Snyder Seems to Be Natural Target

The second-quarter fundraising period ended last week, and Rep. Vic Snyder (D) said he raised the exact same amount from April to June that he did during the first quarter: precisely zero dollars.

That’s because Snyder is one Member who refuses to raise money in the off year. And Snyder said last week that he’s sticking to that practice even as the National Republican Congressional Committee has put his Little Rock-based 2nd district on its early target list this cycle.

Since February, the NRCC has launched a round of robocalls and three different radio ads in an attempt to soften up the seven-term Natural State lawmaker’s support in a district that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried by 10 points in 2008.

The NRCC’s latest radio ad attacked Snyder for his vote on the climate change bill that narrowly passed the House before the July Fourth recess.

Snyder was the only member of the state’s delegation to vote for the controversial bill; Democratic Reps. Marion Berry and Mike Ross joined the state’s lone Republican, Rep. John Boozman, in opposing it.

Like the other two ads they have run, the NRCC’s radio ads last week played up Snyder’s ties to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and the NRCC clearly hopes to make Snyder’s re-election campaign a referendum on the polarizing Democratic leader.

The cap-and-trade ad ended with this tagline: “Vic Snyder and Nancy Pelosi: more taxes, more spending, less jobs.—

In an interview last week, Snyder said his vote was not an endorsement of every provision in the bill but rather a vote to recognize that climate change is a real threat and one that Congress needs to begin to address.

“My vote was in the spirit of climate change is real. The bill that we passed was a thoughtful approach, but that bill will never become law. It’s going to still go through a whole lot more changes. ... It’s a work in progress.—

As for the NRCC attacks on him, Snyder isn’t really concerned.

“What I see is a press release saying they are going to do certain things. I never do get any feedback on anything they’ve done,— he said. “I don’t think my life has changed any [because of the ads]. ... It’s a long way from the campaign season.—

If they are going to give the seven-term Democrat a real race this year, Republicans will have to field a top-tier candidate.

After first winning a close election in 1996, Snyder has never been re-elected with less than 58 percent of the vote. Last cycle, Snyder went unopposed for the second time in his Congressional career.

One Republican, army veteran David Meeks, has already announced he is running.

Meeks, who said last week that he is in the process of filing his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, has been echoing the NRCC’s line of attack on Snyder as he makes the rounds at local Tea parties and other conservative gatherings.

“In 2008, nobody ran against [Snyder]. I wanted to make sure that did not happen again,— said Meeks, a truck driver for a propane supply company who admits he’s a political neophyte who has never run for office before. “I wanted to make sure people had a choice between someone who is going to vote with Nancy Pelosi and basically represent San Francisco or someone like me who knows what the common, everyday person goes through.—

But Republican strategists are holding out hope that they can get a bigger fish into the race, namely French Hill, the chief executive officer of the Little Rock-based Delta Trust & Banking Corp. who served as a senior economic policy adviser under President George H.W. Bush.

Hill is also being wooed by Senate campaign strategists to challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) next year, but NRCC officials aren’t shy about talking him up for the 2nd district race.

“French Hill would give Vic Snyder the race of his life,— NRCC spokesman Andy Seré said Monday. “I think that there is a growing opinion in Arkansas that Vic Snyder is far too liberal for the district he represents. This is a conservative district full of middle-class families who do not appreciate the liberal legislative agenda of Congressional Democrats and President Obama, and yet Vic Snyder has been with them every step of the way.—

On Monday, a spokeswoman for Hill said the Little Rock banker had no comment on his political plans.

Hill, whose deep pockets are one reason why Republicans are so interested in him, hasn’t been shy about sharing his fiscally conservative views.

On Monday, Hill authored a guest piece for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in which he criticized the approach that the president and Congress are taking to combat the rising unemployment rate.

Arkansas Democratic consultant Rob McLarty said he believes Hill is positioning himself for a future run, but he said Republicans in the state seem much more interested in 2012 rather than 2010 when it comes to winning the 2nd district.

With no statewide elections taking place that year, the presidential contest will lead the 2012 ballot in Arkansas followed by the House races.

“If Republicans are seeing opportunities, they are seeing it more down the road. ... I think they just want to continue to make inroads and pull down [Snyder’s] favorables— in 2010 so they can really target the 2nd district in 2012, McLarty said.

But with a voting history that has traditionally fallen near the center among House Democrats, Snyder has proved he can take a controversial vote and still survive in a district that has voted for the Republican candidate in the past three presidential elections.

In 2004, Snyder opposed a state constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and he previously voted against the partial-birth abortion ban. Despite being hit on both those issues by his Republican opponent in 2004, he still won that year by 16 points.

McLarty said he believes Snyder when the Congressman says he won’t raise money in the off election year regardless of how hard Republicans come at him.

But if the 2nd district does eventually become a top target with a top recruit — be it 2010 or 2012 — McLarty said he expects other Democratic groups to play in the 2nd district during the off year to push back against Republican attacks.

“I do think you’ll see either the [state] party or the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] or an outside group come in and put efforts in earlier to provide that need of resources before the campaign kicks up,— he said.