Could Barney Frank lose his bid for re-election?

Barney Frank in the Oval Office

Love him or hate him, Democratic U.S. Rep. Barney Frank is one of this era’s most colorful and headline-grabbing politicians. Who else could be the subject of a book subtitled “The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman”?

Frank has represented Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District for nearly 30 years now, and he coasted to re-election in 2008 with 68% of the vote. But some are arguing Frank could be vulnerable against Republican Sean Bielat this year.

I, for one, am still skeptical. The Cook Political Report, my trusted source on such matters, doesn’t include Frank’s race on its list of this year’s 86 competitive House contests. Cook editor David Wasserman – who recently downgraded David Cicilline’s chances of holding U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy’s seat – rates Frank’s 4th District seat as “Solid Democratic.”

There have been no independent surveys done on the race as far as I can tell, although Bielat’s campaign is circulating an internal poll of “likely voters” (caveat emptor) that showed him within 10 points of Frank as of mid-September, with 13% of voters undecided. Frank’s people told The Hill their polling shows a 20-point gap separating the two men.

Either way, just because Frank is the favorite doesn’t mean he isn’t getting his toughest contest in years.

For one thing, Bielat, a Brookline consultant and former Marine, is the most credible candidate Republicans have put up against Frank in a long time. Bielat is winning national attention from conservatives – who despise Frank – and that’s helping him raise money for the pivotal final month before the election.

U.S. Sen. Scott Brown won the 4th District in his huge January upset over Martha Coakley, so a Republican victory there is at least plausible, and Bielat’s advisers include some people who worked on Brown’s campaign, too.

Frank’s no fool, though, and he doesn’t appear to be taking anything for granted. He has campaign ads on the air, got Bill Clinton to come campaign for him in Taunton last month and was sitting on $1 million to Bielat’s $84,184 as of Aug. 25. (New fundraising numbers come out mid-month.)

Frank is a heavy favorite, but this is one to keep an eye on. Here’s what the 4th District looks like, courtesy Wikipedia and

(image credit: White House/Pete Souza)

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