by Jonathan Singer, Wed Sep 05, 2007 at 11:12:30 AM EDT
If the Republicans want to have any hope of retaking the House in 2008 they're going to need to recruit strong candidates to challenge potentially endangered Democratic members, particularly those who are only in their first term and particularly those who represent districts that tend to otherwise vote Republican. But in case after case the Republicans have failed to woo top candidates in the districts they need to.
Take North Carolina's 11th congressional district, which leans about 7 points more Republican than the nation as a whole in presidential elections. Last fall, Democrat Heath Shuler defeated the ethically-challenged Republican Congressman Charles Taylor and at least theoretically would not be immune to a challenge from a strong Republican candidate. But as Mark Johnson reports for The Charlotte Observer, the GOP was met with a loud "no" from one of their top prospects in the district.
N.C. Sen. Tom Apodaca, the No. 2 Republican in the state Senate, announced Monday that he will not run for the congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a freshman Democrat whose district could make him one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Congress next year.
"My family, friends and supporters have been wonderful in pressing me to run," Apodaca said in a prepared statement. "As of now, I'm in a position to do more for Western North Carolina in Raleigh than I would be as part of Congress."
National leaders from the Republican Party had courted Apodaca for the campaign, given his Henderson County base and tenure as deputy Republican leader in the state Senate. At Monday's Apple Festival parade in Hendersonville, onlookers occasionally shouted "Congressman!" at him.
It looks like folks are afraid of Shuler -- and for good reason. It's not for nothing that Shuler won by 8 points in 2006. At the same time, Shuler is a freshman in a fairly Republican district, and in a vacuum Republican legislators like Apodaca would be chomping at the bit for an opportunity to run.
But this cycle is clearly not gearing up to one in which there is no wind blowing in either direction. While the political environment could change before election day, the fact is that at this key moment, when both parties are desperately fighting to find the right slate of candidates so that they can increase their share of seats in both chambers of Congress, the Democrats are tending to hear "yes" and the Republicans are tending to hear "no" -- a clear sign that, at least as far as Republican state legislators and county commissioners and businessmen and the like are concerned, there could be another bloodbath for the GOP in 2008.