House diary: Congressional Republicans are in panic mode

House Republicans have had a tough few days ever since Travis Childers prevailed in the MS-01 special election by eight points despite the district's heavy Republican lean. Dire predictions as to the partys' November prospects are accumulating, new lists of vulnerable Republican districts are being drawn and NRCC Chairman Tom Cole facing threats of being ousted over complaints about his performance and meager fundraising.

In a remarkable statement on Tuesday night, Cole did not try to spin the results and called on Republican incumbents to brace for the worse and find individual ways to deal with the onslaught. He followed that up by admitting that the problem was the Republican party rather than particular mistakes that were being made. Meanwhile, former NRCC Chairman Tom Davis, who is retiring from his Northern Virginia House seat this year (Democrats are favored to pick it up), sent members of the Republican caucus a 20-page memo about what the GOP needs to do to save itself.

As for the particular situation in Mississippi, Childers will now have to fight for his re-election in November. Of the three special elections Democrats have won, this is the only one in which the Republican candidate himself was not deeply flawed which makes it possible for Greg Davis to come back and win this in November considering it's a presidential year and turnout will be increased accordingly. But Childers large victory in a situation of increased turnout -- including in white counties -- makes him the favorite to win re-election in November. And national Republicans are unlikely to throw any more money at this race; consider that they already spent one-fifth of their cash on hand in this race.

The Republican debacle in MS-01 also means that very few Republican open seats are safe from Democrats in November and it open puts seats like Steve Pearce's NM-02 and Terry Everett's AL-02 on the map. Pearce and Everett have both retired months ago but their seats were not taken that seriously by national strategists. Both are very conservative districts and will be so in a presidential year. But if Foster, Cazayoux and Childers can win three specials in a row with the NRCC heavily investing to help defend their seats, how will the GOP defend these other open seats when national Republicans will not have $1,3 million to spend on each race.

Meanwhile, GOP panic is extending to other seats that are looking increasingly difficult starting with Alaska's at large district, another very red district. Incumbent Don Young is facing a corruption investigation (along with the rest of the state GOP) and Democrats believe their day has come after a few cycles of Alaska heartbreakers. A new poll shows just how endangered Young is:

  • Research 2000 finds Young trailing Democrat Ethan Berkowitz 50% to 40%. Their poll a few months ago showed Berkowitz up by 8%.
For any incumbent to be under 50% is already a troubling sign, but to be trailing by double-digits is just bad news. Past cycles have shown that no race can be taken for granted by Democrats in Alaska, but this is obviously encouraging.

Meanwhile, the situation continues to look unclear in NY-13. After the DUI/sex scandal broke out last week, the media quickly reported that Rep. Vito Fossella would resign or at least announce his retirement within days. But signs quickly pointed to the fact that Fossella had no intention to do that. It now looks increasingly unlikely that Fossella is looking to exit; he is delaying speaking to the media, and former Senator D'Amato is now saying that Fossella will not resign, run for re-election and win. There is some speculation that Fossella might be delaying his decision to avoid a special election (I suggested a few days ago that I don't think this is grounds for a resignation).

Meanwhile -- and this is the one good news for the GOP in this post -- the prospect of an open seat in NY-13 is splitting Democrats! The district is split between Brooklyn and Staten Island (mostly in the latter) and Democrats are now engaged in a rather silly exchange about it with Staten Island Democrats claiming that their candidate has to be from the island to have any chance of winning and Brooklyn Democrats taking offense at that. How important this fight is will depend on what Fossella decides to do, as a SUSA poll showed that he still has a very good approval rating.

Also, expect new House ratings within the next week.

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  • Good to see Ethan Berkowitz continuing to break through, good man. Any thoughts on whether the NY Dems are just going to get behind Steve Harrison, who was gutsy enough to jump into this race from the beginning?

    By Blogger Joe, At 16 May, 2008 09:15  

  • Taniel your right: almost all of the open seats that the GOP has, including GOP leaning ones like the ones you mention, are now in great danger.

    On the Alaksa House Race, yes, Young is deep trouble, but he is has a very strong challange from Lt. Gov Sean Parnell. If Parnell wins the primary he will easyly win win the seat because he is associated with popular reformist Gov. Palin and has no connect to these federal investigations. Of course, there is a third minor candidate in the race, so Young (and Democrats) can hope the two split the anti-Young vote.

    On Fossella, that poll was taken on May 8th, and it shows Fossella with a 67% approval rating and 53% of his constiuents wanting him to run again. I think that the chances of him surviving this scandal are high despite the moral hypocrisy, he doesn't have major enemies like Spitzer had.

    Also I'm looking foward to your House and Senate rating. I think that at this moment, even as McCain remains competive in the prez constest, the Democrats have increased thier chances of getting of getting at least a net gain of 10 seats in the house. In the senate, with the weakening of a few GOP senators, it is now again possible for a 60 dem majority to happen althrough it is still very unlikely.

    By Anonymous jaxx raxor, At 16 May, 2008 09:41  

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