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Reynolds Fighting on Two Fronts

As his own re-election campaign becomes a decidedly uphill affair, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) plans to continue playing a vigorous, hands-on role at the committee he has led since the end of 2002 — even as his ability to move about the country and monitor key House races has been curtailed.

“He’s still on conference calls with us. He’s still talking to candidates. He’s still doing all the things he typically does,” said Carl Forti, the NRCC spokesman.

Forti and other Reynolds intimates noted that the Congressman routinely spends most of his time in Buffalo when Congress isn’t in session, and they say he was planning for a tough campaign against millionaire factory owner Jack Davis (D) all along.

“Tom’s doing fine,” said former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), who preceded Reynolds in the Buffalo-area House seat and also served as an NRCC chairman. “He’s the greatest multitasker I’ve ever seen.”

What’s more, Paxon said, by the last few weeks of an election cycle, a campaign committee’s strategic plan already is in place, and it is up to the professional staff to implement it.

“When you get to the final month of the campaign, the work [of the chairman] has already been done,” he said.

But Reynolds’ mounting political peril at home — he trailed Davis by 15 points in a poll released by The Buffalo News over the weekend — illustrates the deteriorating political environment for Republican House candidates across the country and the challenges facing the NRCC as more races become competitive.

“The NRCC is getting spread so thin right now that they’ve really got to pick and choose where they’re going to play,” said a Washington, D.C.-based GOP consultant.

With some of Reynolds’ top political lieutenants ensconced at the NRCC, he faces a far different political environment in Western New York than the one he is accustomed to. And Democrats, who are growing increasingly optimistic nationally and in New York, believe Reynolds’ woes since becoming a central figure in the scandal surrounding ex-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) could hurt Republicans in nearby districts — especially Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) and state Sen. Ray Meier, the GOP nominee in the race to replace retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.).

“I think the Democrats will pick up at least three seats in New York state,” said former Buffalo-area Rep. John LaFalce (D-N.Y.).

Democrats — and even some Republicans privately — said Reynolds is far less able to affect the outcome in these races than he was even a few weeks earlier.

“I don’t think he’s going to be able to help or assist the other [New York] candidates in the way that he thought he would,” said Jennifer Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

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