Thursday, January 14, 2010

GOP and Democrats Lay Out 2010 Plans to Control the House

Summary: As the Democrats and Republicans lay out their 2010 strategy, who will need a miracle to reach their goal?

Following a strategy session in Annapolis this week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) laid out the GOP’s plans to retake the lower chamber.

First and foremost they will use what they call the “80-20 strategy” which basically calls for attacking Democrats on the stimulus, healthcare, and cap-and-trade 80% of the time, and offering their own ideas the remaining 20% of the time this year.

Knowing that they’re even less popular than the Democrats in the minds of the voters, Republican candidates have to focus the majority of their time on attacks.

From Politico:

Republicans aren’t as delusional as some think: They know they aren’t going to win a popularity contest with the public right now. But Republicans don’t think they have to, as long as the public remains down on Democratic rule.

“It is in the mind-set of the public right now: Washington’s out of control,” Cantor said. “They do not have the economic security in their life yet. The 10 months’ time [until the election] is not enough for people to regain their sense of security, no matter where this unemployment rate goes.”

A newly released CNN/Opinion Research poll shows a majority of Americans disapprove of the president’s handing of every domestic issue surveyed — health care policy, the economy, taxes, unemployment and the budget deficit, some by double-digit margins…

…Cantor’s chief deputy whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said the administration’s suggestion that the stimulus would keep unemployment under 8 percent is “going to be the equivalent of [former President] George [W.] Bush landing on the [USS Abraham] Lincoln and saying, ‘Mission accomplished.’”

They will also try to capitalize on the anti-incumbency trends of the moment, offer “a check and a balance to unfettered power”, and try to support more minority candidates.

Republican leaders recognize that their party is embarrassingly white, but they estimate that one-quarter of its top 100 candidates will be minorities. Cantor concedes the lack of diversity in his party today is a big concern. Van Tran, a California State Assembly member who left Vietnam at age 10 in a C-130 military cargo plane, is among the minority recruits they think can win. He is running against Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

Another bright recruit is Hispanic state Rep. Jaime Herrera, running to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Rep. Brian Baird in Washington. Cantor is taking steps to ensure more diversity: This week, he endorsed Ryan Frazier, an African-American city councilman running against Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), even though he’s facing a competitive primary against a former aide to McCain’s presidential campaign.

The 20% of the year they’ll devote to propagating their own ideas will come after Labor Day, at which point they will lay out what Cantor calls “a 21st-century blueprint” that will echo the successful “Contract with America” of 1994.

Cantor says it would start with jobs, then go on to promising a level playing field for investments. Aides say it would be more general than the bill-by-bill roster of the “Contract,” instead focusing on vaguer principles. Tax cuts will be included, too.

Are the numbers there? Well, almost, they hope.

Republicans admit they will need some breaks — a lot of them. They hope Democratic retirements — now at 10 seats — inch up to at least 15. Republicans hope they can win 70 percent of those seats, then defeat 10 percent to 15 percent of incumbents. The spin that the party gives to its prospects: 48 Democrats now sit in districts won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008. Nearly every one of these races has at least one credible Republican or will soon get one. In addition, according to National Republican Campaign Committee data, 32 Democrats won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. Of 10 Democratic open seats, Republicans will be on offense in at least eight. In 13 Republican open seats, Democrats have fielded strong challengers in only two. Remember: This is the Cantor-GOP spin, but it’s not that far from reality.

Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is arguing that Republicans simply won’t be able to achieve such an ambitious goal.

As Democratic leaders see things, the economic situation is going to look a lot more promising in the fall than it does right now. And once you factor in the deeply tainted Republican brand and drill down and look at the 435-seat map on a district-by-district basis, the chances of waking up Nov. 3 to a Republican majority in the House are virtually nil.

“We’ve been saying this would be a tough election year, but it’s a hallucination for Republican leaders to think they’ll take back the House — this is not 1994 déjà vu,” [DCCC] Chairman Chris Van Hollen told POLITICO. “They have to persuade the American people to hand them over the keys, to the same folks who drove the economy into the ditch and now run away from the scene of the accident. All the proposals, the same proposals that got us into the economic mess we’re in.”

While party strategists are, at least privately, steeling for moderate-to-heavy losses in 2010, the range is nowhere near the 40 seats necessary for the GOP to return to power in the House. And that’s an assessment that many nonpartisan analysts seem to share — not to mention Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who recently conceded the same.

First there is the issue of trust, and not many Americans trust the GOP brand.

Given the disrepair of the Republican brand, it’s not entirely clear that the party will be able to capture the anger and frustration that exists in the electorate. Consider this data point from a recent Rasmussen Reports poll: the “Tea Party” outpolls the Republican Party on the generic congressional ballot, 23 percent to 18 percent. Democrats, meanwhile, outpaced them both with 36 percent.

Second, there’s the issue of money. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) currently has $11 million less cash-on-hand than the DCCC - about a quarter of the DCCC’s funds for helping candidates.

Usually the NRCC is able to rely on the Republican National Committee for money - but as we mentioned earlier, the RNC managed to burn through about $95 million in 2009, and now is struggling to come up with additional funds for a more important year.

“If you take the Republican numbers on how many recruits they have ... and divide it with the amount of cash on hand, they don’t have the funds to compete in these districts,” said Van Hollen. “It’s going to be a wake-up call to some of these candidates when they see the people urging them on don’t have the resources.”…

…All of this means the NRCC will probably have to rely on outside conservative third-party groups to lend a hand. And, well, sometimes they can be a little off-message, which won’t be helpful with independent voters.

Third, there’s a civil war within the Republican Party.

Remember the New York 23 special election? That didn’t turn out so well for the GOP. There’s lots more where that came from. According to Democratic estimates, there are anywhere from a dozen to as many as 50 GOP primaries where a conservative grass-roots/tea party candidate is vying with a Republican incumbent or candidate.

Not much good can come of that. It will force candidates to the right — jeopardizing their general election chances in many districts — and raises the prospect of numerous bloodied Republican nominees limping out of the primary season.

Van Hollen also argues that Democrats will win on the economy - a bit of a dice-roll, but something that could pay-off some big dividends.

In the end, the state of the economy will play an enormous role in determining the outcome of the midterm House elections. While a rough economy will obviously hurt Democratic candidates, the economic recovery plan has taken the country out of free-fall and started to stabilize the economy — Democrats will get the credit for it, as well as for cleaning up the mess left by the previous administration and the Republican Congress.

“Republicans have been rooting for failure, and that’s not the way to win elections,” Van Hollen said. “I think that the big issue will be the state of the economy and whether or not voters have confident things will turn around. We’ve got a long way to go in political time, and as we begin to turn the corner on the economy, I believe people’s confidence will be restored.”

As for the government’s fiscal matters associated with the economy, Democrats may be getting a leg up from the Obama Administration. President Obama blasted Wall Street in a statement today, saying “we want our money back.”

From the AP:

It was an emphatic and populist tone for a president keenly aware of public antipathy toward Wall Street. With the sharp words, he also tried to deflect some of the growing skepticism aimed at his own economic policies as unemployment stubbornly hovers around 10 percent.

Obama said big banks had acted irresponsibility, taken reckless risk for short-term profits and plunged into a crisis of their own making. He cast the struggle ahead as one between the financial industry and average people.

"We are already hearing a hue and cry from Wall Street, suggesting that this proposed fee is not only unwelcome but unfair, that by some twisted logic, it is more appropriate for the American people to bear the cost of the bailout rather than the industry that benefited from it, even though these executives are out there giving themselves huge bonuses," Obama said.

And with the anti-establishment nature of public opinion right now, the way Obama called out Wall Street today is something Democratic strategists have been waiting for.

Are the numbers there for the Democrats though?

Republicans simply cannot hit the magic number of 40 seats without a surge in
Democratic retirements. And so far, the number of retirements is not at alarming levels.

In total, 31 House Democrats announced their retirement in 1994. This year? So far, only 10 Democrats, which is not only below the historic norm, but also below the overall number of Republicans — 13, to be exact — who aren’t seeking reelection. And there probably aren’t that many more Democratic retirements to come. Van Hollen has been aggressive in reaching out to possible retirees and has received commitments from most of those who represent the seats most at risk that they’re running for another term.

Back in November, I estimated that Democrats would lose roughly 10-15 House seats this year. An optimistic estimate for the Democrats? Yes. But consider the CQ Map, which still finds a net gain for Democrats in non-toss-up seats. Even if the GOP were to win every toss-up seat, it would only be a net gain of 12 seats over the Democrats.

Hitting 40 will take a miracle for the Republicans.


Just a guy said...

It's a pity that anyone believes Herrera to be "bright."

Anonymous said...

David Castillo, the last time I checked, is a minority candidate already running in WA-3 when the seat was not open and the incumbent was still running. Herrera jumped in AFTER the incumbent quit.
Castillo has raised more money and by far has the more impressive resume - not to mention endorsements. Quit biting on the D.C. hype.
Check him out: