Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Florida 2nd - Allen Boyd is seeking an 8th termPrimary: August 24, 2010
Location: Tallahassee/Central Panhandle
Days until election: 81
He may be a Blue Dog, but Florida Democrat Allen Boyd is spending big this year, as he faces the toughest race of his career.
Boyd has consistently won re-election by comfortable margins since his first election to the House in 1996. But he faces his stiffest challenge yet in Republican funeral home owner Steve Southerland. And that's only if he makes it past the Aug. 24 primary in his Panhandle district - by no means a sure thing, as he squares off against veteran state legislator Al Lawson, Florida's state Senate Minority Leader.
The Republican-leaning Gulf Coast district, which lies close to Georgia and Alabama, isn't Obama country. George W. Bush and John McCain easily won here, both with 54 percent of the vote. Health care reform wasn't popular here, and even a lesser-known element of the bill - an overhaul of the nation's student loan program - has become an issue in the race: Southerland blames the changes for the loss of hundreds of local Sallie Mae jobs.
The administration's response to the BP oil spill has also become an issue, with Republicans attacking the effort as lackluster and inadequate, and questioning the moderate Boyd's independence over his decision to stick with his party on thorny issues like health care and cap and trade.
He hasn't been caught unprepared. Boyd focused first on his primary with Lawson, who is an African-American in a district where one in five residents are black. Boyd hit the airwaves last year with TV spots touting his own record before slamming Lawson this spring with a six-figure ad buy, a string of commercials focused on pocketbook issues. It was an expensive strategy, but fundraising is the one area where Boyd retains an unquestionable advantage. As of the end of last month, with weeks to go before the primary, Boyd had already spent nearly $2 million, with more than a million dollars in cash-on-hand remaining. The figure dwarfs the $11,000 Lawson currently has in the bank, and is more than five times the amount Southerland reported in June.
Money, however, has become a double-edged sword, with Lawson trying to gain ground by tying Boyd to Paul Magliocchetti, a Washington lobbyist recently indicted for making illegal campaign contributions. Boyd received more than $100,000 from Magliocchetti. Boyd's campaign has not responded publicly to the developments.
But the campaign home stretch has also featured some good news for Boyd, who sits on the Defense Appropriations Committee: the announcement last month that a squadron of F-22 fighters are heading for Tyndall Air Force base. The move means hundreds of new jobs for the district, and a series of appealing headlines in the military-friendly area.
And Lawson's challenge from the left may allow Boyd to burnish his image as a candidate who's conservative enough for the 2nd district, helping him counter general election attacks from the right - if he makes it that far.