In a troubling sign for Democrats, one of the party's best-known incumbents, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), is facing his strongest re-election challenge in years. Although Frank is still favored to carry his Boston-area district — if not in characteristic "steamrolling" fashion (he beat his last opponent by 43 percentage points) — he may be in trouble. Upstart Republican challenger Sean Bielat's internal polls put him just 10 points behind Frank. Could Frank really lose? (Watch Sean Bielat explain why he's running)
Frank is no "shoo-in" this time: In a more typical year, the unknown Sean Bielet, a businessman and former Marine, wouldn't stand a chance against the formidable Frank, says Byron York at Townhall. But even a 14-term incumbent like Frank can't escape "the nervousness plaguing Democrats nationwide" this year and Bielat is savvily arguing that Frank's push to expand homeownership through Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae contributed to the financial meltdown. Telling sign: Even Bill Clinton has been called in to help Frank campaign.
"A GOP unknown in striking distance of Barney Frank"
Frank will win — but he'll have to sweat for it: "Frank is still a strong favorite on Nov. 2," says Tom Diemer at Politics Daily. One of America's "brainiest" politicians, Frank is a household name in his district, and he has $1 million — much more than Bielat has — to spend in the final month before the midterm vote. Still while heavily Democratic Massachusetts has traditionally been "off-limits" to Republicans, no one's forgetting how the GOP's Scott Brown took the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat last January. Frank knows he has to work.
"Barney Frank, in re-election fight, reduces donations to fellow Democrats"
Even if Frank wins, Democrats lose: In previous years, says Andrew Stiles at National Review, Frank has been able to share his "spare [campaign] cash" with his fellow Democrats and campaign actively for more vulnerable candidates in the hope that his aura of invincibility will rub off on them. Now that he has to "fight" to save his own hide, "his diminished capacity to help his own party" amounts to "a victory for Republicans," whether he wins or not.
"Barney Frank: Tight-fisted in '10"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- How to adopt the perfect rescue dog
- The lessons of Japan's latest recession
- This judge is the reason we're still fighting over net neutrality
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- Why the poor can't catch a break on Thanksgiving
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
Subscribe to the Week