House Republicans Forced to Play Defense

I'm trying to figure out how the Republicans are supposed to have a legitimate shot at retaking the House in 2010 but am still getting stuck on the math. As I noted last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was, as of the latest numbers, sitting on a net 5.5 times more money in the bank than the National Republican Congressional Committee, with the NRCC holding roughly enough money to competitively play in -- no joke -- one or two congressional districts. And where is the NRCC spending money right now? Not on offense but on defense.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is up on radio airwaves with a spot blasting Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan (D), who announced earlier this year that he is challenging Rep. Charlie Dent (R) in the eastern Pennsylvania 15th district.

The NRCC would not divulge the size of the buy, but their early purchase signifies that this is likely to be one of the top targeted races of the 2010 cycle. The radio spot, "It's a Callahan Christmas," follows Dent's 10,000 robocall "offensive" against Callahan earlier this month.

If the Republicans need to pick up more than 40 seats in order to retake the House, their campaign arm only has enough money to play in a couple of races, and at present the place where the NRCC is spending its cash is in a district with a vulnerable GOP incumbent -- a defensive rather than an offensive move -- how, again, are Republicans supposed to regain the majority?

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GOP trying to pressure 17 House Dems to retire

The Iowa blogger John Deeth brought this piece by Hotline's Reid Wilson to my attention.

An informal list of 17 members the NRCC believes can be convinced to step down, privately called the "Dem Retirement Assault List," makes clear the party needs Dem incumbents to step aside if they have hopes of taking back the majority. The NRCC has taken pains to attack those lawmakers in recent weeks.

The list includes 14 members whose districts voted for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in '08. McCain won districts held by Reps. Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Bart Gordon (D-TN) with more than 60% of the vote, and districts held by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Marion Berry (D-AR), Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Mike Ross (D-AR) with more than 55%.

McCain narrowly won seats held by Reps. John Spratt (D-SC), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Vic Snyder (D-AR), Baron Hill (D-IN), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Tim Holden (D-PA) and Collin Peterson (D-MN).

The NRCC has also begun targeting Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Leonard Boswell (D-IA), three members who already have credible opponents but who occupy seats Pres. Obama won in '08.

Here in IA-03, Boswell has three declared Republican opponents. Two of them are likely to be well-funded: Brad Zaun, who has a decent chunk of the Iowa GOP establishment backing him, and former Iowa State university wrestling coach Jim Gibbons. Gibbons has already launched a couple of misleading attacks on Boswell, claiming he's not working hard enough and that the estate tax fix will hurt farmers and small business owners.

2008 would have been a perfect time for Boswell to retire. Tons of voters in IA-03 registered as Democrats in order to participate in the Iowa caucuses, and any number of candidates could have held this seat easily.

I don't know anyone who expects Boswell to step down next year, but if he did, this might be a tough hold, since Democratic turnout tends to be lower in off-year elections. On the other hand, much would depend on the Democratic nominee. One possible candidate is former First Lady Christie Vilsack, who seemed to leave the door open for a future campaign when she ruled out running against Senator Chuck Grassley.

Final note: in that Hotline piece, Wilson writes that

members frequently use the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks as the time to decide whether to retire, filling Dec. and Jan. with announcements about their future. Already, rumors are flying that various members have decided not to run again.

I hope we don't hear about more than a few additional retirements this winter. Who do you think are the most likely suspects?

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House 2010: The Money Chase

Not sure how the Republicans are supposed to retake the House if the Democrats have more than five times more money in the bank than they do.

The DCCC, like its GOP counterpart, spent more than it took in during Oct., thanks to the expensive NY-23 special election. Still, it outraised the NRCC, as the Dem cmte took in $3.8M last month. It also outspent the NRCC, shelling out nearly $4M (about $1.1M of which aided now-Rep. Bill Owens' (D) winning campaign).

While the DCCC has more debt than the NRCC ($3.3M-$2M), it has a huge cash-on-hand edge. At the end of Oct., the DCCC had $14.5M in the bank, while the NRCC lagged with just $4.2M.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had a net $12.2 million in the bank as of the end of October; the National Republican Congressional Committee had a net $2.2 million in the bank at the time. This means that, as of the latest reading, the DCCC had more than 5.5 times more money on hand than did the NRCC.

When the Democrats sought to retake the House in 2006, cash management played no small role in their success. Indeed, by the summer before election day, the DCCC managed to stockpile more cash in the bank than the NRCC, a nearly unprecedented achievement to that point.

The NRCC is doing better than it was doing at this point in the 2008 cycle, when the committee was still running a net deficit. Nevertheless, until the GOP is able to make up this major disadvantage on the House side, undoing the Democrats' more than 5.5-to-1 lead in campaign cash, it's not at all clear to me how they are supposed to mount the type of effort that could possibly retake the House in 2010 (even leaving aside generic ballot numbers that show them continuing to trail nationwide).

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Why is the NRCC Tweeting About Hitler?

Really?

The site linked to by the National Republican Congressional Committee -- the official campaign arm of the House Republicans -- says that Barack Obama shares the same goals as Adolph Hitler. Seriously. What is wrong with these people?

Update [2009-10-13 12:55:36 by Jonathan Singer]: It looks like the NRCC has pulled the tweet. Still. It's hard to fathom how anyone at the committee could believe it to be in good taste or even remotely acceptable to link approvingly to a site linking the President to Hitler.

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Weekly Pulse: Angry Mob Demands the Status Quo

By Lindsay Beyerstein, TMC MediaWire Blogger

By now it's clear that the Senate Finance Committee won't cough up a healthcare bill before the summer recess. As Nick Bauman points out in Mother Jones, the delay is sure to sap momentum for reform. Worse, the break will give healthcare reform's opponents more time to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Disinformation is already running wild.

Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent points to July 31 memo from House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) entitled "A Very Hot Summer," in which he announces that the GOP has launched an "entrepreneurial insurgency" against healthcare reform.

And now the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is openly celebrating the angry mobs of anti-reform protesters that are disrupting town hall meetings and shouting down pro-reform Democrats, as Eric Kleefeld of TPM DC notes. "Roaring Chants Interrupt Healthcare PR Campaign As Dems Lose Their Cool and Town Halls Turn Into 'Town Hells'," gloats one NRCC email message to reporters. This campaign's official logo depicts a donkey being roasted alive.

If the reformers used the NRCC's playbook, reporters would be deluged with retaliatory tweets claiming that teabaggers are killing babies and raping old women, but facts are stubborn things. As of press time, the Pulse is not aware of any ritual sacrifices by teabaggers at townhall meetings.

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly warns that the GOP's strategy to egg on the wingnuts could have unintended consequences:

"It's probably the one angle the corporate interests and their lobbyists haven't considered: the unintended consequences of rallying confused right-wing activists to shout down policymakers who'll improve their health care coverage. Once you wind up the fanatics and point them in the direction of a town-hall meeting, you never really know what they're going to say, do, wear, or hold. In at least one case at the Doggett event, there really was a sign with Nazi "SS" lettering."

Top Obama adviser David Axelrod denounced groups like Conservatives for Patients Rights for stoking the protesters. Axelrod pledged to aggressively combat misinformation about the Obama administration's reform plan, as Rachel Slajda of TPM reports. Is it a coincidence that Axelrod was abruptly issued a Secret Service detail this week without explanation?

In the American Prospect, Paul Waldman describes how Republican members of Congress are promulgating the urban legend that the healthcare bill includes mandatory euthanasia:

"In some tellings, government bureaucrats will visit the elderly to force them to choose their manner of death. In another, their doctors will be required to "tell them how to end their life sooner" (this one is being popularized by Betsy McCaughey, as despicable a merchant of lies as has ever slithered through our public debate). One GOP member of Congress after another has simply dispensed with all the complexity and said that the Democratic health plan will cause seniors to be "put to death by their government" or some variation thereof."

The rumor grew out of a provision to reimburse doctors for end-of-life care, including discussions of living wills, as Waldman explains.

Speaking of misinformation, Rep. Kent Sorenson (R-Iowa) is tweeting nonsense about a shadowy healthcare commissioner who decide's everything for you, as Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent reports. "Page 42 healthcare bill 'Health Choices Commissioner' will decide health benefits for you. You will have NO choice," Sorenson breathlessly informed his followers. In fact, according to an analysis by the Pullitzer Prize-winning website PoliFact, the healthcare commissioner would regulate insurance companies to make sure they don't exclude people for preexisting conditions.

At the rate misinformation is mutating, perhaps Republicans will have convinced themselves that the bill will create Health Care Commissar who will involuntarily euthanize you and make your grandmother have an abortion by tomorrow morning.

Congress will return from summer break on September 4. Expect heated rhetoric and increasingly frenzied political theater in the weeks ahead.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about healthcare and is free to reprint. Visit  Healthcare.newsladder.net for a complete list of articles on healthcare affordability, healthcare laws, and healthcare controversy. For the best progressive reporting on the Economy, and Immigration, check out Economy.Newsladder.net and Immigration.Newsladder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder.

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