Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Murtha Raises Profile

Although it stands to reason that John Murtha will have a tougher re-election fight this year than in the past, I've seen little to suggest that Diana Irey has really made it a competitive race yet. Most notably, analysts like Chuck Todd at the Hotline, Stu Rothenberg, and Charlie Cook - who are paid to know where the real races are - have named this as a contest to watch.

Murtha's announcement that he intends to campaign for 41 Democratic colleagues this year can be seen in two ways: it could be a sign of how confident he is that he can leave his home district for a lengthy amount of time during prime campaign time; or, it could be a foolish signal to his constituents that he has forgotten about them:

To raise profile, Murtha will stump for 41 Dems
By Alexander Bolton

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who has suspended his race to become majority leader in the event that the Democrats capture the House, plans to campaign in 41 races around the country where he said party leaders believe he can be helpful.

This is a dramatic increase in activity for Murtha, who did not campaign for House candidates in 2004, according to his spokeswoman.

Helping Democratic candidates could pay dividends in a race for majority leader against Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Murtha says he thinks such a race is likely and told The Hill that if the election were held now Democrats would be catapulted into the majority.

...Hoyer, Murtha’s potential rival, is planning to travel to 36 districts to campaign for vulnerable Democratic incumbents as well as challengers, according to a Hoyer aide.

“Mr. Hoyer has already campaigned and recruited in 51 districts this cycle, plans to travel to almost 40 more before Election Day and has spent five months on the road for House Democrats as whip,” Hoyer spokeswoman Stacey Bernards said. “He continues to work tirelessly to take back the House and make Nancy Pelosi the first woman Speaker.”

A spokeswoman for Murtha said her boss is expected to campaign for a mix of Democratic lawmakers and challengers.

Murtha may be calculating that he needs to do more to help candidates if he is to counter Hoyer’s prolific fundraising for Democrats over years. Hoyer has given $770,000 to Democratic candidates this election cycle, more than any other lawmaker, his aides say. He has also raised $2 million for candidates this cycle, they add.

If Democrats win the House in November, freshmen could determine who becomes majority leader. One Democratic candidate who said Murtha offered to come into his district said the senior Pennsylvanian is doing “spadework for his run to majority leader.”

“Why else would he be wanting to come into districts like mine?” the candidate said, noting that President Bush carried it by more than 10 points in 2000 and 2004.

...But some Democrats, particularly centrist lawmakers who support Hoyer, question whether Murtha can be helpful in many races that their party needs to win if they are to capture control of the House.

“I’m sure Mr. Murtha is going to be traveling extensively, but I bet you he won’t be going to Blue Dog districts,” one lawmaker said, referring to members of the caucus of centrist Democrats from the South. “I can’t imagine that he will be very welcome in many Blue Dog districts...”

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