House diary: Dems get second competitive open seat, as NRCC thinks of money

In news that will be celebrated by Republicans and by progressive Democrats alike, Rep. Bud Cramer of Alabama announced his retirement today after 18 years in the House. Cramer represents a conservative district, that gave 60% of its vote to Bush in 2004 (though only 50% in 2000). The GOP is therefore sure to put this at the top of its list, and hope to finally bring about the Southern realignment in AL-05: This district has never sent a Republican to Congress.

Clearly, Democrats have a chance to keep this competitive, but this will be the type of race where that "first" won't weight very heavily in the face of the region's recent Republican dominance. Think back to 1994, of course, but also to 2004, where Republicans captured a slate of historically Democratic Senate seats that Democrats had left empty. Much will depend on the party's choice of candidate: Southern Democratic parties, however decimated they are at the federal level, tend to have a solid bench due to their continued strength at the local level.

AL-05 is only the second Democratic-held open seat, the other being OH-05, in which Rep. Hooley announced her retirement. It is worth noting that Cramer's departure will likely not be lamented by his party's left, as the congressman is the founder of the Blue Dog Democrats, the most conservative group of Democratic representatives that often votes with Republicans on crucial issues.

To have a chance to go on the offense in these two open seats while defending all the Republican-held districts that have emerged as battlegrounds, the NRCC will have to spend a lot of money it has been for now unable to raise. That was obvious earlier this week in IN-07's special election. This had been a district that Republicans had been eyeing, convinced that Andre Carson was weak enough and their candidate was strong enough that they could have a chance to pick-up the seat. But just a week after they had dumped more than 1 million dollars in IL-14, they could not afford to spend anything in Indiana, and Carson coasted to a 10% win. If the roles had been reversed, this is exactly the type of race that the DCCC would not have hesitated to put a lot of money in -- just as it did in OH-05 in December and IL-14 last week.

The NRCC got some good news yesterday as they held a fundraising dinner headlined by George Bush that raised $8.6 million -- more than doubling the NRCC's cash-on hand (which is saying a lot). The DCCC had more than $30 million of cash on hand at the end of January, so the GOP is still lagging far behind but this new sum of money could help them defend some crucial seats... if they can keep up the pace.

Unfortunately for the GOP, the NRCC also has to face the continuing fall-out of the scandal involving its longtime treasurer, Christopher Ward, who is accused of having forged numerous audits while funneling thousands of dollars to his own bank accounts. While this scandal has been rocking Washington for some weeks now, only recently has it been revealed that the NRCC's December FEC report overstated the committee's cash-on-hand... by $740,000! Quite a significant sum, since that's more than 1/10th of what the NRCC had reported having in the bank.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home