DCCC Doubles Frontline

Posted February 14, 2007 at 6:41pm

Democrats acknowledged Wednesday that winning a majority in the House in November also means having to worry about the political well-being of more Members in the future.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its list of “Frontline” members — incumbents it considers potentially vulnerable — and it’s almost twice as long as it has been in the past few cycles.

The list is weighted heavily with freshmen, particularly those who ousted Republicans in GOP-leaning districts. It includes obvious newcomers such as Rep. Tim Mahoney (Fla.), who took just 49 percent of the vote in the race to succeed scandal-plagued former Rep. Mark Foley (R), and two veteran Congressmen, Reps. Leonard Boswell (Iowa) and Chet Edwards (Texas), who routinely win in tough districts.

Boswell, who got 52 percent of the vote in 2006, is in his sixth term, while Edwards, who received 58 percent of the vote, is serving his ninth.

Besides Boswell and Edwards, Reps. Jim Marshall (Ga.), who won re-election with 51 percent of the vote, John Barrow (Ga.), who received 50 percent, and Melissa Bean (Ill.), who garnered 51 percent, are the only other non-freshmen on the list.

But the DCCC has determined that some veteran incumbents who are sitting in heavily Republican districts appear safe for now.

Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah) worked his way off the list by securing a fourth term with 59 percent of the vote in Republican-dominated Utah last year. So did Rep. Dennis Moore (Kan.), who took a whopping 64 percent on his way to a fifth term.

Frontline is the DCCC’s program to raise money and extend outreach capabilities for endangered incumbents. Participants agree to meet “aggressive” fundraising goals and other criteria, according to the DCCC.

“The Frontline Members are already hard at work for the American people by restoring honesty and openness in government, re-establishing fiscal responsibility, strengthening our national security, and giving everyone a shot at the American dream,” DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said in a statement.

Frontline “will give our Members an added boost so they can continue focusing on the issues their constituents care most about,” he added.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), aided by Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), is leading the effort to return all 29 Frontline members to the House next year.

One newcomer who many political analysts believe could be vulnerable in 2008 but elected not to be included on the Frontline list is Rep. Nancy Boyda (Kan.).

Even though Bush won Kansas’ 2nd district in 2004 by 20 points, Shanan Guinn, Boyda’s chief of staff, said the Congresswoman wants to maintain her independence — even with former Rep. Jim Ryun (R) eyeing a rematch.

“The Frontline program is a very specific program to help those Democratic candidates who might be in more marginal districts, and while the Congresswoman understands that she is one of those folks, she really wants to be able to set her own course,” Guinn said.

Democrats secured control of the House by winning numerous races in traditionally Republican territory last year. Those Members, such as Reps. Steve Kagen (Wis.) and Brad Ellsworth (Ind.), were obvious choices for the program.

Reps. Nick Lampson (Texas) and Baron Hill (Ind.), both of whom returned to Congress after losing re-election in 2004, also are on the list.

The list changes periodically and by the time Election Day 2008 rolls around it could be much smaller or bigger. As filing deadlines pass, some incumbents will drop off the list if the National Republican Congressional Committee is unable to entice top-tier challengers into their races.

Florida’s 22nd district, where Rep. Ron Klein unseated former Rep. Clay Shaw (R), is a good example of one that could fall off the competitive list. That district favored Democrats over Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and Klein is expected to raise scads of money, as he did for his 2006 race.

Rep. Joe Courtney (Conn.) also wrested a seat in a Democratic-leaning district from a GOP incumbent. He, too, might not be on the list but for the threat that former Rep. Rob Simmons (R), whom he barely beat in November, is gunning for a rematch.