What the DCCC?

The Hawaii special election seems pretty bizzare. We have a couple of Democrats in the running, and a Republican. Whomever wins a plurality gets the nod.

On the onehand, AFSCME is backing Democratic state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, so is EMILY's list, so are both Democratic Senators, Inouye and Akaka. On the otherhand, we have Ed Case, a former Representative that was a pretty conservative vote, considering he's represented Hawaii.No one is backing him, but the DCCC thinks he's more "electable" so they are:

In recent weeks, the DCCC reached out to Inouye and Akaka, both of whom have endorsed Hanabusa, to inform them the committee is considering lining up behind Case, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversations. 

"We have to figure out how we convince them that it's not in our interest to take a loss," said a top Democratic official who is not involved in the DCCC’s efforts.

Practically speaking, though, the key to delivering a win for Case may have less to do with Akaka and Inouye than with the Hawaii's most powerful union— the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is also backing Hanabusa.

Case has burned too many bridges in HI to get the full backing of the party. His staying in the race is probably the only way that the Republican could win with a plurality. This would be the time that you'd think the DCCC comes in and tells Case he doesn't have a chance, but instead is working at tearing down Hanabusa:

...the DCCC is providing under-the-radar organizational support to former Rep. Ed Case against state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, including assistance from DCCC western regional political director Adam Sullivan.

Those efforts have coincided with the circulation of opposition research within Washington advancing the notion that Hanabusa is a longtime insider who received significant legislative pay raises at a time when the state has suffered through economic hard times—an emerging storyline that led Hanabusa to pull down her first campaign ad touting a vote to cut state legislative salaries and concede that the spot was misleading.

A pretty bone-headed ad, to be sure. So the DCCC did the oppo research on the Democrat and brought about a possible scenario in which Democrats lose the special election in Hawaii.

THings also don't look too rosey in Mutha's CD, where the more-electable Hafer was pushed dropped out of the primary:

The contest to replace the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha is still taking shape but Democrats in Pennsylvania and Washington are expressing worries is that the party nominee, former Murtha district director Mark Critz, is uniquely vulnerable to being painted as a political insider at time when that is no asset.

“Locally, there’s a lot of anger, people know things aren’t right. And it taps into the general anxiety out there that things are on the wrong track,” Barbara Hafer, Critz’s one-time primary opponent and a former state treasurer, told POLITICO. “That could lead into a throw-the-bums out attitude.”

One Democratic operative following the race, noting that public polling shows Critz with a narrow lead over Republican businessman Tim Burns in a district with a significant Democratic voter registration advantage, was blunter in his assessment: “It’s easy to make an argument that he’s part of the problem. He was a Hill staffer, he asked for questionable earmarks. There’s a lot to beat him up on.”

It's looking like Democrats will be lucky to come out of this with a split.

House 2010: Staying on the Offense

As most readers of this site are probably aware, I'm not yet sold on the notion embraced by some that the House has already been all but lost by the Democrats. Part of the reason is that it's still very early, and we do not know how the political environment -- and even more so the economic climate -- will change in the next eight months. Part of the reason is that election prognosticators in recent cycles have fairly consistently underestimated Democratic performance. And part of the reason is that the Democrats do have some opportunities to stay on offense.

The DCCC is rolling out their roster of promising challengers, determined to stay on offense amid a harsh national political climate.

The party will target 7 GOP incumbents and 4 GOP-held open seats this year, armed with prominent challengers who have demonstrated their ability to raise money and build effective campaign organizations.


Inaugural Red-to-Blue members:

Candidate            Incumbent         District 
Ami Bera             Dan Lungren         CA03
Paula Brooks         Pat Tiberi          OH12
John Callahan        Charlie Dent        PA15
John Carney          Open (Castle)       DEAL
Suzan DelBene        Dave Reichert       WA08
Lori Edwards         Open (Putnam)       FL12
Raj Goyle            Open (Tiahrt)       KS04
Bryan Lentz          Open (Sestak)       PA07
Rob Miller           Joe Wilson          SC02
Steve Pougnet        Mary Bono Mack      CA45
Dan Seals            Open (Kirk)         IL10
Tom White            Lee Terry           NE02

The list is a good one, and the Democrats have legitimate shots at winning in a number of them, particularly the open seat races.

But one incumbent target worth mentioning is Mary Bono Mack, who has never faced a genuine challenge during her time in Congress. Representing a district anchored in the Palm Springs-area of Southern California that backed Barack Obama by a 52 percent to 47 percent margin in 2008 and which backed Al Gore's 2000 Presidential bid with 51 percent of the vote, Bono Mack might be more vulnerable than many think -- particularly considering that her challenger is the popular mayor Palm Springs, Steve Pougnet.

Bono Mack has quite a bit more money in the bank than Pougnet does at present -- but Pougnet has shown decent fundraising chops, bringing in more than $550,000 through the end of the year and holding $400,000 in the bank. With new fundraising support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, these numbers could come closer to equalizing in the months leading toward the election, and this could be a real race.

DCCC head not afraid of nationalized election

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen told Greg Sargent that he isn't worried about Republicans nationalizing this year's House races:

They’ve got a very tough argument to make,” Van Hollen told me, speaking of Republicans. “If you want to nationalize the election, you also bring in Bush and Cheney. If they do that, they open the door to the question: Why would you give the keys to the guys that drove us into the economic ditch and then refused to help get out of that ditch?”

“If you want to talk about President Obama’s record, you have to recognize that he inherited a mess that was given to us by Bush and Cheney,” Van Hollen continued. “You can’t argue one without having to address the other. We will ask a simple question: How did we get into this mess and what have Republicans done to get us out of it?”

One tricky thing for the DCCC is that making the election about Obama could help some incumbents by driving up Democratic turnout, but many House Democrats in Republican-leaning districts will prefer to emphasize their "independence" from the president's agenda. Most of the 42 Democrats in the DCCC's Frontline program represent more conservative districts.

I do agree that it's imperative for Democrats to remind voters whose economic policies made the past decade a lost one for the middle class while the wealthiest made a killing. Although we can't make this year's election primarily about George Bush, Democrats ran successfully against the "party of Hoover" for many election cycles.

UPDATE: Republican activists are upset that RNC Chairman Michael Steele predicted his party won't take back the House majority this year.

Democratic Recruiting Ailing



Democratic Recruiting Ailing




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