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.
November 28, 2006; 4:45 PM ET
Categories: Democratic Party , House , Republican Party , Senate
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