Today's Waco Tribune-Herald offers some early handicapping in the US House race for President Bush's home district (Texas 17). As the article notes, Representative Chet Edwards (Democrat) barely held off the Republican challenger in 2004, while the district went for President Bush with 69 percent of the vote. The Trib calls Edwards "one of Texas' most resilient Democrats," which may be an understatement. Edwards was the only one of six targeted Democratic incumbents to survive the much celebrated redistricting of 2003.

Edwards has succeeded consistently in an increasingly, overwhelmingly Republican district. He has a good (and justly earned) reputation in the community for servicing constituents, and he has skillfully distanced himself from the mainstream of his party on the issues that alienate many Central Texans. As a capstone to the Trib story, Texas A&M political science professor, Henry Tucker, cast great doubt on Taylor's chances to unseat the formidable Edwards.

I agree that it will be extremely difficult to unseat Edwards because of his experience and popularity. And Van Taylor, as the article notes, has a big disadvantage: he has no Central Texas roots. However, while Chet Edwards is a good congressman and a good candidate, he has been extremely vulnerable for the last several election cycles, even before the redistricting.

In truth, the redistricting was gratuitous; the old Texas 11 was bound to go Republican eventually. The numbers were already in favor of the GOP and the gap was growing steadily. Tom Delay should have waited patiently for the ripe fruit to fall off the tree. Edwards ran especially strong in Waco in 2004 (against an unimpressive candidate from the Metroplex), in part because locals resented and reacted against outside forces rushing the natural progression of things.

Back to Van Taylor: having identified his main problem, Taylor is, nevertheless, a very attractive candidate. He is also a well-financed youthful war veteran (a Marine no less) with a young family. Chet Edwards for ten years has been blessed with a series of inept and not very photogenic or media savvy opponents. Not this cycle. Only time will tell how effective Taylor will be on the stump, but when you browse Van Taylor's website, you get a feeling that this particular contest will be a horse race.

So, as you are calculating the 2006 Congressional scorecard, you may want to mark Chet Edwards down as a Democratic incumbent with a serious challenge.