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House "moderates" will be even more awesome and powerful next year

Steve Benen highlights a new Roll Call story reporting that House GOP aides have secretly drawn up a target list of "moderate" Democrats they're targeting in hopes of getting them to switch parties after the elections:

House Republicans are already examining which Democrats might want to switch parties after Nov. 2 and are mapping out a strategy for how to persuade them to make the leap.

Republican aides and lobbyists said there are a handful of Democratic Members whom GOP leaders plan to target, with Member-to-Member conversations beginning immediately after the midterm elections. Incentives for switching sides could include a leadership-level position or seat on a powerful committee such as Appropriations or Ways and Means...

Democratic Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Walt Minnick (Idaho) and Heath Shuler (N.C.) are all on the Republicans' target list. Reps. Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.) are also considered potential gets.

I have no idea whether these Dems will be open to a switch. I have emails into their offices and will update if I hear back. But I think what this really highlights is that if Dems do hold the House, these "moderate" Dems will be even more powerful next year than they have been for the last two.

The dynamic in the House is already a frustrating one for liberals. Moderate Dems have again and again proven willing to threaten to bring down major legislative initiatives in order to get their way. The result is that Dem leaders have been forced to count on House liberals' willingness to shelve their own demands in order to get major legislation passed. Unlike the moderates, liberals have prioritized the overall Dem agenda, and the Obama presidency, over their own legislative preferences and parochial political concerns.

Depending on how this fall's elections shake out, you could have a situation where this gets even worse. The House Democratic majority's margin for error is likely to be much slimmer than it is now -- further enhancing the power of those moderates and further weakening the leverage of liberals. And if the Dem majority is razor thin, you could have a situation where they hold in their pockets the possibility of a party switch that could flip the majority to the GOP.

In short: Brace yourselves for the ascent of yet another "gang of whatever" beloved by centrist opinionmakers -- a batch of preening, egomaniacal House versions of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.

UPDATE, 11:23 a.m.: What makes this outcome even more likely is the fact that House moderates who have proven willing to buck the president are more likely to survive than those who haven't, leaving behind a core of moderates who could end up wielding much more power over the Dem agenda.

By Greg Sargent  | October 6, 2010; 11:05 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections, House Dems, House GOPers  
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Next: Former RNC chair Ed Gillespie on O'Donnell's China takeover claim: Maybe there's something to it!


It didn't work out so well for Travis Childers though. They will all have Dem opponents and maybe primary opponents advertising themselves as the "real GOPer." It is a risky move unless it puts the GOP over the top, and even then it is risky.

Posted by: Mimikatz | October 6, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Halloween is not until the end of the month. I find it a bit premature to be setting up this Scary Haunted House, for Democratic patrons only.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 6, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"leaving behind a core of moderates who could end up wielding much more power over the Dem agenda."

Ah. To some of us, that sounds ideal. Rather that having one or the other tragically flawed party in charge (and thinking that's the best thing), it's better the shift the ideology of the opposing party further and further in the direction you generally want policy to be heading towards. Ergo, it's better for conservatives
(in the long run) for there to be more conservative Democrats than it is for the Republicans to take the house and/or senate, per se.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | October 6, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Is there even going to be a Dem agenda next year?

I don't think so.

Next year is going to be all about balancing the budget by 2015.

Posted by: maritza1 | October 6, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

After the 2008 election there was a lot of talk of whether the US is a "center-right" country. Polling on issues as opposed to self-assigned labels doesn't bear that out, but I think it is true that a variety of institutional factors (disproportionate representation of rural voters in the Senate and various anamolies in the results of the districting process for starters) build in a bias toward center-right government.

Posted by: zimbar | October 6, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I hope all of the "conservative Democrats" decide to become Republicans.

With millions of surplus Americans running out of unemployment and using up their savings accounts, the Whiskey Party gets nearer to reality every month.

Targeting those whose policy choices are deadly for Americans but beneficial for the Koch/Hayek people ("targeting" meant in the same benevolent way the illegal abortion supporters target legal abortion doctors) will be much easier if they all have the same party affiliations: Republican and/or Tea.

Posted by: roblimo | October 6, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Clearly we need to let the Dick Armey led teabaggers get more influence over our government:

At one point, Spitzer asked Armey a series of questions about what he thinks the government should and should not be involved in funding to try to “add texture” to what the FreedomWorks chairman believes. During this question period, the CNN host asked Armey if he would “have the federal government pay for higher education?” Armey bluntly responded, “No, I would not.” He then went on to say that the university system of his home state of Texas has “not been made any better by federal money involvement."

Posted by: pragmaticstill | October 6, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Reality Check for Liberal Pundits:

There were not enough, and still are not enough Congressional Districts, that Liberal House Members can win, to provide a majority. That is why Howard Dean recruited candidates like Heath Shuler, to compete in districts that more liberal candidates could never carry. It worked, and we took back the house. The more centrist new members, that Dean recruited, have not changed their political profiles. They never promised to do so. They did not run as Liberals, so why are so many liberal pundits acting so surprised and outraged at how those candidates, that Dean recruited, have ended up voting?

As to the complaints about Senator Nelson of Nebraska; anyone to the left of him would get slaughtered by a Republican opponent, in Nebraska. "Politics is the art of the possible" JFK

House Democrats had two choices. They could remain a staunch liberal group only, and remain in the minority, with no power to pass anything, or block anything.

Dean surveyed the situation, and realized that there was not thirty or more left leaning districts that were being held by Republicans, that could be taken away from them. The only way to convert the Democratic minority into a majoritym was to recruit centrist candidates who stood a chance of ousting sitting Republican members of the house.

It is what it is. Liberals have no right to demand that members who carried their home districts by running as moderates, or right of center democrats, to then turn around and legislate as liberals.

If they did that, they would all get voted out the next time they ran, and Democrats would be back where they were, before Dean delivered a majority to them.

How would liberals feel if their own elected reps. had run on a liberal platform, and then turned around and started voting as right of center members of the house?

I bet they would be mad as hell, and vow to make sure that those turncoats would not be reelected. That been the case; what right does anyone have to demand that more conservative Democratic house members vote as liberals, after they had campaigned as moderates, or even right of center candidates.

Just like elected liberals, moderates and conservatives, also "must dance with what brung em".

Posted by: Liam-still | October 6, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"...yet another "gang of whatever" beloved by centrist opinionmakers -- a batch of preening, egomaniacal House versions of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman."

Well said, Greg. That's a very accurate description.

I have to think that any Blue Dog who switched parties to give the GOP a majority in the House would be committing political suicide. Sure, there might be some short-term gains, but as the GOP increasingly becomes more the party of the right-wing fringe Tea Partiers, the more tainted these politicians would become.

Besides, there's very little future for the Republican party as it stands now. They might be making some small strides in this election but their days are numbered. America has changed, and once silent voting blocs were reawakened and empowered in 2008.

The Republican party must either rebrand itself or morph completely into its extreme right wing fringe.

I guess it's possible that they also might be targeting moderate Dems because of some strategy to try to rehabilitate their crumbling image and bring more middle-of-the-road politicians back into their party?

Posted by: elscott | October 6, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

All: Former RNC chair Ed Gillespie refuses to disavow Christine O'Donnell's claim she has classified info about China's takeover plot:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | October 6, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Kevin_Willis.

A core of moderates sounds like a good idea. If the Republicans won't field electable choices then I want to see Democratic choices that are.

Posted by: RedBird27 | October 6, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

And it looks like Greg missed something that might be very revealing:

Republicans must not be expecting to win big, or they would not be trying to figure out how to flip some Democrats over to their side. It appears to me, that the Republicans must not feel confident that they can win back the House on election day.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 6, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

@Liam-still: "As to the complaints about Senator Nelson of Nebraska; anyone to the left of him would get slaughtered by a Republican opponent, in Nebraska. 'Politics is the art of the possible' JFK"

Very well said. And very cogent points. I would add, that most "centrist" party members, on either side, tend to vote with the party 85% to 90% of the time. It's actually that 10% of the time they go against their party--usually on signature ideological legislation--that gets them their bad rep. But it's not like they actually vote with the opposition all the time, even though that's sometimes how they are portrayed.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | October 6, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

@Liam: "It appears to me, that the Republicans must not feel confident that they can win back the House on election day."

Always smart to plan for contingencies. Electoral landslides are never guaranteed. And it's unlikely they will win the senate (even though the senate often flips, though it has not been predicted to, when the house flips). Even if the Republicans take the house and senate, though, they will not have anywhere near a filibuster-proof majority in the senate.

So, if they expect to get anything done, they're going to have to gather some Democratic allies. And more power in the house can't hurt.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | October 6, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

@Liam: "Republicans must not be expecting to win big, or they would not be trying to figure out how to flip some Democrats over to their side."

True - the GOP only has a *chance* to retake the House and virtually no chance to retake the Senate. Folks hate the GOP.

Posted by: sbj3 | October 6, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Cap and Trade has everyone a little concerned - the question is just how far will the left go in increasing costs within the economy?

Is is an important issue.


Posted by: SaveTheRainforest | October 6, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The real lesson of the 2010 midterms will be that of the 30 or 40 or 50 D's who lose, almost every single one of them will be a Blue Dog or have opposed Obama on some major legislation. Those D's who vote solidly with Obama every time will win the vast majority of their races.

Say what you will about tougher districts, whatever, but the bottom line is Blue Dogs/Centrists/Hedgers will come out the losers and True Blue liberals will come out the winners.

Posted by: michaelh81 | October 6, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

So, all you are claiming is that House Liberals will become the minority party once more, unable to pass anything, or block anything, like they were before Howard Dean decided to broaden the party's political spectrum, so that the Republicans would be made powerless. Of course liberals in safe liberal districts are going to win. Well Duh. What the hell good will that do anyone, once they have lost the "40 seats" that made them the majority party, able to pass legislation, block Republican legislation, and control all the committees.

When you start to oust conservative Republicans by running liberal candidates against them, then you will have every right to brag. Of course that is never going to happen.

Posted by: Liam-still | October 6, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks giving the GOP a House majority is going to improve anything is completely delusional. If you think that Obama is a 'scary marxist socialist' blah blah blah, then I guess you sleep a little better, but the real result is going to be an even more polarized and partisan Congress that will make the current one look like pretty quaint.

It is ironic that Americans SAY that they want the parties to work together, then vote in a way that ensures exactly the opposite.

Im a liberal Democrat and I am not worried at all. The new and improved GOP House is going to be a complete disaster.

Posted by: MarcMyWords | October 6, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Liam-still | October 6, 2010 12:16 PM

Hey Liar-still, Howard Dean didn't recruit candidates like Heath Shuler to compete in districts that more liberal candidates could never carry.

Rahm Emanuel did.

Posted by: cab91 | October 6, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

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