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No Surprise: Two Different Takes on Midterms

At back-to-back press conferences Thursday by the heads of the House Republican and Democratic campaign committees, it was abundantly clear that the two sides are operating under entirely different theories about the 2006 midterm election.

First came Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Asked about what impact President George W. Bush's faltering poll numbers would have on House races, Reynolds said that it "doesn't matter." The only factor in deciding who will win in November, he said, is "what's going on between the member and their district."

That statement set the tone for a briefing in which Reynolds focused relentlessly on his mantra of local concerns over national issues. He occasionally cited historical precedents to make his point, referencing the ultimately disastrous decision by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1998 to run a "national air war" against Democrats on the issue of impeaching President Clinton. "If you play darts, I don't think they hit the dart board," Reynolds said of that strategy.

Reynolds did not, however, see any comparisons to the 1994 election when Gingrich effectively nationalized the election around the GOP's "Contract With America," resulting in a 52-seat pick-up for House Republicans and the party's first majority in the chamber in four decades. "At the end of the day, there is just not a comparison there," Reynolds said, arguing that the 2001 redistricting process, which largely protected incumbents of both parties, had made it impossible for Democrats to win a large number of seats.

Fast forward a half hour and a few blocks away to a briefing held by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).

"When you are in a time of war, at a time when the American people don't believe the economy is working for them, this is a national election," Emanuel said. "Elections are for making decisions about whether you want to stay the course or change it."

Emanuel, too, cited historical precedents to back up his argument. He described the midterm elections of 1974, 1982, 1986, 1994, 1998 and 2002 as nationalized elections -- some that benefitted his party, some that didn't.

Election     President's Party     House Gains
1974         R (Nixon/Ford)        D+49
1982         R (Reagan)            D+26
1986         R (Reagan)            D+5
1994         D (Clinton)           R+52
1998         D (Clinton)           D+4
2002         R (Bush)              R+6

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll seems to bolster Emanuel's argument about the likelihood of 2006 emerging as an election decided more on national concerns than local ones.

The pollsters asked: "In deciding whether to vote for your member of Congress, which is more important to you -- your congressperson's position on national issues or your congressperson's performance in taking care of problems in your district?"

National issues were chosen by 44 percent of the sample, compared with 40 percent who chose performance in the district. In an October 1994 NBC/WSJ survey, 35 percent said national issues were more important, while 51 percent opted for performance in district.

There are several other worrisome developments for Republicans in the latest NBC/WSJ poll. Fifty percent of the sample said they preferred that Democrats control Congress after the midterm elections, compared with 37 percent who wanted a Republican controlled Congress.

And 20 percent of the sample said their vote in 2006 will be to express support for Bush, while 37 percent said it would be to send a signal of opposition to the president. Forty-one percent said there vote would not be aimed at sending either message. Compare those numbers to an NBC/WSJ poll done from October 2002 when 31 percent said their vote was to show support for Bush while just 19 percent said it would to signal opposition to the president. Republicans picked up six House seats and two Senate seats that year.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 17, 2006; 6:46 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

google is the good search engine.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 30, 2006 3:57 AM | Report abuse

google is the good search engine.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 30, 2006 3:49 AM | Report abuse

I also believe the voting machines are a very major problem. I keep wondering how the president and all the other neocons can keep their arrogant swagger up in the face of all their blunders. Rigged and tampered machines are the only explanation I can come up with, unless they are really that out of touch

Posted by: Ellie | March 21, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse


GOP is in serious trouble for one overarching reason. The Bush administration is so incompetent at every turn. GOP has controlled both houses of Congress and have give Bush unprecented leeway with little or no oversight. I belive the DEMS can and should make this a national referendum on GOP policies.


Let's list the GOP's greatest accomplishments of the past five years.

-Budget deficits: Historic highs as % of GDP after inheriting a budget surplus.

- A failed prescription drug medicare plan for the elderly

- Failed to capture Bin Laden and his followers

- Passed legislation that interfered with the wishes of Terry Schiavo with total disregard to the sanctity of marriage or ones personal wishes

- Illegal wire taps on private US citizens and organizations

- selling of America to the highest bidder via use of paid lobbyists.

- establishing a tax giveaway program to banks, oil companies, insurance companies, and just about every other corporatation in America

-- re-invented Reagon's trickle down theory. Cut taxes for the wealthiest, slash domestic spending except for their friends at defense, push mandates such as No Child Left Behind to local and state levels, and then have local property taxes rise on the middle class.

-- Out a CIA agent's identity to even for someone telling the truth about WMD.

-- Blantantly lie or mislead the American public about the reasons for going to war in Iraq.

-- Corruption at every turn for GOP members with bribes, stealing, inserting language into bills at the 11th hour without debate or even reading of the bill into the congressional record until debate has long passed.

-- Selling of US security of ports to the highest bidder.
-- Katrina..just look at goofy picture of Bush at the briefing. The man looks about the dumbest human being setting in the oval office of all time.

-- Failing to remotely come close to securing our borders and failing to remotely come close to making US a safer place since 9/11. Bush has failed in his "War on Terror"

The list is long and quite disastrous. I cant see how a local GOP person who has support Bush and given him Carte Blance on every issue can stand before their constituents and say he is their best interests at heart. The best the GOP can hope for is a low Dem turnout. Personally, Bush and this Congres is not just disliked they are loathed by Dems and Indy's and Moderate GOP. Our government has been hijacked by the radical right and I dont believe Rove can pull his propaganda machine magic off again. Bush is the leader of the most incompetant, corrupt government of all time. The GOP House and Senate abandoned their responsibilities to keep checks and balances on the Executive branch of goverment. The GOP House and Senate time and time again have taken a blind eye towards our constitutional rights.

I will say this again and again, the Dems three big weapons are this: 1:) We will restore the balance of government and protect the rights to privacy that is guaranteed in our constitution and that the GOP and Bush have destroyed. 2:) We will end this needless war in Iraq and focus on the real terrorist, Al Queda and Bin Laden, and 3;) we will return to a pay as you go and eliminate our budget deficits as we did during the Clinton years.

yes you heard it right, folks will look at Clinton years and will say yes to a balanced budget again. The hard right will always hate Bill and never voted for him to begin with, but Indy's and Dems will want a return to fiscal disclipline.

Posted by: Impeachbushnow.com | March 20, 2006 9:59 PM | Report abuse

"It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes." (popularly attributed to Josef Stalin)

Posted by: NoVA Dem | March 20, 2006 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Too bad an earlier, very important comment got no attention.

It IS about the voting machines. Dems, with their tails between their legs, have refused to be vocal about ensuring that we get machines with paper trails that are NOT hackable.

I do find it entertaining that the GOP actually had the chutzpah to admit that they engineered redistricting to guarantee their plurality.

Nothing like a fascist who's blatant about it.

Posted by: scootmandubious | March 20, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Hey, the damned browser told me the submission failed the first time.

Sorry for the repeat.

Posted by: Gravy | March 20, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Wow, democrats want to burn down the government? Really? Hey, I'm a democrat. I should grab a torch! I don't know what to burn first though, since the Bush team already took care of the Reichstag.

Ooh, ooh, I call SCOTUS!!!!

Okay, proceed to reduce my ego to a drip by burying it in your trademark non sequiturs SandyK.

Seriously, I don't think republicans can count on seniors because they don't want to burn down the government. They DO want their prescription drugs, affordable gas, and a future for their grandchildren. Three strikes for the republicans.

Posted by: Gravy | March 20, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Wow, democrats want to burn down the government? Really? Hey, I'm a democrat. I should grab a torch! I don't know what to burn first though, since the Bush team already took care of the Reichstag.

Ooh, ooh, I call SCOTUS!!!!

Okay, proceed to reduce my ego to a drip by burying it in your trademark non sequiturs SandyK.

Seriously, I don't think republicans can count on seniors because they don't want to burn down the government. They DO want their prescription drugs, affordable gas, and a future for their grandchildren. Three strikes for the republicans.

Posted by: Gravy | March 20, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

SandyK: "Since the youth don't vote, that leave the middle aged and seniors that are concerned on different matters, but more inclined in believing in our government -- not burning it down."

Is it still 1968 in the universe that you inhabit? At this point seniors are far less likely to engage in "believing in our government" (whatever kind of kool-aid drinking that refers to) than any other age group.

"...only those looking to line their pockets. It's all about networking, so when they "retire" they can become lobbyists, or like Kerry's PR manager, a hired PR consultant in costly Washington."

One word: Halliburton. Don't worry, I already know you won't respond so don't feel guilty about either playing dumb or running away from this point w/your tail between your legs.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | March 20, 2006 8:57 AM | Report abuse

SandyK, you chide other posters for being on kos and DU all the time, and in the same post write about how you're working three boards simultaneously?!? Perhaps a little self-examination is in order. Or is the kool-aid too overpowering.

Here's the message:

Incompetence. Intolerance. Iraq.

And that's coming from someone who voted for your guy in 2000. Bye bye.

Posted by: vienna local | March 20, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Well, Gravy, the last guy who toiled with me dripping with sarcasim, soon learned what a drip was -- like his ego getting drained one drop at a time.

Play nice, or there will be no biscuit to go with that Gravy. :evil grin:

That said, voters rule this country. They can send it to Hell in a hand basket, or demand/make Utopia.

It's nice rhetoric of "one man, one vote", but because the public often has to be protected from itself (think soccer fans voting enmasse angry about their sport being slighted), checks are needed to ensure the French revolution mob gangs get a toe hold in government.

All Administrations will have scandals. We'll fuss and fume over the next one and next one, because politics is a dirty business. Not the best and brightest seek that office, only those looking to line their pockets. It's all about networking, so when they "retire" they can become lobbyists, or like Kerry's PR manager, a hired PR consultant in costly Washington.

Democrats aren't ready this round, because the message they're driving home isn't being listened to by those who vote. Since the youth don't vote, that leave the middle aged and seniors that are concerned on different matters, but more inclined in believing in our government -- not burning it down.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 20, 2006 2:43 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't really supposed to be barking Sandy, but rather a sort of muffled growl. And I hope my sarcasm above isn't interpreted as hostility. I just happen to find sarcasm funny, as well as being a terribly effective way of making a point.

Back to the election, I think it will be a national referendum on Iraq. If not, it should be. If the election turns out to be about how many bridges to nowhere each rep/sen built in their district, that will be extremely disheartening.

On top of Iraq there's also the Abramoff scandal and the perception of corruption throughout congress, and I would imagine that this will favor challengers unless the incumbents are squeaky clean. And of course there are more republican incumbents, so this should favor dems.

Things definitely seem to favor democrats, but of course it's still possible for them (or the voters) to fumble.

Posted by: Gravy | March 19, 2006 8:25 PM | Report abuse

KoS is so closed shop it's not funny. I actually know one of the founders of DU, and despite politically different views, we got along fine. It was fun at Hannity going after Neo-Cons. :)

So, Gravy, you're barking up the wrong tree.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 19, 2006 6:51 PM | Report abuse

I actually got troll rated at Kos because I had a slightly different view than the others on a particular thread.

Posting at a place that tolerates zero dissent felt so ... republican.

That's why I post here now, where there are SandyK's with whom to debate.

Posted by: Gravy | March 19, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Because I'm working 3 boards (on entirely different subjects) and equal time is difficult, Sandwich.

While some of you guys live at DU and KoS, folks have something called a life, and it's not jawing about politics 24/7 and tabloids.

My tabloid entertainment is watching one sockpuppet go nuts, trying to stack the deck with 10+ public opinions -- WP should show the first 6 octets of the IP to help curb sockpuppetry, as they tend to be but trolls (which above shows how they operate).

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 19, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

When you say "killing" 40,000 of their men women and children, what you meant to say was "liberating" 40,000 of their men, women, and children. It's even better than saying "casualties" or "colateral damage."

Posted by: Gravy | March 19, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I have never posted on this blog using any name other than Sandwich Repairman. So Sandy, I can't tell through your jumbled syntax what you're trying to say, but no one else's posts on here come from the same person as me.

I like how you neglected to respond to any of the substantive questions or criticisms other people have raised.

http://sandwichrepair.blogspot.com

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | March 19, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

2 views alright. The left and insanity. The Republican Right Fails. Again. Time for Dems to take over and clean up this mess... Again.

Posted by: FairAndBalanced? | March 19, 2006 3:21 PM | Report abuse

LOL. Great posts Gravy, althoguh I fear your humor and wit is wasted on an idiot like Sandy. Anyone who is delusional enough to believe that the rethugs will pick up seats in november probably really is oblivious to the war in iraq.

Oh yeh, and don't forget - we're giving out soccerballs to the kids over there too. Completely makes up for destroying their country and killing at least 40,000 of their men, women and children, huh? Hey kid we bombed your parents but here's a soccerball and you better be damn grateful for it too b/c we liberated you. Neoconservative "logic" at its best.

Freedom is on the march.

Posted by: Ohio guy | March 19, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh, now I remember what's going on in Iraq. I didn't read it, I saw it on Fox News. We're building pre-schools there.

Posted by: Gravy | March 19, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

SandyK said:

"Problem is: there's no one hot button issue to fire up both parties to win defectors"

Umm ... okay ... wow, that's strange because I have a big map of the Middle East up on my wall, and I don't know if you're aware of this, but there's this country right in the middle called Iraq. I'm not sure on this (things get kinda hazy when you spend your time smoking pot and getting laid), but I think I recall reading that there's something going on there.

You're certainly right that the Republicans are much better at PR than the Democrats. Republicans are certainly much better at presenting a united front and have been quite successful at portraying divergence of thought among Democrats as being wishy-washy or directionless. Homogeneity and intolerance of dissent are certainly politically expedient, so lucky for y'all you've got that on your side.

It's also true that Democrats have become increasingly out of touch with the south as the Dixiecrats have become Republicans. Man I wish we could get the racist vote back, but what are ya gonna do?

I'm gonna order a pizza.

Posted by: Gravy | March 19, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I meant to say use your words not, you your words, lol!

Posted by: Jason | March 19, 2006 12:30 PM | Report abuse

It's better to flunk P.R. than it is to flunk governing, which the Republicans are doing--to you your (and V.P. Dick Cheney's) words, big time!

Posted by: Jason | March 19, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Coming from a sockpuppet, I'll take that as a hypocrisy in action.

How many nicks is it now? 1000??

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 19, 2006 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Sandy-- youre stupid.

love

J

Posted by: Anonymous | March 19, 2006 5:22 AM | Report abuse

Yo Sandwich,

If you told me before you were using a different nick, Sockpuppet.

Which, again, proves how Dem screamers recycle themselves and their message. With what? One or two strays non-voting strays?

The Dem party REALLY needs a lesson in PR, as they're flunking it bigtime.

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 19, 2006 2:43 AM | Report abuse

Robert Chapman,

It's the same sing-song. Online there's a lot of the *same* angry Democrats (who travel from DU to KoS and other Dem friendly sites), sprouting, "NO YOU'RE WRONG!!" rants. But like clockwork, every single election their message falls on deaf ears. Why? Because there's only a handful of these screamers (as it is with all fringe types), and their fellow travellers DON'T vote.

All those "get out the vote" campaigns at college fail, as the kids are more interested in getting laid, getting high, and other persuits, than standing in line at a polling station on a cool to cold November day.

As much as folks may not like Bush, the alternative isn't much better. At least the majority (that seals elections) know what the Republicans are about, and know they're not going insane (like the rioters in France now).

So Dems, unless you bring forth a middle-of-the-road alternative that has name recognition and hasn't supported the Dem fringe, you're not going to recover many seats. You guys fail to carry the South and Midwest, and in doing so you WILL lose the election. The South in particular has carried the election from the Kennedy election, and will this time, as well.

I know you don't like that message, but facts are facts -- not recycled DU and KoS garbage (which, again, don't vote).

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 19, 2006 2:38 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Robert, you might want to check your facts next time. Democrats gained House seats in 1996 (11), 1998(5), and 2000(3). We lost a small number in 2002, and an even smaller number in 2004--so small that without Tom DeLay's redistricting of Texas, the Democrats would actually have achieved a net gain in House seats.

That TX redistricting plan could still be thrown out in time to return the state to its previous districts for this fall, and Democratically-controlled states like IL and NJ will gradually catch up to TX in redrawing their districts to favour our candidates. The ultimate result will be a wash.

But like I told Sandy, stay complacent, I hope those laurels are comfortable.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | March 19, 2006 1:30 AM | Report abuse

The GOP has gained seats steadily in every election cycle except 98. The GOP has shown a genius for taking open seats.

This trend is now starting to come to a close because the seats that are now in Democratic hands are pretty much solidly Democratic districts.

From what I read there are twelve districts or so that Kerry won that have sent GOP representatives to Congress.

These are the districts that are likely to be bellwethers. But it is unlikely that the majority of the new session will determined in these districts because so many GOP incumbents are retiring.

It will be very easy for the GOP nominees in districts where GOP incumbents are retiring to distance themselves from the DC leadership.

The wave of GOP retirements assures the elections will be determined by the quality of the Democratic candidates in a district by district line-up. The Democratic penchant for internecine primaries works against them.

Unless the Democrats have solid, bright, hard-working, undamaged and credible candidates on the hustings, the GOP will not lose many seats.

It is still very early, but one would be extremely foolish to put any serious bets on a Democratic majority in either chamber for the next Congressional session.

Robert Chapman
Lansing, New York

Posted by: robert chapman | March 18, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Sandy K you make the point that middle-aged people and the elderly vote in large numbers.

So I guess that disastrous Medicare Prescription Drug Plan is really gonna help republicans in november then, huh?

LOL.

Neocon fantasy land is a strange place indeed.

Posted by: Ohio guy | March 18, 2006 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The fall elections will be a national referendum on Bush and the Bush agenda. Period.

If voters want the country to continue to focus on tax cuts for the wealthy, tax increases on the middle class, tax breaks for rich insurance and oil giants, invading countries that have no link to 9/11 and are no threat to us, selling American infrastructure to Dubai, obsessing about gay marriage, incompetence in response to natural disasters, and spending like crazy while running up the national debt to $9 trillion, they will vote for Bush.

If the voters want a change and they want Congress to focus on making health care afforadable for everyone, reforming public education, fixing social security, making college more affordable, fighting a truly effective war on terrorism, cleaning up lobbyist corruption, revoking tax breaks for the top 1%, balancing the budget and competence at all levels of government, they will vote for the Democrats.

This is the choice the democrats will make clear to the American people and that is why they will crush the republicans come november.

Posted by: Ohio guy | March 18, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Tom Reynolds is in a really unenviable position. Republicans have marched lockstep with Bush the last 5 years and benefitted and now, they can't stop doing that, even though it's leading toward disaster. All he can say is, "Oh, things might really suck, but we've gerrymandered the districts so well that we can't possibly lose." I suppose he thinks the Democrats lost Congress in 1994 because they weren't filling potholes fast enough. Oh, and SandyK, could you remind me how Bush's visit to Virginia pushed Jerry Kilgore over the top? Bush's approval is 33%. He has no impact on other races except to turn people away from the candidate he is supporting.

Posted by: Q | March 18, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

That's great Sandy, the 33% of Americans who still support Bush can all turnout, and we'll barely have to get half the 64% of Americans who oppose him to vote to retake both houses of Congress. Keep resting, hope those laurels are comfortable.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | March 18, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Um, voters younger than 30 were the only group whose support for the Democratic ticket and turnout rate INCREASED from 2000 to 2004. I'm 29, and I've never missed a general, primary, or special election yet. I've turned out to vote for school board and fire district commissioner. Sorry the facts aren't convenient to your stereotype.

http://sandwichrepair.blogspot.com

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | March 18, 2006 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Bukko,

Is that more excuses to not show up at the polls?

If it wasn't for granny I think we'd have a monarchy, considering the youth -- time and time again -- don't bother to vote.

Dean sure found that out during the election. The web teenaged antics plays well for hot heads online, but it's the middle aged or elderly that vote and are put off with it.

So stop making excuses, and get the screamers to vote, not pine on their butts all day online at KoS or DU.

SandyK
Who voted in the '92; '96; '00; '04 elections (and more)

Posted by: SandyK | March 18, 2006 8:47 AM | Report abuse

The people of the U.S. will take back the power in this country for the middle class. The name of that power will be the Democrat Party. Come November there won`t be many Republicans left.

Posted by: melvin | March 18, 2006 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Do you really think Democrats can gain any ground when Republicans control the voting machines in so many places? Fraud will keep the fascists in power. I no longer believe the United States is a democracy any more. That's why my wife and I emigrated to Australia. Good luck -- you'll need it!

Posted by: Bukko | March 18, 2006 6:48 AM | Report abuse

Do you really think Democrats can gain any ground when Republicans control the voting machines in so many places? Fraud will keep the fascists in power. I no longer believe the United States is a democracy any more. That's why my wife and I emigrated to Australia. Good luck -- you'll need it!

Posted by: Bukko | March 18, 2006 6:47 AM | Report abuse

NoVA wrote:
===========================================
"By contrast, Emanuel is doing what HE has to do, which is to make it a national election. That is the way the Democrats can get the tidal wave they need to carry them into power in the House and/or Senate."
===========================================

Fat chance. Again Dems lose the ball. This election is home based, going national will show they're out of touch for the 2nd time (like nominating Kerry, that could not carry the South/Midwest <-- political suicide politicking).

The ports deal showed across both sides of the aisle what matters to those in their own districts, and if these politicians don't appease them, they're out of office.

Problem is: there's no one hot button issue to fire up both parties to win defectors, which means money is going to be spent on local elections to shore up the base for 2008.

If Dems go national, it won't matter how low Bush's popularity numbers are, his supporters will win <-- because they'll turn out to vote!

SandyK

Posted by: SandyK | March 18, 2006 3:33 AM | Report abuse

This year's elections will be national. Support for the Iraq war has fallen to record lows (37%). Support for Bush has fallen to new lows (34-37%). Democrats win voters' trust on every issue with the exception of terrorism in some polls, where they have almost completely wiped out the Republicans' lead. Gallup's latest generic congressional ballot test, as much as I dismiss generic ballot tests most of the time, shows Dems with a 16 point lead over Republicans--the largest they've had in 24 years. The Dems are gaining seats in both houses of Congress, the question is just how many. They could even recapture the majority in both.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | March 18, 2006 2:22 AM | Report abuse

The only thing that can save the GOP is gerrymandering.

http://www.intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | March 17, 2006 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Reynolds is doing what he has to do, given the tenor of things. The GOP cannot win by running a national election in 2006, so they have to try to localize things.

By contrast, Emanuel is doing what HE has to do, which is to make it a national election. That is the way the Democrats can get the tidal wave they need to carry them into power in the House and/or Senate.

Right now, it's looking like the tide is building, but it's only mid-March. It's up to the Democrats to pound the drum from now till November, and not only to tell the voters why they should dump their GOP incumbents by why the Democrats' solutions make sense.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months. Tidal wave or no? Locally-fought races or a national focus?

Posted by: NoVA Dem | March 17, 2006 8:01 PM | Report abuse

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