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Parties Sprinting to Election Day

Indeed, the GOP’s financial woes come as the playing field in the House is even larger than it was in 2006 and as Senate Republicans are defending twice as many seats as Democrats.

In the House, the battleground is made up of roughly 75 competitive races, about a third of which are held by Democrats.

At the outset of the cycle, House Republicans emphasized their plans to go after the more than 60 Democrats who represent districts won by President Bush, but they have failed to expand that effort beyond a small group of vulnerable freshman Democrats swept into Congress in 2006.

“They’re on defense in a cycle when you’d have expected them to be more on offense,” Van Hollen said, noting that about half of the districts where the NRCC has reserved ad time are held by GOP incumbents.

The DCCC plans to announce at least one more round of “Red to Blue” candidates, which are targeted for additional financial and structural help. Van Hollen also said the committee is in a position to downgrade some vulnerable incumbents who are on the committee’s “Frontline” list.

Van Hollen wouldn’t make any predictions about how many seats the party would pick up, adding that he’s seen some estimates that are wildly exaggerated. Still, the party is confident of its position.

“We’re certainly in a place where we think we’ll beat history and pick up seats,” he said.

The downballot impact of the presidential contest between Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is still an unknown quantity.

Cole suggested last week that McCain’s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, which has invigorated the conservative base, could be helpful to GOP candidates in areas such as the West and Deep South.

But Van Hollen disputed that notion, arguing that swing voters will again be the primary battleground and that Palin is not as appealing to that bloc.

“I don’t think she does anything to help attract the independent vote. In fact, it might be quite the opposite,” he said.

As for the Senate battleground map — where Democrats could conceivably get close to a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority — money will also be the primary factor in deciding the final margin.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) remains the lone Democratic incumbent who appears in jeopardy of losing in November.

Meanwhile, two of the three GOP-held open seats seem to be all but conceded to Democrats at this point.

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) is heavily favored over fellow former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) in the race to succeed retiring Sen. John Warner (R).

Just last week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled its reserved ad time out of New Mexico, where Rep. Tom Udall (D) is facing Rep. Steve Pearce (R) in an open-seat contest.

The race between Rep. Mark Udall (D) and former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) in Colorado seems to be the only open-seat Senate race still being contested at this point, and Democrats are favored to win there.

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