White House Cheat Sheet: Republican Recruiting Recovering
Republicans, out of power in Washington and struggling badly to find new leaders to match President Obama at the national level, are on the verge of a series of recruiting successes in the early days of the 2010 election that suggest their electoral prospects may be -- slowly -- improving.
On the Senate front, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is an all-but-announced candidate while former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge is seriously considering a bid. Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.) is leaning toward a Senate run (and will decide VERY soon) and Rep. Mike Castle (Del.) appears to be leaning in the "run" direction as well -- spurred by new polling that shows him well ahead of his likely Democratic opponent.
If all four run (a possible if not probable scenario) they would join a mix of young rising stars (former Florida state House speaker Marco Rubio) and capable alternatives (former Connecticut representative Rob Simmons) already in races -- all of which would add up to the strongest Senate class since the heady days of 2004.
House Republicans have seen similar success -- lobbying Manchester (N.H.) Mayor Frank Guinta to pass up a Senate or gubernatorial bid to challenge Rep. Carol Shea Porter, and luring Springfield (Ore.) Mayor Sid Leiken into a race against Rep. Peter Defazio.
What explains the early recruiting successes for Republicans?
"Now Republicans have a foil," said Carl Forti, a former communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee and now a GOP consultant. "In a center right country with a Democrat[ic] president and Congress, candidates can now oppose something or be against the liberal policies."
Several other GOP strategists acknowledged that the presence of President George W. Bush -- and his prolonged unpopularity among voters -- as the titular head of the party kept a number of candidates out of races in 2006 and 2008. Freed of that burden at the top of the party, Republican candidates are more free to run their own individual campaigns.
History is also working in Republican recruiters' favor as the president's party traditionally loses seats in the first midterm election. In all but one of the midterm elections held in the first term of a president since 1970, the party out of the White House has picked up House seats.
"Historically, 2010 should be a strong year for Republicans," said Sara Taylor, a former political director in the Bush White House. "If you look at the issue landscape as it's shaping up today, by election day, these candidates' odds are it's likely to better than historical averages."
A third critical factor is that the losses over the past two elections -- 15 Senate seats and 54 House seats -- have opened up a number of enticing targets for Republican candidates who have been eying the possibility of a run for federal office for years. Many Democrats hold House seats or represent states where the electorate is closely divided, meaning any slight change in the national environment could give a GOP candidate a real pickup opportunity.
Does the fact that recruiting appears to be looking up for Republicans mean that they are on their way back to the majority in 2010? No.
Particularly in the Senate, a number of Republicans' "star" candidates are not yet announced and if three of the four mentioned above take a pass, a recruiting class with promise could morph into a disappointment in short order.
And, while candidate recruitment is a major factor in determining electoral outcomes but so is money, national mood and the nuts and bolts of campaigning.
Still, for a party decimated at so many levels following the 2008 elections, it's hard not see the interest of top-tier candidates as a positive sign in the rebuilding process.
What To Watch For:
Wednesday's Fix Picks: Alex Ovechkin almost makes hockey watchable on TV. Almost.
1. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke offers some reasons for hope in the economic future.
2. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa) gives an odd interview to the New York Times Magazine.
3. Souter says goodbye.
4. Was Eric Cantor not really a vice presidential possibility in '08?
5. Dom DeLuise passes. He'll always be "Pizza the Hutt" to us.
Sanford Passes (For Now) on National Council: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a leading voice for fiscal conservatives within the party and a likely 2012 presidential candidate, was invited to be a part of the National Council for a New America but passed. "Governor Sanford was asked to participate, but declined for the time being due to us being in the home stretch of a fairly contentious legislative session," said communications director Joel Sawyer. "He may participate in the future." Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, another conservative with an eye on 2012 confirmed her involvement in the NCNA yesterday, quieting some chatter that the group was formed by establishment party leaders to keep a movement conservative (Palin, Sanford) away from the nomination in 2012.
Speaking of Palin...: Backers of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin borrow the bear from Ronald Reagan's famous ads in 1984 to call former Gov. Mitt Romney a coward -- or something.
The Macker, the Frontrunner?: A new survey conducted by Public Policy Polling -- an auto-dial firm based in North Carolina -- shows former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe with a double digit primary lead over former state Del. Brian Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds. McAuliffe took 30 percent to 20 percent for Moran and 14 percent for Deeds in the survey, which was conducted from May 1-3. Not coincidentally, McAulliffe also had the highest name recognition in the PPP poll thanks to his television blitz. Only in one in three voters didn't know enough about McAuliffe to offer an opinion while half of the same couldn't offer an opinion on Moran and 56 percent weren't sure of their opinion on Deeds. Clearly concerned about the potential impact of the PPP poll, the Moran campaign released a survey of their own late Tuesday that showed McAuliffe at 31 percent, Moran at 29 percent and Deeds at 18 percent. "What is striking is that so far [McAuliffe] has been unable to translate his name recognition into a significant trial heat advantage," read the polling memo from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The primary is a mere 34 days away . . . .
Click It!: We are opposed in principle to writing about Web ads -- they are nothing more than video press releases -- but every once in a while one comes along for which we break our rule. The new web ad from the Democratic National Committee, which portrays the leadership of the Republican Party as cast members on "Survivor", is one of those exceptions. A great idea, well executed.
Tauscher Formally Nominated, Special Election On: President Obama nominated California Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D) late Tuesday as Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, setting off a special election to replace Tauscher in her 10th district. Although the nomination was only made official on Tuesday, the race to replace Tauscher is well underway with Lt. Gov. John Garamendi switching from the governor's race to the House special two weeks ago and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, whom Tauscher has endorsed, and state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan also running. In a newly released internal poll done for his campaign, Garamendi leading the field with 27 percent -- more than double the total of DeSaulnier. The district was once competitive but the Democratic-controlled redistricting following the 2000 Census made it solidly Democratic; Obama won 65 percent there in 2008.
Republicans Alive in Alexandria!: National Republican strategists were falling all over themselves last night to note that yesterday's Alexandria (Va.) city council elections produced two GOP victories: Frank Fannon and Alicia Hughes who, as a government employee, couldn't run under a party label.
Say What?: "Good God, he wants to run everybody." -- Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning on his home state colleague and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
May 6, 2009; 5:35 AM ET
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