as Sarah Palin and Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who won the special election to replace the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in January and, in the process, gave confidence to Republicans nationally.
Brown plans to travel to
The president? For a seat the Democrats now hold?
"He's here raising money for tight races in other places, and to make sure that Mr. Langevin and Mr. Cicilline serve in the majority come January," said Joy Fox, a Langevin spokeswoman.
Sensing danger, Democrats have deployed former President Bill Clinton to campaign for several House Democrats. One is Rep. Dan Maffei, a Syracuse-area freshman who is facing a strong challenge from Republican Ann Marie Buerkle. Buerkle, an anti-abortion activist, has struggled with fundraising but is highly popular with conservatives and is one of Palin's "Mama Grizzlies."
Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, a 15-term Democrat and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, faces a stronger-than-expected re-election fight against GOP challenger Sean Bielat, who is targeting Frank's role in steering Congress through the Wall Street bailout and one of the most far-reaching financial regulatory laws in the nation's history.
Although all of
But Brown garnered more than 60 percent of the vote here in January, when he upset Democrat Martha Coakley to claim the Senate seat held for nearly a half-century by Edward Kennedy. The results were enough to prompt Delahunt to announce his retirement.
Perry has made himself a favorite of conservatives by opposing taxes and by casting one of only two votes against the state's 2006 universal health care law passed under former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney.
"If you like what I've been doing as a state representative ... I ask for your vote on Nov. 2," Perry said during a recent debate.
Keating, who repeatedly chastised Perry over allegations that he allowed a pair of illegal strip searches while serving as a police officer, argues that he will preserve the Obama agenda.
"I'll protect Wall Street safeguards," Keating said in the debate. "I'll protect Social Security. And I'll be there to move us forward as a group and as a country."
Jeff and Janni Hansen, longtime liberal Democrats from
"People are just so dissatisfied with what's going on in
Associated Press writers Ray Henry in