Van Hollen, Davis Survey Political Landscape

Posted October 10, 2008 at 4:12pm

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and retiring Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) on Friday agreed on one thing that was in store for this year’s election cycle: more Democratic gains in the House.

During remarks at the National Press Club, neither would guess at the number of seats that they expect Democrats to pick up in November.

Some strategists have estimated from 10 to 20 new Democratic seats, but Van Hollen said the political climate is “just too turbulent out there now to make a clear prediction. … We see a lot of tossup races.”

However, pointing to the three Democratic seats picked up in special elections this year, Van Hollen asserted that his party is “poised to beat that historical pattern” of a party losing seats in the election cycle after gaining seats.

At the beginning of the election cycle, Democrats came in with 33 vulnerable House seats. That number is down to 12, he said, a result of Republican failures to “come up with credible candidates,” allowing Democrats to “use our resources to stay on offense.”

Davis agreed that Democrats have done a better job at grass-roots fundraising in this election cycle, joking that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) was on television during the World Series “more than the players.”

Davis, a former head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is a renowned political handicapper.

“Democrats have a cash advantage at all levels,” Davis said. “I don’t think we’ve ever been as outresourced as we’ve been this year.” He said there are Democrats in Congressional races “beating up a number of people who have not been able to respond.”

Davis singled out one Democratic incumbent, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), as likely to lose his seat despite large amounts of money being sunk into his re-election. “At this point, I don’t think money can save him due to other issues,” Davis said.

In addition, Davis said Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.) was a surprise win for Democrats in 2006. “If she wins this time, that will be another surprise, in my opinion.”

The bright spot for Republicans is that, given the Democratic sweep in the House in 2006, there’s “not a lot left for them to get,” he said. “At least we’re fighting this battle on our turf.”

The next few weeks will bring a regrouping among Republican leaders and a lot of races “that close in our favor,” Davis said.

Van Hollen emphasized that Democrats have three key factors in their favor: People want a change from the Republican “monopoly on power” in Washington, D.C., more people are feeling the brunt of the Bush administration’s economic policies and Democratic leaders have put forward strong candidates in many districts.

Even Davis, who is retiring this year after seven terms, is likely to be replaced by a Democrat. Van Hollen said that while he is grateful to have worked with Davis in Congress, he is also “grateful his colleagues did not heed his warnings in time.”