As the GOP-controlled House once against voted to repeal President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation, two Democrats crossed the aisle to side with Republicans.
North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre and Utah Rep. Jim Matheson had the two closest House races in the country in 2012, and they're top GOP targets looking ahead to 2014 once again, topping The Daily Rundown's first look at vulnerable incumbents.
Both McIntyre and Matheson voted against the original legislation, and the Blue Dog Democrats each voted for many of the 36 previous GOP-led repeal efforts of the bill. The symbolic vote stands no chance in passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
McIntyre won the closest race in the country, defeating Republican David Rouzer by just 654 votes even as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by 19 points. After the GOP won control of the state legislature in 2010, they pushed through a sweeping redistricting plan that made McIntyre's Wilmington-based 7th District far more Republican. Rouzer got a late start after a bruising primary though, and the Republican has already announced he's running again in 2014, guaranteeing McIntyre another tough race in a difficult midterm.
Matheson, too, is facing a rematch from his GOP opponent. The Utah Democrat only bested Republican Mia Love by just 768 votes. Matheson represents the most Republican district currently held by a Democrat--Romney carried the 4th District by 37 points. Love, who would have been the first African-American female Republican in the House if she had won, was a star GOP recruit. But Republicans soon privately grumbled she ran too national of a campaign. Love is in again for 2014, and has retooled her campaign by bringing on respected political hand Dave Hansen.
Matheson told msnbc.com in an interview that he's in a better position for his 2014 race though, without Romney on the ballot in the heavily Mormon district, and without three-quarters of his congressional district new to him this time around.
"I always run hard in my races, but I expect a better situation next time around," said Matheson. "The presidential race created a significant wave and coattail effect that helped my opponent and hurt me."
While Matheson has voted against the bill and for outright repeal several times, he said the conversation should move on to ways to fix the current legislation.
"I think it’s time to talk about looking for ways to improve what’s on the books," the Utah Democrat said. "There are components a lot of people agree with and components a lot of people are going to think should be changed. That’s the conversation that’s going to happen next."
Even with his vote against Obama's signature bill, McIntyre knows Republicans will till work to tie him to national Democrats, but he says he's proved his independence, with Thursday's vote as another example.
"People in Utah are going to ignore what some national party organization has to say," said Matheson. "I don’t vote based on party. I’ve voted based on putting my constituents first."