Sunday, October 07, 2007

Why Tom Cole is Optimistic About 2008

David Broder talks to Tom Cole:

I think that is a tough sell politically. But I'm more persuaded by his argument that Republicans have little to fear from a Hillary Clinton candidacy. "That is no landslide election," he said. "The Republican nominee, whoever he is, wins at least 43, 44, 45 percent against her, and that gives us a base for congressional races.

"She is not going to carry Georgia or Kansas or Texas, and we have good candidates running against shaky Democrats in every one of those states. There are Democrats sitting in 61 districts that Bush carried; 47 that he carried twice. We are on the offensive in those districts," he said.

That may seem implausible, but Cole has history on his side. In 1992, as he notes, incumbents were hammered, 24 of them losing in November, 17 others failing in their primaries. The Republicans achieved a net gain of 10 House seats that year, a feather in the cap of the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Tom Cole. Now, no longer a hired staff man but the chairman, Cole faces a familiar challenge. In 1992, the Democrats nominated Bill Clinton for president -- and he won. But his party, nonetheless, lost House seats. Cole is out to make history repeat itself.
In essence, Cole is arguing two things:
  1. The Republican candidate will not lose a blowout; and,
  2. Turnout will be high in Red states where there are important House races.
Those are important points.

Analysts frequently note the large number of swing seats in 'purple' states, or in states that lean Democratic. It's argued that unless the Republican candidate wins in a landslide -- which no one thinks will happen right now -- that there won't be big GOP gains in those seats. But some forget that there are many Republican targets in conservative states, where a nominee like Hillary will likely lose badly.

For example, Indiana is home to three freshman Democratic incumbents in marginal seats -- Joe Donnelly (R+4), Brad Ellsworth (R+9), and Baron Hill (R+7). In Florida, Tim Mahoney (R+2) won only because of the Mark Foley scandal. in Georgia, Representatives Marshall (R+8) and Barrow (D+2) both won close races in 2006, and will have tough races in 2008. In Texas, Nick Lampson (R+15) is a likely loser next time out, while Ciro Rodriguez (R+4) could be as well. Nancy Boyda (R+7) in Kansas is also likely to be defeated, if the GOP can settle on a good candidate. In North Carolina, Heath Shuler sits in a seat with a 7 point GOP edge.

That's ten potential pickups, just in strong conservative areas in strong conservative states. The margin of House control is just 15, so a gain of six more in the rest of the county -- along with no other GOP losses -- would give House control to the GOP. And we haven't yet talked about Republican-leaning districts in moderate (and even liberal states). There are plenty of those as well (eg, McNerney in CA, Bean in IL, Hall & Gillibrand in NY, Mitchell and Giffords in AZ, Space in OH, Altmire and Carney in PA, Tim Walz in MN). After all, it's simply not possible for Democrats to hold forty-seven seats that George Bush won twice, without there being plenty of potential targets for the GOP.

I'm not saying the Republicans will win back control of the House, I'm just saying that it's likelier than people now acknowledge. In fact, in any scenario where the Republican nominee wins the White House, it might actually be a likelihood.

Read also Prairie Pundit and BCB.

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