JACKSON, Mich. - Mark Schauer rode the Obama wave to Congress in 2008, beating Republican incumbent Tim Walberg by a relatively thin 7,400-vote margin out of 322,000 cast.
Shift ahead two years, and the Battle Creek Democrat, 48, whose 7th Congressional District includes Lenawee and Hillsdale counties, finds himself in a more precarious position. He's a first-termer running for re-election during a time in which ties to Mr. Obama could hurt, not help, and with disaffected voters across the nation threatening to bring change to Washington.
If those issues aren't enough, he has a trio of determined Republicans - Mr. Walberg among them - squaring off in the August primary for the right to face him in November.
A rematch isn't a foregone conclusion. Brian Rooney, for one, doesn't see Mr. Walberg's re-emergence as a good thing and is running to be Mr. Schauer's opponent in the fall. "Trying to repackage something that's been tried before and hasn't been successful is not my definition of what we need here in south-central Michigan," said Mr. Rooney, 37, a lawyer and Iraq war veteran from Dexter. "As far as Congressman Walberg goes, I think his time has come and gone, and it's time for a new generation to take over."
Mr. Walberg, 59, represented the 7th District for two years and was a state lawmaker for 16 before that.
He announced last summer that he'd try to win back the seat he earned by defeating the more moderate Republican incumbent Joe Schwarz in the 2006 GOP primary and then beating a little-known Democrat.
The former preacher from Tipton wants voters to know his lengthy legislative experience is a good thing. "The other candidates are nice gentlemen," Mr. Walberg said of Mr. Rooney and Marvin Carlson, a retired Manchester-area business owner. "They have solid motives, but until you are proven in the arena and tested, it is always uncertain."
Here's what is certain: GOP and Democratic leaders are keeping a close eye on the seven-county district, which stretches from Eaton County west of Lansing south through Battle Creek, Jackson, Hillsdale, and Adrian.
A Schauer loss would get the GOP closer to taking back the House and could shift the Michigan delegation, which leans Democratic 8-7. According to the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Schauer had $1.44 million cash on hand through March 31. Mr. Rooney, $443,005; Mr. Walberg, $369,532, and Mr. Carlson $28,960.
David Dulio, an Oakland University political science professor, says Mr. Schauer has a difficult task, but a contentious GOP primary and the incumbent's fundraising work in his favor.