Saturday, April 22, 2006

Midterms Looking Brighter For Dems?

First, from Stu Rothenberg's Political Report:

The national mood remains bleak for Republicans. President George W. Bush’s poll numbers have not rebounded, and there is no reason to believe that they will before the fall midterm elections. The public still gives low marks to Congress and tells pollsters that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

At the district level, voters are more critical of GOP incumbents than they usually are at this point in the election cycle. Democratic voters are already polarized against Republican House members, so Democratic challengers can focus their efforts at wooing Independents and disgruntled Republicans, rather than mobilizing their Democratic base.

The only bit of good news for Republicans has been the growing mention of ethically challenged Democratic congressmen in the media. That could dilute the impact of ethics as a purely partisan issue, but the issue is still likely to hurt Republicans disproportionately in the fall, especially since GOP congressmen and staffers will continue to get attention by being linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

We believe that the House definitely is “in play,” and the key to whether Republicans can maintain control is whether they can discredit individual Democratic challengers who otherwise would be positioned to win. We are increasing our estimate of likely Democratic gains from 5-8 seats to 7-10 seats (they need to net 15 seats for control), with a bias toward even greater Democratic gains.

Now from CQPolitics:

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) each reported raising $9.2 million in March, according to reports filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.

But that virtual tie was a big step forward for the Democrats. The NRCC, long a fundraising juggernaut, has outdistanced the DCCC by wide margins in most months of the 2005-06 election cycle, building up a big overall edge in receipts: $83.3 million to $57.7 million.

The Democratic organization also spent much less than the Republican unit last month, narrowing the gap in cash that the parties could spend on the final seven months of the battle for control of the House.

As of March 31, the DCCC had $23 million cash on hand, which was not far behind the $24.5 million that the NRCC had left in the bank as April began. As recently as the end of last August, the NRCC had $10 million more cash on hand than the DCCC: $18 million to $8 million.

As noted by First Read yesterday, on the Senate side Democrats continue to outraise Republicans. A tie in fundraising on the House side truly is a victory for Dems and should put the fear of god in the GOP. The biggest advantage Republicans have had in the past few election cycles, besides Diebold and Karl Rove's bag of dirty tricks (see New Hampshire phone jamming scandal as an example), is money. But if Democrats can equal or even surpass the GOP in fundraising, Republicans will be hard-pressed to match their successes in the past three election cycles.

As for the dilution of the "Culture of Corruption" meme, the Rothenberg Political Report is alluding to Representative Allan Mollohan (D-West Virginia), who stepped down temporarily from his post as ranking Democrat on the ethics committee after allegations were made that Mollohan had used his position in Congress to steer money to his own home-state foundations and William Jefferson (D-LA), who is under investigation for corruption and bribery charges. CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) have named Jefferson as one of the 13 dirtiest politicians in Washington.

While it is true that both Mollohan and Jefferson have gotten some mention in the press and could undercut the Democrats use of the "Culture of Corruption" campaign theme in November, I have to say that Dems have gone out of their way to not defend Jefferson and while they have defended Mollohan as the victim of Republican smears (the allegations levied against Mollohan were made by a Republican-funded attack machine), they also pushed him out of his position on the Ethics Committee as quickly as they possibly could.

The lesson here is this: if Dems want to use the "Culture of Corruption" campaign theme in November, they don't have to be 100% lily white and clean; they have to be willing to show the public that Democrats will hold abusers of power and privilege in the Congress accountable for their actions, no matter the party. The comparison between Dems punishing their own for ethics violations while Republicans bent over backwards to help keep Tom Delay in power as Majority Leader (until the position becamse untenable and they made him step down) will not be more stark.

Anyway, we'll see if Mollohan and Jefferson undercut the "Culture of Corruption" meme for Democrats. I still maintain that Americans will be more impressed by the number of Republican Congressmen, Senators and administration officials who will be under indictment and/or convicted by October of this year (Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, Scooter Libby, Bob Ney, John Doolittle, Richard Pombo, Conrad Burns, Duke Cunningham, David Safavian, Claude Allen, Jim Tobin and the New Hampshire phone jamming scandal guys, Bob Taft, Bob Noe, Tony Rudy, Ed Buckham, Michael Scanlon, and perhaps Karl Rove and Stephen Hadley) than they will be by two potentially dirty Democrats that Dems throw to justice.

And don't think the "Culture of Corruption" meme isn't taking hold even in Republican circles. Just in today's Washington Post, conservative Craig Shirley notes that the GOP is beset by a multitude of problems including "endemic corruption":

On top of all the scandals, it has just come to light that the RNC paid millions in legal bills to defend operative James Tobin, who was convicted with associates in an illegal phone-jamming scheme aimed at preventing New Hampshire Democrats from voting. In doing so, the GOP appears to sanction and institutionalize corruption within the party.

"The GOP appears to sanction and institutionalize corruption within the party".

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Only this is a conservative Reaganite saying it.

Which, on top of the 2006 money-raising problems and all the future frog-marching to come, should really worry the GOP.

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