Van Hollen Warns Against 'Irrational Exuberance'
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) has begun a concerted effort to warn his House Democratic colleagues to "beware of irrational exuberance" despite a growing evidence that the party is positioned to pick up more seats in November.
In an interview today on washingtonpost.com's PostTalk program, Van Hollen acknowledged that the national environment looked good for Democrats to perform well in House races in November. "That having been said, you've got to do the fundamentals right," Van Hollen cautioned. "You've got to have the resources to carry these races over the finish line and despite our lead over the Republicans in fundraising, we don't have the resources to take advantage of these opportunities."
Van Hollen made a similar point in a memo to his Democratic colleagues last week. And while he has often been overshadowed by bigger Democratic personalities on the Hill, Van Hollen has been more visible in the media in recent days. He is the subject of a glowing profile in the current edition of Washingtonian magazine, and he squared off against National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) on Fox News Sunday this past weekend.
Van Hollen has been repeating that point about Democrats needing more cash for the fall, but he hasn't been talking as much about the polls -- specifically, national surveys that have shown Congress with an historically low approval rating. If Congress is about as unpopular as the lame duck President Bush, couldn't that hurt the Democratic majority in November?
"What the polls show is that people are frustrated with Congress as an institution, and not moving fast enough on the issues they care about ..." Van Hollen said, adding that "people have been frustrated that we haven't seen as much of a change of direction in Iraq," and so Democrats have to continually remind voters that Democrats are "the party of change."
If Democrats secure the gains currently being projected by many analysts, they may well be the party of "change," as hordes of conservative freshmen elected from swing districts could make waves within the party. The recent special election victors in Mississippi and Louisiana both ran as conservatives, and the addition of more members like them could well cause more fractures in a caucus that already has trouble staying united on some issues.
"This has been a topic of discussion, obviously, within the caucus, and I think the overwhelming consensus is this: We as Democrats are a big tent party, and we're not going to agree on every issue 100 percent of the time," Van Hollen said, emphasizing that party leaders don't expect or want members from tough districts to vote in lockstep with them.
"But on the key bread and butter issues ... they're with us," Van Hollen said.
The Fix, which co-hosted the interview with Capitol Briefing, has already written about Van Hollen's thoughts on the presidential race and what the candidates can do to help in House races this fall. You can watch the full interview here:
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