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A Look at Leadership Changes at the Parties' Campaign Committees

Analyzing the results of election 2006 will surely continue for months, as journalists and political pros argue about just what it was that drove the Democrats to congressional majorities.

But The Fix is forward looking by nature, so we'll turn our attention to the 2008 congressional races by looking at the five of the six party campaign committees that have selected their leaders for the new cycle.

Let's take a look at who's landed where:

* National Republican Congressional Committee: Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.) won a three-way race against Reps. Pete Sessions (Texas) and Phil English (Pa.) earlier this month for the right to head the House Republican campaign arm.

Prior to being elected to Congress in 2002, Cole was one of the GOP's most prominent strategists -- he served as executive director of the NRCC in the 1992 election cycle and was chief of staff at the Republican National Committee during the 2000 election.

During his campaign for the post, Cole promised major changes at the organization including a higher level of member involvement. As a result, it seems unlikely that the senior staff of the organization will stay on. This will mark a major change for the NRCC, as many of its top-level staffers were holdovers from past chairmen like Reps. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and even Tom Davis (Va.).

* Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: Unlike House Republicans who elect their campaign chair, the DCCC head is selected by Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Three candidates are being considered: Reps. Mike Thompson (Calif.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.).

Each has their own case to make. Thompson is a close ally of Pelosi and would likely have been picked as the chairman of the DCCC in the 2004 cycle had he not made a trip to Iraq with Reps. Jim McDermott (Wash.) and David Bonior (Mich.) in September 2002 in which the two other lawmakers criticized the Bush administration and its Iraq policy. Thompson successfully headed the DCCC's incumbent protection program last cycle, as not a single sitting member lost.

Although she was only elected to the House in 2004, Wasserman Schultz was one of outgoing DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel's top lieutenants at the committee this past cycle. She is a hard-charger (reminding some observers of Emanuel himself) and comes from the fundraising hotbed of Florida.

Van Hollen, too, was one of Emanuel's top deputies in 2006. Unlike Wasserman Schultz, Van Hollen won his seat in 2002 in a bruising general election fight over Republican Connie Morella. Van Hollen got to challenge Morella after defeating Kennedy scion Mark Shriver in the Democratic primary. Some strategists believe Van Hollen's experience running a tight general election race allows him to better relate to members (and challengers) in other tough races.

* National Republican Senatorial Committee: Nevada Sen. John Ensign was unopposed in his bid to head the Senate campaign committee. Ensign, who was elected to the Senate in 2000, should benefit from low expectations. Republicans must defend 21 of their own seats, compared with to just 12 for Democrats. And following the poor performance of outgoing Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), Senate Republicans aren't likely to be expecting much from the NRSC.

Ensign has moved quickly to put his own people into place at the committee, including the well-regarded Mike Slanker who will serve as the committee's political director. Ensign's ties to gaming interests in Nevada should help from a fundraising perspective. It will also be interesting to watch how Ensign and incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) interact in their new roles; in years passed the two have enjoyed an unstated mutual non-aggression pact that may well go out the window heading into 2008.

* Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: Senate Democrats got their wish when Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) agreed to a second term as chairman. Schumer lived up to the high expectations for him in 2006 by unexpectedly winning back the Senate. While his fundraising acumen was never in question, Schumer's political savvy was underrated until this past election when he showed a knowledge of how to run winning campaigns nearly unparalleled within his caucus. By the numbers, Schumer is well-positioned to grow the Senate majority. It remains to be seen whether the New York senator can retain his top campaign staff -- executive director J.B. Poersch, political director Guy Cecil, communications director Phil Singer and finance director Julianna Smoot -- all of whom drew rave reviews for their work and may be high on the recruitment list of 2008 presidential campaigns.

* Democratic National Committee: Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's 50-state strategy appeared to pay off on Election Day when Democrats won in places few expected them too -- Kansas's 2nd District and Arizona's 5th District jump immediately to mind. While Dean's strategy continues to be criticized by some members of the Democratic establishment -- led by James Carville -- the DNC chief remains a beloved figure among activists in the states.

* Republican National Committee: Republicans replaced outgoing RNC Chair Ken Mehlman with Florida Sen. Mel Martinez. Martinez will be tasked with raising the money for the committee and appearing as its public face but will have little to do with the day-to-day operations. That burden will fall to Mike Duncan, a longtime party operative.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 28, 2006; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  Democratic Party , House , Republican Party , Senate  
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Next: Voters Are Hot on Giuliani, Cold on Kerry


One thing we can be sure of if a Democrat wants to be President in 2008 it will not be a Senator. With the single exception of John Kennedy no sitting Democratic Senator has ever been elected President going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, JQ Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, Pierce,
Buchanan, Cleveland, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Carter and Clinton were all elected and none of them were Senators. The Republicans have only a slightly better record of electing sitting Senators as President two to the Democrats 1 (Benjamin Harrison and Harding). Sitting Senators who failed to win the Presidency are legendary including Clay, Douglas, Bryan, McGovern, Dole (I know he resigned to run but I still consider him sitting), and Carey.
All this speculation about Hillary, Barack, and John McCain is a waste of time. It will be a governor not a senator who is elected. Why not an Iowa governor he has a better chance than any Senator.

Posted by: Tom Barnes | December 5, 2006 1:07 AM | Report abuse

The NRSC: Bermuda Triangle

I wanted to point out an interesting trend: NRSC chairs do worse after serving in that position. Bill Frist (2002) became Majority Leader, a job he did poorly. He's now out of both the Senate and the 2008 presidential race. George Allen (2004) lost his seat, and his presidential chances with it. Elizabeth Dole (2006) was widely criticized among Republicans and presided over a six-seat loss most people thought impossible until the final weeks of the campaign. She's up for reelection in 2008--she could be vulnerable. Why is she in the Senate anyway? Has she done anything there? Al D'Amato (1998) lost his own seat that year. John Heinz (1990) was killed in a plane crash in April 1991.

I don't envy John Ensign.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 3, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Van Hollen won because Democrats in the MD legislature redrew the 8th district to be more Democratic. It didn't used to have an arm reaching into Takoma Park and Prince George's County. Terry Lierman (now chair of the MD Democratic Party) proved in 2000 that Morella really was vulnerable when he held her to 52%. Van Hollen is no giant-killer, at least in terms of his first general election. His primary win over Mark Shriver was more impressive. (And clearly the better candidate came from behind and won that.)

Either Van Hollen or Wasserman Schultz (who I saw in person and came away very impressed with) would be great at the DCCC. I put both on my list of rising young progressive stars. Thompson seems like a non-entity.

J.B. Poersch is an awesome guy. I hold him in high regard.

Schumer should do a good job leading us to gain another 2-4 Senate seats in 2008.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 3, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I think Van Hollen is probably the best choice for the Dems. He is a very savvy strategist. In 2002, he was able to take down entrenched Republican Connie Morrella while most other Democrats were losing.

Posted by: Sean | November 29, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

drindl - That Dean lost because of the "scream" tape overlooks the reality. In the days leading up to the caucuses, a number of the good political reporters were already reporting that the Dean campaign was losing significant ground; and importantly money was moving to other candidates. The caucuses just validated that.

I saw the "scream" live on C-span, and many more times since. You're right, the context was a lively political rally with an energized candidate exhorting the troops to keep pressing on. But, the tape doesn't have to be altered to make a New York/Vermonter look a little out of his league going "Yeee Haa!" A little odd, but far from the psycho level people continue to make it out to be.

The reality is that the Dean campaign would have been in almost the same amount of trouble without the tape.

Which has absolutely nothing to do with Dean as Head of the DNC.

Dean deserves credit, Emmanuel deserves credit, Carville is simply fronting for Hillary. The Clinton campaign will simply try to muscle their people into the critical positions to aid her.

It will be more difficult after Dean's 50 state strategy; but remember, they were able to accomplish it before with Terry McAuliffe.

The Democratic Party loses if the Clintons are able to do it again.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | November 29, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Who's giving Phil Singer rave reviews?

Posted by: --- | November 29, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to know more about the 3 candidates running to be the DCCC chairman. I really don't think Emmanuel was as cracked up as they make him. I mean it would have been hard to not have won the majority. Hopefully the DCCC, the DSCC, and the DNC can all play nice this election cycle. If i had to pick I'd probably go with Chris Van Hollen. There can still be gains made in NY, CT, NJ, PA, and other Mid Atlantic New England states. I would really like to see someone put some effort into defeating Shelly Moore Capito.

Posted by: aaron | November 29, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Too bad for James Carville and his DC cronies, those 'state activists' are the people who elect the DNC chair. I have said it before and I will say it again Howard Dean saved the democratic party. Period.
And I am going to find out who is running against Rahm Emmanuel in his next primary and I an donating money to that person. The fact that he wouldn't support Dean on the Daily Show is dispecable.

Posted by: Andy R | November 29, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

'Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a frequent critic of Halliburton, is to become chairman of the Government Reform Committee in January, and he has indicated that he plans to introduce legislation to put contractors on a shorter leash. His Clean Contracting Act is aimed at curbing no-bid deals, limiting the use of subcontractors and closing loopholes that Waxman says open the door to abuse.

Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (D-Ill.), meanwhile, plans to revive legislation that would require more oversight of military contractors in Iraq. "This Iraq experience has made the case for aggressive monitoring of contractors," Schakowsky said. "This is a foggy area where billions and billions of taxpayer dollars are being spent, and we have no sense of how or what they are spending or doing."

Industry groups are fighting greater regulation.'

I bet they are... go Dems.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

...ooops --fight to keep Howard Dean where he is, because the corporate types don't like him at all. That's why they desstroyed his candicacy with that absurd, tampered-with tape of the so-called 'scream'. At the time, everyone in the audience was screaming and shouting. He just joined in... but the crowd sounds were engineered out. Easy to do. This is your 'liberal' corporate media, manipulating your mind.

Posted by: drindl | November 29, 2006 9:07 AM | Report abuse

'With Howard Dean the big winner along with grass roots activism hopefully washington based consultants are receding the in the Democratic party. The Bob Shrum's of the world have only brought defeat.'

Hallelujah and agree with all... Howard Dean is a hero, James Carville is an unhinged loser. Like 'activist' above, I've volunteered for several candidate's campaigns over the years, and we just had more resources, more help, more organization at the state level this year than I can ever remember.

No thanks to Rahm Emmanuel or Carville or Shrum or the rest of the DC crowd, who would naturally prefer that all the money be sucked into the insatiable black hole in DC consultants' pockets. And does James Carville, who is married to one of the most insidiously evil republicans in DC, really have democrats' best interests at heart? I sincerely doubt it. He is not to be trusted.

This was an election that was, for once, won by people instead of corporations. And we will have to fight

Posted by: drindl | November 29, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

With Howard Dean the big winner along with grass roots activism hopefully washington based consultants are receding the in the Democratic party. The Bob Shrum's of the world have only brought defeat.

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal Journal | November 29, 2006 8:17 AM | Report abuse

For uncensored news please bookmark:

A Socialist in the Millionaires' Club: An Interview with Bernie Sanders

Washington Dispatch: Vermont's junior senator-elect has a modest proposal for Ted Kennedy's committee: Investigate "power and wealth in America."

Money in America -- who owns and controls wealth -- has been a dead issue in Congress since the New Deal petered out in the 1960s. But the growing gap between rich and poor has put the topic back on the agenda for the new Democratic majority, and Vermont Senator-elect Bernie Sanders says he will propose an investigation of money and power when he joins Ted Kennedy's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in January.

Though technically an independent, Sanders will caucus with the Democrats in the Senate, as he has in the House since he was first elected as Vermont's single representative in 1990. The Dems' one-vote margin should give him considerable leverage: Nobody seriously thinks he would routinely vote with the GOP, as fellow independent Joe Lieberman might well do on some issues, but Sanders is also not a party-line man and in the past has joined Republicans on votes against NAFTA, trade with China, and other issues.

When I stopped by his office last week -- still his old digs in the Rayburn House Office Building -- Sanders, in his standard sport coat and slacks, first excused himself to make a quick phone call: "Hello," he said, "this is Senator-elect Bernie Sanders. Would Senator Kennedy have a little time this afternoon?" He was still getting adjusted, he confessed, to being part of what he calls the "House of Lords." He demurred on my questions about Robert Gates, Bush's nominee for secretary of defense ("I don't know anything about him") and the Murtha-Hoyer leadership fight among his former colleagues in the House. Instead, he insisted on talking about wealth.

Mother Jones: What's your first-100-days agenda?

Bernie Sanders: The first thing I want to do is to force reality onto the floor of the Senate so that we can end this stupid discussion about how great the American economy is. The economy is not great. The economy is a disaster for the middle class.

Second, I want to focus on an issue that is almost never talked about on the floor -- that is the power of big money. What are the moral implications? What do these people do when they have tremendous amounts of money? They use that money to perpetuate their own wealth and their own power. Every day, Congress works on behalf of big-money interests.

Third, I want to take a look at some of the good things that are being done around the rest of the world that are almost never discussed in the United States. How often is it discussed that the American people work the longest hours of any industrialized country in the world? The two-week paid vacation is almost a thing of the past; meanwhile in Europe you get four to six weeks vacation, and maternity leave with pay. We don't know about these things. I want to take a look around the world and see what workers are receiving, and compare that to the United States -- from an educational point of view.

MJ: How would you force these discussions? Through committee hearings?

BS: Yes -- I was very fortunate in that [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid gave me the committees I wanted. I am on Kennedy's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. I am going to be on the environmental committee, with Barbara Boxer, which is what I wanted. Also the veterans committee, the budget committee, and the energy committee; Harry gave me what I wanted.

MJ: You talk about big money. But nobody has seriously looked at this since Wright Patman, the old Texas populist and antitrust crusader who chaired the House Banking Committee for, what, 40 years?

BS: That's right. Patman produced a book on concentration of bank ownership. We can do things like that--take a hard look at who owns America.

MJ: You'd do it through Kennedy's committee?

BS: Yes. We would demand studies, raise questions, get the word out.

MJ: Do you think that Americans are getting nostalgic for a sort of FDR Democratic Party?

BS: No. I think that what this election was about was a rejection of the disastrous policies of Bush, Cheney, and the Republican leadership. It was the war in Iraq. It was incompetence. It was Katrina. It was bad public policy, but it certainly was not an embracing of an alternative philosophy, because in fairness the Democrats are all over the place, and what I have said to the Democratic leadership and will say publicly every chance I get, if the Democrats -- having this opportunity no one thought they would have -- if they do not move boldly and decisively and make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans, they're going to be in a lot of trouble.

MJ: Are you a Democrat, an independent, or a socialist?

BS: You can call me anything you want. I won with the label "Independent" next to my name. If you ask me, "Are you an independent democratic socialist?" -- yes, I am. But then we have to talk about what that means.

James Ridgeway is the Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones.

Posted by: che | November 29, 2006 5:44 AM | Report abuse

As someone who has been a national convention delegate and a member of state and district central committees, I have to say I am a huge fan of Howard Dean.

Carville is just full of himself and sooo 20th century. He's living on former glory while the on the ground volunteers do the work. This year I volunteered my time for 4 legislative candidates, having helped recruit one to run. It is fun but hard work going door to door when it is cold out or when it is so hot that sane people are indoors keeping cool. Does Carville even know people like me anymore or is he too busy being a celebrity?

And about Hillary Clinton: Everyone in DC can crown her the front runner, but if those activists out in the states like someone else, she won't be crowned the nominee just because that is what pundits and famous people in the news want her to be.

Posted by: state activist | November 29, 2006 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Howard Deans strategy was vindicated in a more important way since the Democratic party made huge inroads in several state legislative bodies in several purple states that will help the party going forward. He is one of the more pragmatic political strategists around despite his rhetorical excesses

Posted by: chet | November 28, 2006 9:46 PM | Report abuse

"...the DNC chief remains a beloved figure among activists in the states."

Even after the voters' strong message of Nov. 7, Congress is clueless. They have elected the same leaders they had before and, so far, are rejecting calls for reform. Sure, they'll have hearings and "talk the talk", but will anything actually change? Ya gotta be kidding! It's back to business as usual, just with a different boss calling the shots in the House. If we want our country back, it's Howard Dean and the "outsiders" in the states who will "walk the walk" to get it for us, one way or another. That's where to put your future hopes and contributions.

Posted by: Carol | November 28, 2006 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Carville doesn't know what he is talking about. He presided over Bill Clinton's loss of Congress in 1994 as well as allowing Governor Jim Florio to lose in New Jersey in 1993 after leading by double digits in the polls under Carville's advising.

Posted by: Matt | November 28, 2006 7:33 PM | Report abuse

"While Dean's strategy continues to be criticized by some members of the Democratic establishment -- led by James Carville..."

Just part of the Clinton "control freak" mentality. Like finagling Terry McAuliffe as head of the DNC, who succeeded in leading the Democrats to a number of defeats.

"...the DNC chief remains a beloved figure among activists in the states."

Could a grass roots rebellion by the "locals" do in Hillary?

Posted by: Nor'Easter | November 28, 2006 6:28 PM | Report abuse

CC: "The Fix is forward looking by nature?" Hardly. "The Fix is forward looking by design" is more accurate since that allows endless column inches of speculation.

Did anyone else catch Rahm Emanuel on the Daily Show last night? It was fun to watch him try to keep up with Jon Stewart. Don't give up your day job, Rahm. Stewart also brought up Carville's psychotic attack on Howard Dean to which Emanuel couldn't say much.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | November 28, 2006 5:51 PM | Report abuse

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