If there's one race that could tell the true size of the expected Republican wave this fall, it may very well be Rep. Phil Hare's reelection bid in Illinois' 17th Congressional District.
To say that Democrats began the year not worrying about Hare's reelection chances would be an understatement. The two-term congressman ran unopposed in 2008 and until earlier this month, Hare hadn't run a TV ad since 2006.
But Republican Bobby Schilling is making a race of it in the 17th and the contest has quickly moved into tossup territory.
Like most Republican challengers this cycle, Schilling has focused on Hare's voting record, tying the incumbent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and repeatedly hitting Hare's support for cap-and-trade and the recently-enacted healthcare law.
Hare's district is telling since it's a relatively favorable one for Democrats, stretching from Rock Island in the northwestern part of the state down through central Illinois and Springfield, carefully drawn to incorporate more Democratic territory.
But between a deflated Democratic base and the national environment in 2010, the district isn't even close to Democratic enough to let Hare to breathe easy ahead of November.
Schilling hasn't garnered the full attention of national conservatives just yet, but he did win an endorsement from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who said, "It's time to retire Phil Hare," in a videotaped endorsement she recorded for Schilling's campaign.
Read more here.
Here is the ad that Congresswoman Bachmann recorded for Schilling: