The logic behind the new NRCC target list

On Tuesday the National Republican Congressional Committee released a list of 70 Democratic-held U.S. House districts it says it will target next year. Huffington Post ran the full list along with this Republican description:

Those targeted satisfy at least one of these requirements: They won less than 55 percent of the vote last year or they represent a district carried in 2008 by John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee.

I could tell right away that claim was false, because my own Congressman Leonard Boswell is on the list. Barack Obama easily won Iowa's third district, and Boswell was re-elected with just over 56 percent of the vote last year. Although Boswell remains in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Frontline program for supposedly vulnerable incumbents, Iowa Republicans don't seem to be focusing on candidate recruitment for this race. Most analysts do not consider IA-03 competitive.

Over at Swing State Project, James L. posted an extremely useful table showing all 70 districts on the NRCC's target list, the incumbent's name, the partisan voting index, the 2008 margin of victory, and whether Republicans have at least one legitimate candidate lined up. As you can see if you click over, lots of people on this list had very large winning margins last year--much larger than Boswell's. They include quite a few Blue Dogs who represent red districts but haven't faced a serious Republican challenge for a long time.

If most of these districts are lost causes for Republicans, why release such a large target list? I agree with James L.:

Many of these races probably won't produce competitive contests, but there's absolutely no downside for the NRCC to be putting these incumbents on notice -- not only will the targets being painted on these members' backs have the potential to affect legislative votes, it helps to promote the idea that the NRCC is preparing for a big wave in their favor in 2010.

If the NRCC can scare some safe Democratic incumbents into voting against Obama's agenda, fearing a potentially strong Republican challenge, that's the next best thing to winning the district from the GOP's perspective.

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A Slow Fundraising Start for 2010

On the House side of the ledge, the Democrats far outpaced the GOP:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported raising $3.5 million and the National Republican Congressional Committee took in $2 million in February, according to reports that the two House campaign organizations filed on Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

The DCCC, which is defending a Democratic majority that presently includes 254 seats (there are three vacancies in Democratic-held districts), spent $2.6 million in February and began this month with $2.9 million left to spend. The NRCC spent $1.3 million and had $1.9 million cash-on-hand.

The Senate fundraising numbers look much closer:

The National Republican Senatorial Committee will report that it raised $2.87 million in February, matching its Democratic counterpart in fundraising while using much of the money to pay down its debt.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee also raised $2.87 million, ending the month with $3.7 million in its campaign account. It still holds $10.9 million in debt from last cycle and didn't pay any of it off over the past month.

The NRSC now has $1.05 million cash on hand at the end of February, with $2.7 million outstanding in debt. Last month, the committee held more than $4 million in debt. The NRSC's fundraising total is up significantly from last month, when it raised just $1.8 million.

On the national numbers, the GOP came out on top:

The Democratic National Committee raised $3.2 million in February, a strikingly low take for a financial juggernaut led by President Barack Obama and his legions of grass-roots supporters who helped him shatter campaign fundraising records.

Even the committee's Republican counterpart raised more -- $5.1 million -- last month and did so under more difficult circumstances. The GOP was coming off of a disastrous election in which it lost the White House and saw its numbers in Congress shrink further. New GOP chairman Michael Steele also had a rocky start.


The DNC reported $8.6 million on hand and $7 million in debt, while the RNC reported $24 million in the bank and no debt.

The DNC numbers aren't entirely surprising given that party chairman Tim Kaine was not fundraising while the Virginia legislature was in session, as well as the decision not to hold a fundraiser featuring the President until this month. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a significant difference on this front when the March numbers are released.

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GOP Campaign Committees Cannibalizing One Another

The Politico's John Bresnahan has a kind of odd story on how the economic downturn is sapping the Democrats' ability to fundraise for 2010, running under the headline "Dems brace for fundraising slump" -- burying under that the fact that Republicans are in an even worse position (does Bresnahan not realize that politics is a zero-sum game, and the Democrats being hurt, but less so than the Republicans, is actually good news for the Democrats?). But way down in the article, starting around the 23rd paragraph, Bresnahan does report on a particularly worrisome development for the GOP: The bloody fight for campaign cash between the party's committees.

Cornyn has already begun to aggressively woo big Republican donors. And behind the scenes, a battle is shaping up between the NRSC and the NRCC as they fight for dollars from some of the same major donors.

"Keeping at least 40 senators is a lot sexier than giving to the House minority, which has no power at all," said a Senate GOP campaign operative. "We are using that message with everyone we talk to."

The NRCC could face the toughest road of any of the congressional committees. House Republicans are now nearly 40 seats away from a majority. Thus, unless there's a huge GOP wave in 2010, they aren't getting the House back for at least two cycles.


Sessions plans to appeal to the same Texas donors Cornyn is eyeing, but Republicans acknowledge that he has a much tougher sell.

It's near impossible to see House Republicans regaining the majority in the next cycle with or without money, so perhaps it's a moot point, then, that it appears as though Senate Republicans are selling out their brethren on the other side of the Capitol building for campaign cash. What's more, it's never really a new story to see campaign committees on the same side of the aisle duking it out for contributions. Nevertheless, reading through this article, you can smell the desperation within the Republican ranks -- even 3,000 miles away from the Beltway out here in Berkeley. And for all the money problems Congressional Republicans had in 2008, which not only inhibited the party's ability to retake Congress but also helped lead to massive losses on election day, you get the sense that everything is going to be that much worse for the GOP in 2010. Seems like it's the Republicans who really need to brace for a fundraising slump, not the Democrats.

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DCCC Swamping the NRCC in Independent Expenditures

The Club for Growth (and believe you me, I don't love linking to them) makes an astonishing find (get the pure numbers here from Swing State Project):

I added up the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spending for Monday. They spent $14.9 million. $14,498,252.55 to be exact.

To put this number into further perspective, that is more in ONE DAY than the National Republican Campaign Committee has spent the WHOLE election cycle on IEs. $14,463,380 to be exact.

First Read wrote about this earlier this week, and I think it bears repeating in light of the massive spending discrepancies between the Democrats' and the Republicans' House campaign arms: We could potentially see significantly more surprise winners on election night than we did even two years ago, when the Democrats swept into power in the House.

Think about it. In 2006, there were perhaps three surprise winners for the Democrats -- Dave Loebsack in Iowa, Nancy Boyda in Kansas, and Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire. Sure, there were some other almost surprise winners that hadn't gotten the full attention of the race watchers, both in the media and on Capitol Hill, candidates like Larry Kissell in North Carolina and Gary Trauner in Wyoming. But for the most part, the Democrats who won in 2006 were candidates on the radar.

Now, however, the race is so wide open, there were so many GOP retirements, and the Democrats have so much more money than the Republicans that we really could see a sea of Carol Shea-Porters. All the more reason, then, to pay heed to the calls from Markos and others not to leave anything anything in reserve but rather to make it a real sprint to the finish line.

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KS-02 Why Nancy Boyda is Getting Safer

As her Republican opponent files the biggest single quarter fundraising report from a Kansas congressional candidate in the state's history, Congresswoman Nancy Boyda (D-KS) actually finds herself increasingly more secure in her first re-election bid.

Even with a $681,000 quarter and running in a district that went to George W. Bush by double digits, Republican Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins woke up today to not only still find herself behind in cash-on-hand, but she also had to read that The Cook Political Report had moved the race in the Kansas 2nd out of the "Toss Up" column and into "Leans Democratic." 

The question is: Why?

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