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Republicans Look to 2012 With 10 Targets

The National Republican Congressional Committee took a victory lap Wednesday following historic gains that led to the party taking over the House, already setting GOP sights on 10 Democrats who survived what was a bloody evening.

NRCC Executive Director Guy Harrison said the committee accomplished what it hoped to in the 48 districts represented by Democrats where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) won the presidential vote in 2008. The majority of those Democratic incumbents toppled last night as the Republicans banked a 60-seat net gain.

Harrison named 10 Democrats who won those races and would be at the top of the NRCC’s priority list in 2012. They are Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Jason Altmire (Pa.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Tim Holden (Pa.), Mark Critz (Pa.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.). The list may grow a bit longer as more close races are called on Wednesday.

Reporters on a conference call Wednesday asked Harrison how he thinks the party can keep seats two years from now that flipped thanks to a Republican wave last night. He didn’t sound worried, saying the Republicans who just won have already been put through the paces of a tough campaign.

Those candidates know how to raise enough money to be considered Young Guns and know how to run “holistic” campaigns, he said.

Ultimately, it’s tough to make a judgment about 2012 campaigns because candidates will be starting with new districts following redistricting. Harrison touted Republican gains in state legislature and gubernatorial races across the country, including 19 states where Republicans now control the governorship and the state legislature.

Harrison said that major factors in the party’s success included Member participation, high-dollar donors, an incumbent retention program and a recruitment program tasked with finding the best new candidates.

But he singled out likely new Speaker, and current Minority Leader, John Boehner for praise.

“There’s nothing that Chairman [Pete] Sessions or the NRCC asked of John Boehner that he didn’t accomplish, and he also was constantly pressing us to set our sights higher as well,” Harrison said.

On the other side, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) thanked Democratic Members and DCCC staff for their contributions and blamed outside groups for House Democrats’ losses.

“Last night’s election was a perfect political storm born out of the understandable frustration felt by the American people in response to high unemployment caused by the worst financial crash since the Great Depression,” he said in a statement. “The record amount of secret money spent by right-wing outside groups turned this political storm into a category 3 political hurricane.”

Harrison said Republican Members outraised their collective goal of $65 million, ultimately bringing $70 million to the committee, and the campaign’s independent expenditure arm was able to use 98.5 percent of its expenditures on offense, not defending incumbents, a rate Harrison said was better than the DCCC’s in 2006.

He said the NRCC is tracking 14 House races that are still undecided or are headed to recounts.

Asked about the influence of surrogates, such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Harrison said no single surrogate deserves credit for any unexpected wins.

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