Monday, July 31, 2006

Reynolds Paints Hopeful GOP Picture

Roll Call reports that Tom Reynolds talked about the districts where Republicans face the toughest challenge this year, as well as those Democratic districts that are targeted. There are not really any surprises on these lists, but the overall picture seems encouraging for Republicans:

Reynolds Concedes Colleagues Vulnerable
July 31, 2006
By David M. Drucker,
Roll Call Staff

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) named names Friday, indicating where he believes the committee will be most active this fall.
Questioned at a news conference held 102 days before Election Day, Reynolds identified the 14 Republican Members he believes could face the toughest time getting re-elected, and an additional three he is monitoring just in case. The New York Republican also telegraphed where the NRCC is likely to be the most active on offense, citing nine Democratic seats that present his party with its best opportunity for gains.

...In Connecticut, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Reynolds sees difficult political environments statewide and a total of nine seats in play — as well as two competitive Indiana races, but emphasized he is pleased with the campaign performance of the incumbents thus far. He practically ridiculed many of the Democrats gunning for Republicans in those districts.

On the flip side, Reynolds expressed confidence that nine Democratic seats are ripe for the taking, including two in Georgia.

“We’re going to go the distance down there,” Reynolds said.

...Adding to his confidence is the NRCC’s decision to cede control of the committee’s get-out-the-vote efforts to the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Ken Mehlman.

Mehlman’s success running the Bush-Cheney ’04 ground game and Rep. Brian Bilbray’s (R-Calif.) special election victory in June has Reynolds convinced Republicans have a key edge on the ground.

“If money is the mother’s milk of politics, then GOTV — get out the vote —is the survival kit of politics,” Reynolds said.

Republican Incumbents Reynolds Deemed Vulnerable

• Connecticut Reps. Nancy Johnson, Christopher Shays and Rob Simmons. Reynolds said all three are running excellent campaigns, despite the “tough” environment.

“Chris Shays has been a candidate, and an active candidate, for well over a year. Sometimes he [begins] much later after he works very hard as a Member of Congress, and then starts a campaign, maybe [around] now. That’s not the case with him” this year.

• Ohio Reps. Steve Chabot, Bob Ney and Deborah Pryce. “Ohio’s got a lot of action in it,” Reynolds said. “We will just make sure that because the Democrats have targeted [it], that our candidates are out and moving forward.”

• Pennsylvania Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach and Curt Weldon. “The Philadelphia suburbs are tough turf,” Reynolds said. “How well [GOP Sen.] Rick Santorum does in the Philadelphia suburbs means whether he comes back. Three seats are in there.”

Gerlach, he said, is “in one of the tougher seats in the country.” And Weldon “has a serious opponent running against him; the retired rear vice admiral of the Navy in his race.”

• Rep. Clay Shaw (Fla.). “Clay Shaw has a tough race in Florida almost every time” Reynolds said. “[His opponent] is a skilled state Senator coming at ’em. I think that Shaw is clearly down there working. He’s raising money; this isn’t new for him.”

• Rep. Heather Wilson (N.M.). “Heather Wilson has one of the toughest seats in the country. The race starts almost the day after election. I think Heather, as an Air Force Academy grad, Rhodes scholar, is like a combat veteran of politics. She is totally focused.”

• Rep. Jon Porter (Nev.). Senate Minority Leader “Harry Reid [D-Nev.] handpicked his opponent and is coming at him,” Reynolds said. “Five thousand new people a month are showing up in that Las Vegas-based seat. I think Porter is doing everything right. ... Jim Gibbons (R), our colleague from Reno, is running for governor, I think that bodes well.”

• Indiana Reps. John Hostettler and Mike Sodrel. “When you look at Mike Sodrel, he’s going to have a tough re-elect, he knows that,” Reynolds said. “He’s taken two trips to my knowledge, one to Afghanistan and then one to Iraq. The rest of the time he is home working in his district, grinding out the race, town by town.”

Republican Incumbents on Reynolds’ “Watch” List

• Bilbray and Rep. Richard Pombo (Calif.). “I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been too much attention on Richard from Democratic circles,” Reynolds said.

• Rep. Dave Reichert (Wash.). “We’ll watch Reichert in the area of the state of Washington,” Reynolds said. “I’ll say to you that, one of the things I’ve had for a hunch that we’ll see if it plays out: I think Washington Republicans felt ripped off when they lost their governor’s race. I think there’s an intensity of voter interest both in the U.S. Senate seat as well as some of the House seats.”

Reynolds’ Democratic Targets

• Rep. Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), who is facing state Del. Chris Wakim (R). “Mollohan is [in] a Republican seat,” Reynolds said. “He’s been banged up in media accounts. We have a very good candidate in Wakim, who is a West Point grad, Harvard educated; came home, started his family business with his wife. ...We’re going to continue helping him — we like everything we see there.”

• Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), who faces state Rep. Ralph Norman (R). This is “John Spratt’s toughest race since, probably, ’94,” Reynolds said.

• Rep. Melissa Bean (Ill.), who faces investment banker David McSweeney. “That is a good Republican seat,” Reynolds said. “We have a very good candidate there in McSweeney. He is continuing to do the things he needs to do.”

• Georgia Reps. John Barrow and Jim Marshall, who face former Republican Reps. Max Burns and Mac Collins, respectively. “I’ve seen good results in Max’s effort there, both in shoe-leather retail politics, and in fundraising,” Reynolds said. “He’s a pretty interesting guy.”

• Rep. Leonard Boswell (Iowa), who faces state Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti (R). Boswell “has never been a great performer in this seat,” Reynolds said. “We’re very impressed with where we are.”

• Rep. Charlie Melancon (La.), who faces state Sen. Craig Romero (R). “This guy’s filing was $1.2 million in the second quarter,” Reynolds said. “I promise you he got my attention. I think there’s an interesting opportunity there.”

• Rep. Chet Edwards (Texas), who is facing Iraq war veteran Van Taylor (R). “I’ve always been impressed when I’ve been down there helping [Taylor] raise money with the type of people he brings to events,” Reynolds said.

• Rep. Rick Larsen (Wash.), who faces retired Navy officer Doug Roulstone (R). Roulstone “is, every day, moving forward in the types of things he needs to do as a candidate and a fundraiser,” Reynolds said.

To the extent that this represents a complete list, things sound OK for Republicans. Even if they were to lose the dozen targeted seats and not make any gains in Democratic seats, they would retain the majority. That's not a very likely outcome of course.

The worry remains whether there will be a larger wave, which sweeps out all these incumbents and more.

Reynolds also makes an important point: that the person in charge of the GOTV effort is Ken Mehlman, who devised the strategy that turned out a record number of Republican voters in 2004. That operation was so succesful that even though the Kerry campaign hit the total number of voters it targeted, it was still swamped by Republican turnout. If Ken Mehlman can do anything like that this year, Democrats will be aiming for a takeover in 2008 - for the 7th straight election.

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