Van Hollen ‘Very Confident’ No More Party Defections

Posted December 27, 2009 at 2:03pm

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Sunday that he is “very confident— that there won’t be any more defections by House Democrats, despite a GOP effort to try to lure conservative Democrats to the other side of the aisle.

Van Hollen’s assurances come a week after freshman Rep. Parker Griffith (Ala.) announced his decision to jump Democratic ranks and become a Republican, a move that Van Hollen said was more about self-preservation than conviction

“I know he dressed it up as a matter of principle. The fact is he did a poll that showed that he might be in trouble. My view is he miscalculated politically because the fact of the matter is people will respect a person who will have differences. What they don’t like is people with a finger to the wind,— Van Hollen said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.—

Van Hollen, who is also Assistant to the Speaker, also speculated that Griffith “is going to have a little trouble with the Republican Party— since he has voted 85 percent of the time with Democrats. The freshman lawmaker faces a challenge from several Republicans who refused to step aside after his party switch.

Looking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections, the DCCC chairman predicted “a tough year— but said Democrats have several things in their favor, namely that 12 Republicans — a handful of which are in competitive districts — are not running for re-election. In addition, he said, polls show Republican voters to be increasingly unhappy with their party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said health care reform will be “a huge political issue next year— — when Republicans will make it central in their attacks on Democrats.

“Certainly, politically, it’s a big problem for them. They all kind of joined hands and went off the cliff together. Every single Democrat provided the vote that passed it in the Senate,— McConnell said on ABC’s “This Week.— He wouldn’t say whether Republicans would campaign on a platform of repealing the measure.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.), who also appeared on Fox, suggested that GOP efforts to bash Democrats over spending levels in health care reform would backfire.

“I would simply say to my Republican friends, what are they going to campaign on? That they’re going to repeal 30 million people who have health insurance under this package? That they’re going to repeal closing the gap on Medicare?— Menendez said.

But Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), also on Fox, said Democrats are ripe for attacks on fiscal responsibility.

“They’re not credible at all. As a matter of fact, even our record as Republicans wasn’t the best, but they’re making us look good each year,— said Shelby.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press— that Republicans face a challenge similar to the one they faced in 1994, when Gingrich led the party’s House takeover after decades of Democratic control.

“They need to be the alternative party, not the opposition party. You can’t build ultimately on bitterness and successfully create a new majority,— Gingrich said.

The former Speaker said that while it’s much easier for the GOP to just oppose whatever Democrats bring forward, that isn’t enough to return the party to power and the majority.

“Yelling no gets you 25 seats in 2010. Having an alternative, something like the Contract with America, gets you 50 or 60 seats,— Gingrich said. “Yelling no probably gets you 48 percent in the presidential campaign of ’12. Having a genuine alternative may get you the presidency.—