Factbox: U.S. House of Representatives races to watch

WASHINGTON Sat Nov 3, 2012 8:49am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives has experienced three consecutive "wave" elections in which more than 20 seats changed hands, with the peak coming in 2010 when Republicans took control after gaining 63 seats.

On Tuesday, voters will elect the 113th Congress. Even though public approval of Congress hit all time lows in the Gallup poll over the past year, no waves are in sight.

The authoritative Cook Political Report is projecting a maximum gain for Democrats of five seats, about 20 short of what the party needs to take control of the House where the balance of power now stands at 190 Democrats, 240 Republicans and 5 vacancies.

There is no sign of any anti-incumbent mood. Indeed, the trouble faced by a number of sitting members is attributable largely to the redrawing of district boundaries that followed the 2010 U.S. census.

Among the Republican incumbents facing serious challenge are:

Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, the flamboyant Tea Party-backed conservative whose run for the Republican presidential nomination flamed out early in the primary season.

Bachmann is opposed by businessman Jim Graves for the seat she has held from the Minneapolis suburbs since 2007.

While Graves has gone after Bachmann's conservative stance on issues such as reproductive rights and equal pay, Bachmann's chances were improved by redistricting, which put her in slightly more Republican hands.

Mary Bono Mack of California, who benefited from redistricting but nevertheless faces serious competition from Paul Ruiz, the son of farm workers who went on to graduate from the Harvard Medical School and become an emergency room physician.

The district, which includes Palm Springs, has a sizable Latino population that gives Ruiz, a Latino, a potential advantage.

Allen West of Florida one of a handful of Tea Party-backed House freshmen in trouble this year in one of the nastiest races in the country.

His Democratic opponent, Patrick Murphy, has gone after West's penchant for extreme comments on a variety of subjects, including a baseless claim that as many as 81 Democrats in Congress were members of the Communist Party.

West, a former Army lieutenant colonel, has made an issue of Murphy's 2003 arrest in a bar fight at a time when he (West) was about to deploy to Iraq.

Dan Lungren, a veteran of 12 terms in the House and chairman of the House Administration Committee, a Republican casualty of California redistricting, who is likely to lose his seat in a new district to Ami Bera, a physician.

Among the threatened Democratic incumbents are:

Utah's Jim Matheson who faces rising Republican star Mia Love. If Love wins, she will be the first black female Republican in the House. Love came to national attention as a featured speaker at the Republican convention.

Kathy Hochul, chosen in a 2011 special election to represent New York's 27th district in western New York state. She is a Democrat who, thanks to redistricting, is running in what has become Republican territory.

Her opponent is Erie County Executive Chris Collins.

Massachusetts' John Tierney, whose opponent, State Senator Richard Tisei, would be the first Republican elected from Massachusetts to the House since 1994.

Tierney, who represents the northeast corner of the state, has been hurt by his wife's involvement in an offshore gambling operation.

Mark Critz, running in a redrawn and more Republican district in southwestern Pennsylvania against attorney Keith Rothfus. The race is one of the costliest House contests in the country, with labor groups in particular trying to preserve the seat for Democrats.

National Republican donors, including Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, have spent more than half a million dollars for ads attacking Rothfus.

(Editing by Fred Barbash and Vicki Allen)

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