Byron York

But Bielat is still heartened by the poll's main finding, which shows him trailing Frank by just 10 points. Frank's supporters say the lead is bigger, but Bielat believes he's within striking distance.

Ask Bielat to name the three worst things Frank has done in office and you get an idea of what his focus would be, if elected. "You've got to start with Freddie and Fannie and his unending push to expand homeownership," Bielat says. "He definitely played an enormous role in getting us where we are today in terms of the real-estate bubble and the ensuing financial collapse."

No. 2? "Financial reform, because it doesn't address Fannie and Freddie and vastly expands oversight of the financial-services sector."

Three? "His view on what government should and should not do." Simply put, Frank wants an always expanding federal government, and Bielat doesn't.

Bielat is particularly concerned about runaway entitlement spending, which is something few Republicans other than Rep. Paul Ryan are willing to take on. (Bielat is a big Ryan fan.) When asked about his party's new Pledge to America, Bielat sounds less than dazzled. "I think it's fine, but I'm not running on it," he says. "I wish it had addressed entitlement reform."

You have to classify a Bielat victory as unlikely. Frank usually wins re-election with between 65 percent and 75 percent of the vote -- and that's when Republicans even bother to field a candidate against him. That's a strong record.

Still, this is no usual year. The fact that Bill Clinton -- the Democratic Party's biggest gun -- recently came by to campaign for Frank suggests that party leaders don't believe Frank is a shoo-in. Republicans across the country should take notice, Bielat says: "This is one worth watching."

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner