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Trump May Cost GOP House Seats         10/24 06:18

   With only several dozen of the House's 435 seats competitive, Democrats need 
a daunting 30-seat gain to take over. But with Trump sputtering in the polls 
and Election Day barely two weeks off, Democrats say and Republicans fear he'll 
take some congressional Republicans down with him.

   ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Clasping the $4,000 check that Orlando area real 
estate agents handed him, Rep. John Mica stood in the F&D Cantina restaurant 
and described his pathway to a 13th term in Congress.

   "We've got to get everybody out to vote," the Florida Republican told 
supporters last week. "Don't let it get caught up in any of the other races or 

   That seemed code for Donald Trump, whose flagging, insult-hurling GOP 
presidential run carries mixed blessings for Mica in his closely divided, 
freshly redrawn district.

   Mica, 73, says Trump's recorded comments about groping women were "vulgar 
and unacceptable" but still supports him. Yet in central Florida, a pivotal 
state in presidential and congressional elections, it's not just the polarizing 
Trump who's threatening Mica's political career now, after few serious 
challenges before.

   In a classic battle of old school vs. new, Mica --- known for bringing 
federal transportation dollars back home --- faces Democrat Stephanie Murphy, a 
political newcomer at 38. Her backstory includes her family's harrowing 
seaborne escape from Vietnam as an infant, degrees from William and Mary 
College and Georgetown University, positions in the Pentagon and the worlds of 
finance and academia. She even holds a patent for women's softball pants made 
by a company her husband runs.

   Mica and Murphy live blocks apart in Winter Park but say they'd never met 
until this campaign. Now, they're vying for one of many suburban districts that 
Democrats must win to achieve what seemed unthinkable until recently --- House 

   With only several dozen of the House's 435 seats competitive, Democrats need 
a daunting 30-seat gain to take over. But with Trump sputtering in the polls 
and Election Day barely two weeks off, Democrats say and Republicans fear he'll 
take some congressional Republicans down with him.

   "I think we'll be within single digits either way," House Minority Leader 
Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said last week. She said redistricting that shields 
many GOP incumbents from all but a political tsunami is "an obstacle but not 

   Republicans expect to lose seats, and some say privately it's possible but 
unlikely that Trump will cost them their House majority. Some fault GOP 
incumbents like Mica for failing to react to the hostile political environment 
by raising more money and defining their opponents early.

   While Republicans are pursuing Democratic seats in California, Florida, 
Minnesota, Nebraska and New York, most GOP money is focused on protecting 
vulnerable incumbents. The Congressional Leadership Fund and American Action 
Network recently announced plans to defend 15 Republican districts from coast 
to coast, and there are new ads in 11 Republican districts by the National 
Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's political organization.

   Democrats buoyed by Hillary Clinton's rising prospects are pouring money 
into Republican-held districts, including some around New York City, 
Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. With polls showing Democratic inroads 
in GOP strongholds, they're reaching for House districts there, too.

   The House Majority PAC, which helps Democrats, is spending in a vacant 
Republican-held district in southern Indiana and reserved $451,000 in TV 
advertising time against Montana's at-large freshman GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke. The 
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats' campaign arm, 
plans to spend $1 million to try ousting a Republican in Kansas City's Kansas 

   In Orlando, Mica has raised nearly double Murphy's take. But Democratic 
groups have spent $1.6 million to help her and plan an additional $2.5 million 
--- compared with virtually nothing yet backing Mica from the GOP side.

   One Republican said the NRCC plans to start spending for Mica soon. Still, 
the discrepancy in outside spending has been striking. Mica said he'd told the 
committee to stay out unless he needs it.

   "Right now, my ship is still afloat," he said.

   Mica has huge name recognition advantage over the little-known Murphy. As 
former House transportation committee chairman, he's credited for guiding money 
home to improve Interstate 4 and the region's airport and commuter rail system.

   "You've given me back 45 minutes of my life" with a local road improvement, 
Frankie Elliott, an official with the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, 
told him.

   Befitting one who'd never sought public office, Murphy seemed slightly 
uneasy addressing the elderly and veterans at a senior center in Altamonte 
Springs. She attacked Mica for not fully disavowing Trump, cautiously answered 
a question about the federal gasoline tax and got her biggest applause for 
embracing a bill blocking lawmakers' salaries if no budget is passed.

   Her TV ad this month links Mica to a yelling, gesticulating Trump and says 
they "share the same harmful policies" on women's health and guns.

   Murphy considers firearms a major concern. Just outside the district is 
Orlando's Pulse nightclub, where a gunman killed 49 people in June, and it now 
includes Sanford, where unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin was fatally shot 
in 2012.

   Asked if gun control is an issue, Mica gestured at the crowd attending a 
barbecue benefit for student scholarships at a vast Harley-Davidson dealership 
in Sanford and said: "Talk to these people. I don't think so."

   Court-ordered redistricting has left roughly 4 in 10 voters in the district 
new to Mica, including slightly more Democrats, younger voters from downtown 
Orlando and Hispanics and blacks. It's now around 30 percent minority.

   "He's productive," said Tim Whitefield, 55, a Lake Mary banker. "But if this 
election is about 'throw the bums out,' he could be gone."


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