Tag Archives: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Republican House Prospects Looking Strong

Last week, Anne Brady, former finance director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, analyzed the House races from her perspective. Today, Jeff Burton, the Deputy Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, offers the GOP analysis.

House Democrats held a press conference last Thursday where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi proclaimed that her party has a “very excellent chance” of winning the majority in the upcoming general election. There’s just one problem – just about every pundit disagrees. Even other Democrat Party leaders fail to share their former Speaker’s opinion. Whoops. Last Monday, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (IL) said he expects the House to remain in Republican hands, and Robby Mook, Executive Director of the DCCC, said just a few weeks ago, “Today, we are in a neutral environment. It is a pretty steep climb in a neutral environment. It’s tough.”

Democrats need to pick up a net of 25 seats to take control. With a month and a half before Election Day, Republicans stand an excellent chance of not only keeping control, but also gaining seats and expanding our majority in the House.

Here’s why:

History is on Our Side – Only once since WWII has the party holding the White House gained more than 15 House seats in a presidential election year. That was in President Johnson’s 1964 landslide win over Sen. Barry Goldwater. President Obama’s negatives (ObamaCare, Cap & Trade, stimulus, economy & jobs) are so ingrained with voters that there is virtually no chance of a Democratic landslide.

Republicans on Offense – In 2010, the NRCC spent over 98 percent of our election money on offense. Going in to 2012, our strategy was to stay on offense and not let the Democrats spend the bulk of their money in Republican seats. Currently, of the $50+ million that the NRCC has reserved for TV this fall, we are spending 40 percent of it on offense, with Democrats following us in most places in an attempt to defend their endangered seats. Needless to say, a majority is not won by spending the bulk of your resources playing defense.

Message – Recent polling shows voters are putting more and more blame for the bad economy on President Obama. The Obama economy has precipitated the worst economic recovery in our nation’s history, and voters aren’t ready to let Democrats get away with it. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, ObamaCare is still an albatross around the necks of congressional Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office just upped both the overall cost of ObamaCare and the commensurate amount of Medicare cuts for current seniors that offset the massive new federal expenditure. Our message of reducing spending & debt, creating jobs, and repealing and replacing ObamaCare continues to resonate with voters. Our incumbents and candidates have done a great job of communicating this message.

Resources – The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) talks a lot about how they have out-raised the NRCC for the cycle. But, as any small business owner will say, ‘you can’t spend gross, you can only spend net’. According to the last report (end of August), the NRCC had $10 million more cash-on-hand than the DCCC. What does $10 million buy? It buys a month of television in Chicago, Sacramento, Denver and Las Vegas: all expensive markets where both parties are playing both offense and defense in multiple districts.

The Drive for 25 – This was the slogan the Democrats came up with after they lost the majority in record-breaking fashion back in 2010. Their math, however, doesn’t add up. Because of redistricting and key Democrat retirements in seats like OK-2 (R+14), AR-4 (R+9) and NC-13 (R+10), Republicans have a number of “gimmies” that we should pick up without spending any money. This, coupled with DCCC recruiting failures in seats in New York, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Florida, and redistricting victories in North Carolina and across the country, provides the basis for every non-partisan political analyst (and even the liberal New York Times) to say that Democrats really need to pick up somewhere between 35-40 Republican seats to win the majority.

All these factors lead to a neutral political environment. Head to head, I would take our incumbents and challengers over theirs any day. So Nancy Pelosi’s “very excellent chance” to take back the House is nothing more than a pipe dream. She won’t be wielding the Speaker’s gavel anytime soon. Hopefully, she never will again.

A Quintet of Close New House Polls

Rep. Mary Bono Mack

Now that we’ve passed Labor Day, congressional polls are going to be released at a fast and furious pace. Yesterday several surveys came into the public domain, each revealing close races for the tested subjects. Some of the new data appears surprising, but considering the redistricting or political situation surrounding the incumbent such results should have been expected.

Around the horn, close races are confirmed for Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-36), Mike Coffman (R-CO-6), Bill Johnson (R-OH-6), David Rivera (R-FL-26) and the open WA-1 campaign between Republican John Koster and Democrat Suzan DelBene.

Polling for the liberal advocacy group Democracy for America, Public Policy Polling (Sept. 12-13; 1,281 likely CA-36 voters via automated interviews) gives California Rep. Bono Mack only a 47-44 percent lead over physician Raul Ruiz (D). The Riverside County district favors Republicans in registration by a 40.3 to 38.6 percent margin and the PPP sampling universe showed a 41-40 percent Republican to Democrat ratio. Therefore, the poll accurately reflects the desert district’s political division. This is the second poll that has projected the campaign to be within the margin of error. Such is not a surprise because this district can be competitive and Dr. Ruiz is proving to be a formidable opponent.

In Colorado, when the court re-drew the 2011 congressional map, the incumbent receiving the most adverse district was sophomore Rep. Mike Coffman. His 6th District went from 53-46 percent McCain to a 54-45 percent Obama, a net swing of 16 points toward the Democrats. So, it’s no surprise that he would be in a tough 2012 campaign. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released another of their methodologically questionable interactive voice response polls, this one of only 350 people. The results show Coffman leading 42-39 percent, which on this type of survey, and being unaware of the types of questions asked, may not be a bad result for the Republican incumbent. The new confines of the district will yield a close race, but it is reasonable to conclude that the DCCC three-point Republican advantage conclusion most likely understates Rep. Coffman’s true support.

The 6th District in Ohio is a Democratic-leaning district at the very least. Freshman Rep. Bill Johnson’s upset of two-term Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) was one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 cycle. Therefore, it was expected that the re-match would be close. According to an Anzalone-Liszt survey for the Wilson campaign (Sept. 9-12; 500 likely OH-6 voters), the results confirm such a prediction. The Democratic internal data projects the race to be a 46-46 percent tie. Both candidates are accusing the other of voting to cut Medicare. The 6th, Ohio’s largest coal-producing district, could well vote based upon energy policy. The Cap & Trade issue was a major reason for Johnson’s 2010 win, even though Wilson had opposed the bill when he was in the House. This race appears to be a pure toss-up.

In Florida, Public Policy Polling, again for Democracy for America (dates and sample size not released) fielded a survey that was basically in the push-poll category as it asked several questions regarding the FBI investigating freshman Rep. David Rivera (R-FL-26). The pre-push result showed two-time former congressional nominee Joe Garcia (D) leading the first-term representative 46-39 percent. After the push questions were asked and recorded, the secondary ballot test gave Garcia a 49-36 percent lead. There is no doubt that Rivera has political problems, and since the new 26th CD is politically marginal the six point Democratic lead is certainly within the realm of possibility.

Finally, in Washington state, a Survey USA poll (Sept. 13-15; 593 likely WA-1 voters) gives Republican John Koster a 46-42 percent lead over Democrat Suzan DelBene. Both individuals are former congressional nominees. The new 1st is much different from the current CD-1 that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Inslee formerly represented. Fifty-two percent of the territory is new to the 1st District, but it’s an area largely comprised of places Koster represented during his tenure in the legislature and on the Snohomish County Commission. While 56 percent of the CD-1 voters supported President Obama in 2008, such a number represents a swing of 12 points toward the Republicans from WA-1’s former configuration. The S-USA poll shows Koster trailing DelBene by just one point among female voters, which is likely to expand in DelBene’s favor as the campaign continues toward Election Day. This race is expected to be close, but in a presidential year, the Democrats should command at least a slight edge.

House 2012: The Democratic Perspective

I’m introducing Anne W. Brady as a guest columnist today. Anne is the former Finance Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and offers her party’s perspective about the upcoming election. Next week, we will have a guest Republican express the countering opinion.

Two years ago the Republican Party rebounded mightily from two lean election years and claimed a new majority in the House of Representatives. The Tea Party movement energized the GOP and many seats flipped from blue to red. Now, just two short years later with a presidential election in full swing, the questions being asked are whether the GOP will maintain control of the House and how the political landscape will be configured after Election Day, Nov. 6.

For House Republicans, the challenge to maintain the seats won in 2010 and their ability to increase the size of their conference is a more difficult task than many believe. With President Obama campaigning for a second term, we will invariably see a significant uptick in Democratic voter turnout. The GOP is defending more than 50 districts that voted for Obama in 2008 while Democrats must protect only 15 seats that backed Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee.

In order for the House to change party control this year the Democrats would have to gain a net 25 seats, which most political pundits say is challenging to say the least. This is particularly true in a redistricting year that the GOP largely controlled. In contrast, however, it is clear that some of the new Republican incumbents who swept to victory in 2010 may have tougher than expected re-election campaigns come this November. Greater Democratic turnout and very low congressional approval ratings, hovering around 10 to 11 percent, are two key factors that will cut against Republicans.

The real target in the swing regions is the Independent voter, who in many districts supported Obama four years ago but then switched to GOP candidates in the mid-term elections, thus proving they are open to messaging from both parties. With this in mind, we have seen some Republican incumbents focusing less on attacking Mr. Obama and more on trumpeting their independence, pragmatism and bipartisanship. On the national level, at least in the presidential race, the conversation has taken a much different tone and each party has largely focused their turnout strategy upon energizing their base and communicating with ideologically driven voters.

In a poll released last month by the liberal advocacy group Democracy Corps, it was conceded that the Democrats may not have the net gain of the 25 seats they need to regain the House majority, but they do stand a chance to win in approximately two dozen blue seats now under Republican control. The poll tested 54 targeted GOP-held districts and it showed Democrats leading on a hybrid generic ballot test question by an average of 50 percent to 44 percent in the 27 most vulnerable GOP-held districts as identified by the pollsters. It is also worth noting that freshmen represent many of the more vulnerable districts. Many of these first-termers rode the Tea Party wave into office and don’t yet have years in office building the good will to protect them from voter concerns about Congress.

While it’s clear the 2012 election isn’t going to create a Democratic wave like the one we saw in 2006 or commensurately for Republicans in 2010, it is evident that the House is in play and every seat will count come Election Day.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Today’s spotlight takes us to southern California to underscore just how much difference redistricting and election law changes can make in campaign strategy. The new CA-26 was deliberately designed as a 50/50 seat, and the state’s novel primary law is forcing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) into making some rather unorthodox spending decisions.

CALIFORNIA (current delegation: 34D-19R) – The new 26th District is fully contained within Ventura County, which sits between cities and counties of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. According to the latest census count, Ventura has 823,318 residents, which makes it a major political division. The new 26th was designed with the idea of creating a marginal district that would remain competitive throughout the decade. As an open seat, because Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA-24) is retiring, the district appears to be performing as intended.

Sixty-four percent of the district’s territory comes from Gallegly’s 24th District. Thirty-five percent is added from Democratic Rep. Lois Capps’ 23rd CD, with just a sliver from Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D) current 30th (1 percent). Though President Obama captured 56 percent of the vote here in 2008, the 2010 numbers tell a completely different story. In the governor’s race, Democrat Jerry Brown, the eventual winner, came up one point short in the 26th, as Republican Meg Whitman nipped him 47-46 percent. Republican Carly Fiorina came in ahead of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) by an almost identical 47-45 percent spread. Finally, to counterbalance the Obama double-digit win, the Republican candidate for Attorney General, Steve Cooley, notched a 49-38 percent score against Democrat Kamala Harris, the statewide winner by less than half a percentage point.

In addition to redistricting, the other major California electoral change concerns how the state nominates candidates for the general election. Instead of featuring a closed primary election system that sends one Democrat, one Republican, and multiple Independent candidates to the general election, the new system puts forth only the two top vote-getters regardless of political party affiliation. The new procedure is creating havoc in District 26.

The Democrats were solidly behind their Ventura County supervisor, Steve Bennett, early in the race. Both the local and national party felt Bennett gave them their best chance of attaining victory in the marginal seat. After officially entering the race, Bennett decided to return to local government instead, and withdrew from the congressional campaign. This left the Democrats without a strong candidate until they were able to recruit three-term state Assemblywoman Julia Brownley; but the heart of her current legislative district is in Santa Monica and not Ventura County. For their part, Republicans coalesced around state Sen. Tony Strickland, who had twice been a statewide candidate.

It is the second supervisor in the race, Republican Linda Parks, who will test just how the new law works. Instead of running as a Republican, knowing that Strickland would take the majority of the GOP primary votes, she decided to declare herself as an Independent, thinking that this would be her best chance of snatching a run-off position away from the Democrats. Parks is a major Ventura County political figure, serving her third term on the Board of Supervisors after winning election as mayor of Thousand Oaks after serving on the locality’s city council. This contrasts heavily with Brownley, though representing some of Ventura County, who actually hails from Santa Monica in Los Angeles County – a point that Parks consistently reiterates.

The set-up here is forcing the DCCC to involve itself in the June election because they fear that both Strickland and Parks could qualify for the general, thus leaving them without a candidate in a seat that they can certainly win.

The DCCC is therefore actively communicating with voters, sending mailers that “Photoshop” Parks into a setting with Republican leaders such as Sarah Palin and former president George W. Bush. Others drive home the point to Democratic voters that Parks is actually a Republican. But Parks counters by highlighting other campaign messages from her previous opponent, ironically Sen. Strickland’s wife, Audra, who challenged her for the board two years ago, that identified her as a liberal and being too aligned with the Democrats. Parks is cleverly juxtaposing both mail messages to prove that she is, in fact, independent because both parties have launched similar attacks against her.

Redistricting and the election law process were done to change the voting system in California, and it appears those goals have been accomplished. The developments in the 26th District until the June 5 qualifying election will be very interesting to watch. It is clear we are seeing unusual happenings here, which are expected to continue.

Republican-Held CDs: A Vulnerability Analysis

The House Majority PAC, run by a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee political director who served under then-chairman Rahm Emanuel, released the findings of Public Policy Polling vulnerability surveys for eight Republican-held congressional seats (all conducted during the Jan. 18-23 period). It is not known in exactly how many districts the PAC polled, but these eight will undoubtedly be competitive and obviously fare the best for Democrats among those tested.

Though the release was done in the context of making the GOP incumbents look as vulnerable as possible, looking beyond the numbers and overlaying the new district lines tells, perhaps, a different story in many of these targeted CDs.

The eight are:

• CO-3: Rep. Scott Tipton (R), 46% vs. Sal Pace (D), 39% – The 3rd District of Colorado is commonly described as the Western Slope seat. The region encompasses the mountainous western part of the state but comes east along the state’s southern border to capture the Democratic city and county of Pueblo. Because the split-control Colorado legislature was unable to produce a new congressional map, the subsequent de novo court map kept the integrity of the district intact and made the swing seat lean just one more point toward the Democrats. Sal Pace is the state House minority leader and expected to be a strong challenger. Scott Tipton is a freshman who defeated three-term Democratic Rep. John Salazar in the last election 50-46 percent. This is expected to be a close race, but since the Republican presidential nominee usually carries this region, Tipton might get a point or two bump. At this point, a 46-39 percent spread for numbers released by a Democratic Super PAC are not too bad for the incumbent Republican in a district that traditionally features tight congressional contests.

• IL-8: Rep. Joe Walsh, 35% (R) vs. Generic D, 49% – The two Democratic contenders in this new district are former US Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Tammy Duckworth and ex-Deputy State Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi. The generic ballot question suggests that Democrats have a strong chance of unseating freshman Rep. Joe Walsh here, in a Democratic redraw that was designed to do just that. Walsh’s decision to run in the new 8th instead of facing a GOP incumbent pairing with fellow freshman Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) is highly questionable. Despite House Republican leadership promising to raise Walsh millions of dollars if he were to run in the 8th District, the demographic and political numbers paint an unpleasant picture regarding the freshman’s chances. Expect the Democratic nominee, likely Duckworth, to romp in the general election. The PPP generic poll has a high probability of being accurate.

• IA-4: Rep. Steve King (R), 49% vs. Christie Vilsack (D), 43% – Rep. Steve King’s 5th District, now labeled #4, is quite different under the new redistricting design, as the state lost a seat in reapportionment. Instead of occupying the entire western side of Iowa from north to south, the new 4th CD keeps only his north-central western base and now travels as far east as Mason City, Charles City, and New Hampton. The seat is generally Republican, but King has drawn a challenge from Christie Vilsack (D), wife of US Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. She will have all the campaign resources she needs to run a competitive race. Since Vilsack likely has higher name ID throughout the entire district than does Rep. King, a 49-43 percent spread in the congressman’s favor is not particularly bad news for he and the GOP.

• MD-6: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 42% – One of the biggest redistricting victims in the United States is 85-year old Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). He has seen his district go from a 58 percent McCain performance to a 56 percent Obama number with the addition of more highly Democratic precincts in Montgomery County. Under the new district lines, Rep. Bartlett is a clear underdog in the general election, assuming he survives an eight-person Republican primary. Considering the drastic nature of the redraw, pulling dead even in what is now a decidedly Democratic district is actually a surprisingly good showing for the GOP incumbent.

• MI-1: Rep. Dan Benishek (R), 41% vs. Gary McDowell (D), 46% – Rep. Benishek is trailing by five in a new district that is slightly more Republican than the one in which he defeated then-state Rep. Gary McDowell (D) 52-41 percent in 2010; and that is a sign of trouble. Though the seat was held by Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak for 18 years, the voting history of northern Michigan is hospitable to Republicans. Therefore, a poll showing Benishek already trailing McDowell, who just announced he was going to run again in September, should be a cause for concern among Benishek and the northern Michigan Republican party.

• OH-6: Rep. Bill Johnson (R), 42% vs. Charlie Wilson (D), 41% – Though Ohio loses two congressional districts, the configuration of the 6th District that hugs the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders all the way from East Liverpool and Steubenville down to and through Scioto County stays virtually intact under the new Buckeye State map. The seat juts west on I-70 at Cambridge in order to pick up some new Republican voters to give Johnson some help. The freshman congressman’s opponent is former two-term Rep. Charlie Wilson, who Johnson defeated 50-45 percent in 2010. A one-point polling margin is what one would expect in this district featuring two well-known candidates at such an early point in the election cycle. The new OH-6 race is likely to remain close all the way to Election Day.

• OH-7: Rep. Bob Gibbs (R), 42% vs. Generic D, 43% – The new 7th District is a radical redraw from the current 18th CD that elected freshman Rep. Bob Gibbs. Instead of stretching south from the central part of the state, the new 7th moves north to grab the city of Canton, sweeps around new District 16 in a horseshoe-shaped fashion to pick up the city of Ashland on the west, and then travels north all the way to Lake Erie. The new district should elect a Republican, but Gibbs is unfamiliar to a large number of voters. The fact that he is virtually dead-even on the generic ballot question is not particularly bad news for the new congressman. Once he becomes better known throughout the entire new district, and is paired with a live Democratic candidate instead of a party label, his ballot test numbers should dramatically improve.

• OH-16: Rep. Jim Renacci (R), 46% vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D), 46% – The 16th District doesn’t much resemble either GOP Rep. Renacci’s current 16th CD, nor Rep. Sutton’s 13th District. Renacci represents a greater proportion of the new district, but it only slightly leans Republican. Therefore, it is not particularly surprising that the two candidates are starting on even footing. This is another race that will be hard-fought. Because Sutton’s political base was split among several districts, forcing her to begin again from scratch, she faces the more difficult path to re-election. OH-16 is one of just three districts in the nation so far that features an inter-party incumbent pairing. The other two are CA-32, with Reps. Grace Napolitano (D) and David Dreier (R) facing off – though it is highly unlikely that the Republican will run here – and IA-3, with Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) lining up against each other.