Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Novak: Doolittle Seat 'Leaning' to Democrats

The 2006 Democratic sweep saw most vulnerable House incumbents defeated. Right now there are just 8 seats held by Republicans that were won by Senator Kerry in 2004. That's the good news.

The bad news is, there remain several Republican incumbents in both the House and Senate who might be ripe for the picking in 2008 because of ethics questions. One such Member whom we've looked at before is John Doolittle.

Today in his political report, Bob Novak opines that because of Doolittle's intention to run notwithstanding an FBI investigation apparently related to ties to Jack Abramoff, the seat is rated as 'Leaning Democratic Takeover:'

The power vacuum in the House GOP showed itself last week in the announcement by Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) that he will seek re-election while under federal investigation in connection with the Jack Abramoff probe.

Republican leaders had wanted Doolittle, whose home was raided by the FBI and whose staff has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury (apparently connected to his wife's work with Abramoff), to step down even though he has not been indicted. When asked recently on the record about Doolittle, Republican House leaders Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Adam Putnam (Fla.) pointedly refused to endorse him.

This spells trouble for GOP hopes to hold onto this seat in a very Republican district. Doolittle's insistence on running again leaves only two possible outcomes: Doolittle as the nominee or an ugly GOP primary. Both of these situations could tilt the race towards the Democratic candidate.

Retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown (D) held Doolittle under 50% last year and came within three points of unseating the congressman. Brown, who was boosted by and bankrolled by Democrats nationwide, has recently announced he will run next year. Once again, he will be well funded, and his name recognition will be high.

A squadron of Republicans has lined up to challenge Doolittle or run if he drops out. State Assemblyman Ted Gaines (R), Iraq war veteran Eric Egland (R) and 2006 primary candidate Mike Holmes (R) are all running, and radio host Tom Sullivan (R) might jump in. With that many candidates attracting the anti-Doolittle vote, Doolittle would have a strong chance of winning the nomination. As his legal woes seem to have worsened since 2006 -- and because 2008 may be a worse year for Republicans in California than 2006 was -- this one looks like another Democratic pickup. Leaning Democratic Takeover.
It's clear that Mr. Doolittle will have a very difficult time holding onto a seat with a partisan edge of +11 GOP (that is, the average Republican does 11 points better than the average Democrat here). The Republicans would be better served by another candidate here. But so far House GOP leaders have been unable to dissuade Mr. Doolittle from seeking re-election, although it's clear that they have tried.

No comments: