Congressional diary: Republicans catch two breaks in House, but struggle in Senate

It is rare for there to be much news from Democratic-held House seats, as the GOP gave up on many of the districts it not so long ago was so intent on challenging. But it got two breaks this week in two races that the NRCC has long believed could be very competitive: NY-19 and TX-22.

In NY-19, Republicans had made freshman Rep. John Hall one of their top targets and considered candidate their candidate Andrew Saul as one of their best recruitment coups of the cycle until, that is, Saul unexpectedly dropped out of the race in mid-November. Followed 5 months of confusion in which the NRCC struggled to convince any Republican to take on Hall and all but gave up on its efforts, leading me to demote the seat to "potentially competitive," the lowest category, in my latest House rankings.

Now, the GOP has found a candidate: George Oros, the leader of the Westchester County Legislature. When declaring his candidacy yesterday, Oros was surrounded by former Governor Pataki and former Representative Kelly (who Hall defeated in 2006) -- exemplifying that the Republican establishment trusts him to get this race competitive again. New York's Republican Party is in a dire state, having lost 3 of seats in 2006 and having to defend many more this year. It is also on the brink of losing the state Senate, and is likely to spend much effort defending that bastion of theirs. Those factors, combined with how late Oros is jumping in the race, guarantee that the Democrat starts the race as favored -- but this development is definitely good news for the NRCC's last-ditch effort to expand the map to Democratic-held seats.

Meanwhile, TX-22 is a seat no one ever expected to be an easy hold for Democrats. The former seat of Tom DeLay was won by Nick Lampson in 2006 after an absurdist campaign in which DeLay messed up his retirement, preventing the GOP from replacing him on the ballot. Republicans settled on a write-in campaign on behalf of Shelley Sekula Gibbs but came short in what had become a quixotic quest.

TX-22 is in one of the most conservative districts of Texas, and it has always been obvious that it is among the Democrats' 2-3 most vulnerable seats this cycle. But some Republicans were worried that Sekula Gibbs had become too much of a liability after spending a controversial few months in Washington (she had won the special election to replace DeLay until January 07, though the Democrats had not fielded a candidate for the special); they were concerned that nominating her could doom their chances in a district they passionately believe belongs to them.

Last month, the first round of the primary showed Sekula Gibbs coming ahead of Pete Olson 28% to 24% in a crowded field; a runoff was organized this Tuesday between the two and Olson crushed Sekula Gibbs with stunning ease, 68% to 32%. Republicans are upbeat about Olson's strength; given the Republican nature of the district (Bush won with 64% in 2004) and the fact that the NRCC is sure to use here whatever ressources it saves up for offense, Lampson will have a very difficult surviving past November.

  • Senate polls: GOP struggling in Alaska and New Mexico
Rasmussen released two polls from Senate races this morning from some of the year's most competitive races. Both of these seats are currently held by Republicans:

  • In New Mexico's open seat, Democrat Udall is leading both Republicans, 54% to 40% against Steve Pearce and 56% to 36% against Heather Wilson. All three candidates are currently members of the House.
  • In Alaska, meanwhile, it is a toss-up between entrenched Senator Stevens and his challenger Mark Begich who just recently jumped in the race in one of the DSCC's biggest recruitment coups. Rasmussen finds Stevens ahead 46% to 45% against Begich, obviously a dangerous place to be for any incumbent.
Stevens has become a very controversial figure due to the FBI investigation surrounding him and the state's entire Republican Party. Rasmussen finds Stevens' favorability rating to be standing at a dismal 50% (against 47%), including 47% from unaffiliated voters. Among Republicans, Stevens gets 71% of the vote. That he is able to hang on with such troubles and numbers points to (1) the overwhelmingly Republican nature of Alaska, where Democrats have been rebuffed in promising take-over efforts in both 2004 and 2006, and (2) Stevens' entrenchment (he is the longest serving Republican Senator).

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  • TX-22 Is definlty going be a tough race. Lampson is a very talented politican, as he represented another Texas district for about 10years before Delay's mid-redistricting put him out. However he will need to use all of his polical skills to keep Olsen from beating him.

    In Alaska, I feel that if someone from Palin's adminstration was to challange Stevens he or she would have a good shot of winning the GOP primary (like what is happening in Alaskas House Seat now). Stevens is a bit stronger than Rep. Don Young and GOP are unlikely to try to force him out unless Begich starts leading consistntly.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 10 April, 2008 12:16  

  • NY 19- Is pretty safe. The Kelly regime is reviled in this climate. The pug might as well have stood with Bush.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10 April, 2008 18:57  

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