Wednesday, December 9, 2009

GOP Trying to Push some Dems into Retirement, incuding our own Sanford D. Bishop

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.

"Applying constant pressure in combination with the looming threat of a credible challenge is what should make every single one of these guys think twice," said a GOP strategist involved in targeting the Dems.

The pressure has largely come from press releases hammering the incumbents, but the NRCC has signaled it will put at least a little money behind the effort. Last month, the NRCC launched ads against Pomeroy, Snyder and Spratt. Although the ad buys were tiny -- the GOP spent a total of just $6,300 for a few spots on Fox News in all three districts -- they attracted earned media as well.

Already, Reps. John Tanner (D-TN) and Dennis Moore (D-KS) have said they will not run for re-election next year. Though Dems have already picked up a good recruit in Tanner's seat and have no shortage of strong candidates eying Moore's, the GOP will make a push to pick up both districts.

DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer dismissed the GOP's pressure strategy, arguing that his rivals don't have the money or the energy to apply any.

"The NRCC has only 4 million cash on hand and just committed political malfeasance in the special election in NY-23, where they threw away nearly a million dollars on a candidate that dropped out and fueled a Republican Civil War in the process," he said in an email.

But Dems are aware they have a potential problem with retiring incumbents. In '94, the GOP picked up 22 seats from Dems who decided not to run again. As Charlie Cook writes today, GOPers won 71% of Dem open seats that year; in '06, Dems won 38% of GOP-held open seats.

DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen has what he calls an "early warning system" aimed at identifying members who are considering stepping down and talking them into one more term. So far, the system has worked.

Aside from Tanner and Moore, just 6 Dems have decided to pass on another term; all 6 are running for higher office. Only seats held by Reps. Joe Sestak (D-PA), Charlie Melancon (D-LA) and Paul Hodes (D-NH) give GOPers opportunities for pickups. At this point last cycle, a Dem aide points out, there were 18 GOPers who had said they would not run for re-election.

But 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. That adds up to 2 very long months ahead for Van Hollen and company.

nOW I don't know about the other dems, but let say this about Bishop: He has come under fire, mainly from groups like the Tea Party Protesters & the Freedom Line group that's based in Thomasville over his votes for Cap & Trade & the Healthcare Legislation. He has a credible challenger in Mike Keown of Coolidge, who at last report raised $100,000 in a district that is overwhelmingly democratic. I still say Bishop wins, but not by the margins he has enjoyed the past 10 years. The only way Bishop leaves his congressional seat is he is givven a federal appointment or become the next Scretary of Agriculture, which is more likely. And even if he were toleave the seat, it would be a up hill climb for any republican unless the district is gerrymandered.

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