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House Democrats Feel Wind at Their Backs

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Their approval ratings may still be in the tank, but House Democrats are feeling pretty good about themselves right now, at least when it comes to their ability to hold and possibly expand their majority come November.

Briefing reporters here at the caucus's annual retreat, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said his primary message to fellow Democrats was: "The wind continues to be at our back as we go into this election."

Why so confident? Let's recap the past week.

Yesterday, Virginia Rep. Tom Davis announced his plan to retire at the end of his term, making him the fifth Republican member to call it quits in the last seven days, following Reps. Jim Walsh (N.Y.), Dave Weldon (Fla.), Ron Lewis (Ky.) and Kenny Hulshof (Mo.). (Hulshof is running for governor, while the others are just retiring.)

That brings to 28 the total number of Republicans who have either resigned already, plan to resign or are just not running for reelection. One Democrat has resigned this cycle, and only five others have announced their plans to retire. Though all the circumstances are different, Van Hollen has a theory about the Republican exodus.

"I think what you're seeing is a recognition of the fact that there's no chance of [the GOP] re-taking the House," Van Hollen said. "I think people see that's sort of a dead-end prospect at this point."

On the financial front, the DCCC announced today that it had raised more than $67 million in 2007 and had $35 million in the bank at the end of the year. And former Capitol Briefing author Paul Kane reports that the National Republican Congressional Committee is expected to report having raised $49.5 million for the year, with just $5 million on hand as of Dec. 31.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. With the proliferation of outside groups like Freedom's Watch getting involved in campaigns, Van Hollen said he told members "our main competition from a fundraising perspective is not going to be the NRCC. It's going to be other players that decide to participate in this election, specifically 527s."

Last cycle, the DCCC spent roughly $70 million on independent campaign expenditures. Van Hollen wouldn't give a goal for this cycle, other than to say, "It's more than that."

Even with more cash potentially coming in on the GOP side, Van Hollen still marveled at where his party is now compared to where it could -- or should -- be.

"One of the concerns we had at the very beginning of the cycle ... was that, when you come off a wave election, historically you lose seats in the following election," he said. "Losing two or three seats would be a victory, historically."

But ten months out from Election Day, Democrats are in the position to pick up several seats. Van Hollen wouldn't hazard a guess, though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested -- as "a conservative estimate" -- that the party could net 10 to 15 seats.

Of course, all of those estimates could go out the window once the presidential field is set. Strategists on both sides have already begun gaming out various combinations of candidates and guessing how they'll play downballot. But for now, the breeze is definitely blowing Democrats' way.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 31, 2008; 5:12 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , House  
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You have it all unless you nominate Hillary Clinton. At that point you loose me and most of Americqa across the board. The Clintons are bought and paid for liars and thieves and I will do everything I can to keep her out of the White House even though I hate the Republican Party and Bill Clinton both of whom have gutted our industrial and removed all the checks and balance put in place by Franklin Roosevelt to protect the people of this country from the greedy liars and thieve that have now bought off both houses of congress.

So my advicew is don't start counting your chickens before they hatch. You have aloowed China to infilitrate our industrial base at the peril of the whole country through Wall Street. You are stupidity all of you.

Posted by: Ralph Dreifus | February 7, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The Democratic Party needs to get together to decide who is the best candidate for Presidency. I think the Feb Primaries/Caucuses clearly showed what the majority of States want. The big States that Clinton won were those that had a great loyalty to President Bill Clinton. The country wants "CHANGE". I hope that this party will wake up and be risk takers like others have done in the past.

Posted by: VJ | February 8, 2008 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I continue to ask...

What evidence is there Obama has been or will be an agent of change? I find nothing in his background to suggest as much. His platform is filled with nice words, but how does he plan to implement his lofty goals?

I'm not suggesting he is not a fine candidate, or that he should not receive serious consideration. But good grief, people, his entire campaign to date consists of dispensing feel-good buzzwords (Change, Unity, Hope, [put next here]) that seem to have hypnotized his supporters.

Worse, I suspect his supporters, while now chanting the "Change" mantra, chose apathy as the path of least resistance throughout the Bush/GOP hijacking of our liberties. Do we really want those people choosing our next president?

If Obama is an informed choice among his supporters, great. If preference for him is based upon warm, fuzzy marketing, I submit this country is no better off than when Bush was hoisted on the shoulders of Evangelicals.

Posted by: RKT | February 9, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

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