Five Bellwether House Races to Watch in 2012

With Democrats looking unlikely to pick up the 25 seats necessary to regain control of the House, there hasn’t been all that much news coverage of the individual races. But as someone who views the battle for the House as an early-warning system of the national political environment, this year’s contests will be providing lots of clues to the mood of the electorate, particularly in the critical swing states.

Indeed, simply by looking at five battleground-state House races, voters will get more of a sense of how the presidential race is shaping up than by looking at in-state polls or focus groups. Call them the Dow Jones 500 of the political world—they won’t precisely track the election results, but should come pretty close. And with voting patterns in congressional campaigns increasingly aligning with voters’ opinions of the president, it’s a safe bet that the outcomes of these bellwethers will foreshadow the presidential election.

Here are the five blue-chip House races worth paying close attention to until Election Day:

1. Colorado 06 – Rep. Mike Coffman (R) versus Joe Miklosi (D)

A former secretary of state with a military background, Rep. Mike Coffman looked like a rising Republican star when he came to Washington, not to mention a likely future candidate for the Senate or governor. But in the redistricting process, Coffman found his solidly Republican district redrawn into a suburban Denver battleground—and then proceeded to act as if his political fortunes hadn’t changed one bit.

One of the first bills he introduced in Congress ended requirements for ballots to be printed in languages other than English, a reasonable proposal for a conservative legislator, but one out of sync with a district that’s 16 percent Hispanic—more than double the percentage of his old district. Adding insult to injury, he drew national scrutiny when he told a town-hall meeting in May that he believes “in his heart