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.
January 31, 2008; 5:12 PM ET
Categories: 2008 Campaign , House
Save & Share: Previous: A Recommendation From Rahm
Next: Senate Ethics Panel in Midst of Five Investigations
Posted by: Ralph Dreifus | February 7, 2008 5:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: VJ | February 8, 2008 8:12 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: RKT | February 9, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.