Bush Unpopularity Wreaking Havoc on GOP Recruitment Efforts

There have been at least some concerns on this side of the blogosphere that although there have been a number of Democratic recruiting successes so far this cycle -- Reps. Mark Udall and Tom Allen for the Senate races in Colorado and Maine, respectively, are two prime examples -- there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that there are credible Democratic candidates in as many contests as possible in 2008. Yet for all of these worries, which at least at their core represent genuince concerns even if they are overstated, they perhaps might not be arrived at if Republicans recruitment woes, which are even more significant than those of the Democrats, are taken into account. For instance, today Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at the current environment for Republicans.

President Bush's unpopularity and a string of political setbacks have created a toxic climate for the Republican Party, making it harder to raise money and recruit candidates for its drive to retake control of Congress.

Some of the GOP's top choices to run for the House next year have declined, citing what Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) called a "poisonous" environment. And Republicans' fundraising edge, an important advantage over the last five years, has dwindled.


Though Republicans have recruited many solid candidates in their effort to retake Capitol Hill -- and they have more than 18 months to improve their fortunes -- the environment could get worse.

Damaged by ethics scandals in 2006, the GOP in recent weeks has seen FBI raids at businesses or homes connected to two of its congressmen. A federal agency last week began an investigation into Bush advisor Karl Rove's political operation, and congressional panels authorized a flurry of subpoenas related to White House political activities and the run-up to the Iraq war.

Three-term Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut, who lost his seat last year by 83 votes, said he turned down an appeal from the GOP to run again in 2008, partly because of the dismal political climate. In a district dominated by Democrats, he said, it has become impossible for even a moderate Republican like himself to win -- especially since he voted to authorize the war in Iraq. Republicans in recent days said they had found a solid candidate to run in Simmons' place: the former commander of the area's naval base.

In Colorado, Republican Sen. Wayne Allard's decision not to seek reelection set the stage for one of the nation's most competitive 2008 races. But the top choice of party leaders, former Rep. Scott McInnis, has taken a pass, citing family reasons. McInnis had nearly $1 million stockpiled for the race.

This is not the first time that the perceived weakness of a President has adversely affected his party's ability to recruit congressional and senatorial candidates. One need look back only as far as the 1996 cycle, when Bill Clinton's reelect and approval numbers were in a low enough territory in early 1995 to dissuade potential Democratic candidates, thus making it difficult for the Democrats to retake the House or the Senate that year, to see how the problems facing a President can quickly trickle down to his party. Perhaps what augurs worst for Republicans is the fact that even if the party's fortunes improve later in the cycle it might be too late to find enough suitable candidates to be able to reclaim one or both chambers of Congress, a problem that befell Democrats in that 1996 cycle.

But early pessimism tends to breed even more pessimism throughout the cycle. Although this situation does not always play out -- in 2005 and 2006 Democrats were quickly able to shake off the notion that they did not have a chance to win back the House and the Senate and were able to find the slate of candidates to help them achieve this ultimate goal -- it often does. The fact that the Republicans, both on the presidential level and within the campaign committees, have not been able to keep pace with the fundraising of their Democratic counterparts so far this cycle is more likely to instill yet more pessimism rather than bolster the hopes of the party.

This all points to something important: Unless the Republicans are able to fundamentally alter the political environment in the near term, they could be faced with an even worse environment simply because of the inertia working against them. Certainly this isn't to say that the Democrats are now bound to increase their seats in Congress and win back the White House next fall; the Democrats could, of course, stumble politically, and a failure to recruit great candidates on their part could also lead to great number of missed opportunities. That said, the onus is more on Republicans at this point than it is on the Democrats -- and luckily it appears that the GOP is far from figuring out a cure for its woes.

Tags: 2008, Recruitment, Republicans (all tags)



But one wonders

why it has been hard so far to recruit Democrats to run in 2008... all Democrats with ambition should be eager to run. What is the problem?

by Populism2008 2007-04-29 02:16PM | 0 recs
Re: But one wonders

I think there are a few reasons. In some instances -- say Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, who turned down the opportunity to challenge Oregon's Republican Senator Gordon Smith -- it's because the Democrat in question is now finally in the majority in the House and can wield some power. In other instances -- say Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in Kansas, who appears loath to challenge GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, or Kentucky Rep. Ben Chandler, who is leaning against a challenge to GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell -- it's because the other Senate seat in the state will likely open in the not too distant future. In other cases, like Oklahoma, it's because it is a presidential year and statewide races in the state tend to go GOP in presidential years.

That all said, Democratic recruitment actually seems to be on a fairly good path so far, even if there have been some potential candidates unwilling to take the plunge.

by Jonathan Singer 2007-04-29 02:43PM | 0 recs
Re: But one wonders

It's hard to convince an incumbent House member, who finally has power again after years in the wilderness, to risk having no job at all in January 2009.

by Adam B 2007-04-29 03:17PM | 0 recs
Re: But one wonders

Good points!!

That is why we must send the DSCC and DCCC continued contributions.

I know we beat each other up on these primary candidates, but the control of the senate and house, to me is more important than the White House.  Don't get me wrong, I do feel we will win in '08, but the senate and house races are critical, if not vital to keeping control of congress.

by icebergslim 2007-04-29 07:12PM | 0 recs
One thing that helps us...

 ...is that Republicans are remarkably incompetent at self-examination, and thus aren't well-equipped to properly diagnose WHY they've fallen out of favor with most of the public. We are, after all, talking about a political party that still thinks Iraq is a war that can be "won" if we all just clap louder.

  Republicans do not evaluate their decisions on whether they're "working" or "not working"; they evaluate them on whether they're "right" or "wrong". Thus, stay-the-course intransigence, and not just on Iraq. Such extreme dogmatism is the main cause of their troubles -- and the main impediment to fixing them.

  I just hope the Democrats aren't foolish enough to hand the Republicans their momentum back with silly squawking about "bipartisanship" and "caution". Can we ship the DLCers off to Tristan da Cunha for the next eighteen months or so?

by Master Jack 2007-04-29 03:18PM | 0 recs
Re: One thing that helps us...

I really hopw dems don't go with Hillary and possably blow this election.

by nevadadem 2007-04-29 06:08PM | 0 recs

 I hope the Dems don't go with Hillary because she's an evasive, equivocating, corporatist, pro-war, anti-labor elitist who won't move us ten inches from the Bush agenda.

 But I don't think she's unelectable. That's a Republican frame, and I do my best to avoid it.


by Master Jack 2007-04-29 06:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Hillary

I don't think Hillary is unelectable, but if she is on the ballot I think the hard-core right will be out in higher numbers than they would otherwise and it doesn't really matter who the rebublicans nominate.  This higher turnout could be enough to turn some of the closer red districts to remain republican held.

by steburke 2007-04-29 06:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Hillary

Look, anyone who knows turnout numbers and percentages knows that 2004 was the absolute high-water mark for the freepers.  Their best boy Bush was on the ballot against a labeled effete, French-looking, gay-loving Massachusetts liberal.  There's not very many new voters who are suddenly gonna turn up at the polls in 2008, when they didn't bother voting in 2004, or any other election.  That just doesn't happen.

by jgarcia 2007-04-29 06:45PM | 0 recs
If it is Obama or Edwards...

I think the base and PLUS will turn out in droves.  Why?  Because, here we go again, it is not BUSH/CLINTON/BUSH/CLINTON?

I really think people are tried more of the "elitist" that this office has held.  If Hillary Clinton is on the ballot, the Republicans will come out in droves and I do think some Democrats will stay home.  I just think that.

If it is someone "NEW" that will energize people to vote, then they will come out, strong.

by icebergslim 2007-04-29 07:22PM | 0 recs
But why repeat that mistake

when we can choose someone likeable who is not loathed by the American people?

by Populism2008 2007-04-30 12:56AM | 0 recs
Re: But why repeat that mistake

Are you naive enough to suggest that whomever we nominate won't be manufactured into a liberal who is out to destroy the country?

By November 2008, our nominee, no matter who it is, will be unpopular with at least 45% of the United States population.  That just how it is.  Thinking Obama or someone else could possibly transcend this is silly.

by jgarcia 2007-04-30 12:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Hillary

It didn't happen with Dukakis.  He was a liberal who was hated by the right, yet the Democrats still gained a few House seats.

by Toddwell 2007-04-29 07:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Hillary

you think labor is some kind of saint in the democratic party?

http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/4/28/2273 7/4360

your precious labor unions just killed a net neutrality resolution in the california democratic convention. maybe hillary being a little independent of labor isn't a bad thing.

by eddersen1 2007-04-29 07:25PM | 0 recs
Not a Republican frame

They are generally quiet about Hillary's poor chances to win a general election because they want us to nominate her. Actually they (FOX et al) have been praising her ever since January.

by Populism2008 2007-04-30 12:58AM | 0 recs
That is why the Republicans will fail in '08

They are not realistic.

They may be, but on the outer rim, what we see, is totally "state of denial".

George W. Bush, has destroyed the Republican Party.  This is not the Reagan or Goldwater Party.  At least with them, they would NEVER have concocted an excuse to go and occupy another country!! No, Bush has destroyed this party and it will be years before the public let the Republicans take control again.

Another thing is that the public has turned "savvy".  They are getting more information not from the MSM but on their own, now.  They are not listening to George W. Bush or the Republican Party anymore.  This party has truly lost the confidence of the public.

by icebergslim 2007-04-29 07:18PM | 0 recs
Something to think about

Is it too early to start "Contest Every Seat 2008"?  Early start to recruitment in the difficult districts may make it easier to make those early filing deadlines...

by Nina Katarina 2007-04-30 05:25AM | 0 recs


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