Are Minnick, Altmire and Space Really Still Top GOP Targets?
Republicans deny they’ve moved three vulnerable Democratic Members down their list of top targets, despite a recent newspaper report that indicated otherwise.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.), Walt Minnick (Idaho) and Zack Space (Ohio) “are among the Democrats no longer seen by Republicans as easy targets.” The line was part of a larger story regarding Democratic incumbents running in districts won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called it a strange move for a campaign committee to state publicly, particularly in the Times, that three of its own candidates’ chances had decreased less than three months before Election Day.
“In this rare instance, the [National Republican Congressional Committee] actually had it right when they admitted they are stuck with seriously flawed candidates who can’t mount a credible challenge to our battle-tested incumbents,” DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said.
In response, Republicans point to a poll the NRCC released this week that showed Ohio state Sen. Bob Gibbs tied with Space, as well as to the fact the challengers to Altmire and Minnick are in the committee’s “Young Guns” program, although the NRCC’s preferred candidates lost their primaries in those two districts.
Challenging Minnick this year is state Rep. Raul Labrador, a tea party-backed candidate who defeated Vaughn Ward in the primary. After previously declining, Labrador last week accepted the committee’s invitation to join the Young Guns program after recognizing that his campaign could be performing better.
The campaign’s internal polling found Labrador trailing Minnick last month by 10 points, and the most recent fundraising reports showed Labrador in a deep hole at the end of June with just $68,000 cash on hand, more than $1 million less than Minnick.
Still, in a private meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, NRCC Vice Chairman for Recruitment Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) told Labrador the committee is confident he can win and that it looks forward to working with him and his team.
Labrador senior adviser Lou Esposito literally laughed off the suggestion that Republicans no longer view Minnick as a top challenger. “I find the Democrats’ assessment pretty laughable — you heard me laughing,” Esposito said. “We have a winning strategy and a great conservative district, and when we get the full word out on what Mr. Minnick is really all about, the voters will come back home to their conservative and Republican roots in the district.”
Minnick defeated Republican Rep. Bill Sali in 2008, when McCain carried the 1st district with 62 percent. It’s considered one of the most conservative districts in the country.