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House Republicans: Reynolds Says Majority Not at Risk

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) today said the upcoming midterm elections will be decided on local rather than national issues and promised that the GOP would retain its House majority after November.

Rep. Tom Reynolds
Rep. Tom Reynolds has the difficult task of protecting the GOP's House majority in the 2006 midterms. (Ray Lustig - The Washington Post)

At a briefing for reporters, Reynolds insisted that the ethical problems plaguing a handful of Republican lawmakers will have little impact on the reelection hopes of GOP congressional candidates generally, rejecting the idea that voters will latch on to the Democrats' "culture of corruption" argument. Despite the attention being paid to lobbying reform in Washington at the moment, Reynolds said the issue is "not on the American peoples' tongues."

Democrats, of course, aren't buying it. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a response memo shortly after the conclusion of Reynolds's briefing arguing that the "confusing, unpopular Medicare plan, skyrocketing gas and energy prices and the war in Iraq are indeed local and personal issues. They are the very local and personal issues that have the vast majority of voters angry at their Congress, and angry at their Republican incumbents."

Expect the debate over whether 2006 will be a local versus national election to be one of the main matters of contention between the two parties for the next nine months.

During his briefing, Reynolds issued a full-throated endorsement of embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who announced last night he is seeking reelection despite the possibility he may be indicted in connection with the influence-peddling schemes of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"As long as Bob Ney is running for Congress, we are going to support him," said Reynolds, explaining that the NRCC is at its core an "incumbent retention organization."  No primary challengers have emerged in Ney's district, although the filing deadline isn't until the middle of next month. Reynolds acknowledged that Ney is "going to have a tough race" but expressed confidence in the Ohio Republican's support among county chairs within the district.

As for the other embattled members of the House Republican Conference -- Texas Rep. Tom DeLay -- Reynolds was effusive in his praise and confidence in the Texan's reelection chances. "Tom DeLay is going to win his election," said Reynolds.  He called a recent Houston Chronicle poll showing DeLay trailing former Rep. Nick Lampson (D) just a "snapshot" in time, not a true measure of DeLay's support in the district.

Reynolds tried to steer away from making specific predictions about how many seats his party would gain or lose come November, promising only that Republicans would retain the majority in the midterm elections.  Most independent analysts see Democrats poised to make gains between 5-10 seats, a number that would leave Republicans with a narrow majority.

Much of Reynolds's future leadership aspirations are tied up in the results of November elections.  If he is able to keep GOP losses to the low-to-mid single digits (or make gains), he will likely to be well-positioned to make a run for Speaker when Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) leaves the post. If Republicans suffer major losses at the ballot box, Reynolds would have a hard time convincing his colleagues that he should be their next leader.

For the moment, Reynolds is staying put at the NRCC, stating once again on Friday that he will not leave the committee for a chance to be majority leader. "I am going to remain as chairman through election day 2006," he pledged.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 27, 2006; 2:54 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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Often GOP right wing types dismiss Democrats and liberals as impossibly out of the mainstream to such a degree that their ballot box power is now nonexistent. Not so fast. The mid terms will show that Dem candidates can get votes from all flavors of Democrat, many Independents, and a portion of the Republican who are alienated due to the changed nature of the GOP (excessive religiousity, etc.) and want to send a message by crossing over. National issues, especially Iraq, will definitely be factors in local elections. If you are very displeased about events involving Iraq, why would you vote for a Republican who several weeks later may be photographed in the Oval Office shaking hands with George Bush? I am certain Democrats are going to get a portion of their votes simply from mainstream people who are pissed and want to send a message.

Posted by: ballhawk | February 2, 2006 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans care for anything other then winning at all costs. They live in a world of illusions and as long as US citizens are willing to send the poor and the middle class' sons to war (of which the only winners are the corporations which have no loyalty to anything but to the dividend check owners) they will continue to rule poorly and with only their survival as the important point.

We need a revolution. We need a new constitution. We need to tame the upper classes......

Posted by: Odessyus | February 1, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

The Republicans know they are in trouble,yet, they continue to put on a air of optimism. Their corruption and deception throughout their party runs rampant. From their lies about going to war to the lobbying corruption scandal. I am a an independent voter and I cannot be labeled bias for what I've written. The Republicans need be voted out in huge numbers.

Posted by: k. wilson | January 29, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Tom Reynolds' district solidly republican, but I wonder if local support for him is equally solid? I live in the southern part of his district. Unlike his predecessor, in the 6 or so years he's been in office, Reynolds has never visited this area. (Unless it was a well-guarded secret - which is not too likely for a politician!)When he ran in '04 I spoke with a lot of "republicans" who felt he was invisible. IMHO, he's spent is time in Washington building a national reputation, while hardly taking notice of the folks back home. It's typical of the democrats' lack of imagination that they've never mounted a serious challenge to his re-election.

Posted by: Livingston County Independent | January 28, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I'm afraid that the phrase "incumbent retention organization" says it all... and for both parties.

That's why the United States Congress has re-election rates about equal to those of the Supreme Soviet.

Posted by: Dave | January 27, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

From everything I have read Reynolds is probably right. The republican majority in the house is pretty solid and making up 15 seats is gonna be tough for the Democrats.
That being said the idea that this election is gonna be about local concerns and not national issues is misguided at best. The democrats will use there leg-up with the corruption issue and the wire taps (which I think will be a MUCH bigger story the Abramoff in a few months) to raise enough money to MAKE it a national election. Also with Howard Dean's new strategy of having a presence in all 50 states I don;t see how it won't be a national election.

Also I mean I know the guys job is to spit the party line but if he is so high on Ney why aren't they giving him any money? In my experience if you want to know who someone in washington supports don't listen to what they say, watch where they throw send their checks.

Posted by: Andy R | January 27, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse

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