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Week of August 30, 2006

August 30, 2006
Washington, DC
Vol. 41, No. 18a

To: Our Readers

Outlook

Newt Gingrich: Worthy of note, as Washington prepares to exit its summer doldrums, is the effective and omnipresent public relations campaign being waged by the former Speaker of the House. But in his recent appearances, Gingrich has been less than scrupulous about getting the facts right.

  1. Gingrich wants a more resolute U.S. stance in what he considers the “Third World War.” As an example, he depicts failed efforts to broadcast the truth to Iran and North Korea. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” July 16, Gingrich declared: “We’re sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you’re doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you’ll get out of us is talk.”

    When moderator Tim Russert asked what he would do, Gingrich replied that “we are currently broadcasting I think it’s 90 minutes a week into North Korea. We’re currently broadcasting a trivial amount into Iran.” He painted a picture of discontented populations in both countries ripe for American broadcasts.

  2. The problem is that Gingrich vastly understated the actual U.S. effort. Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and a piñata for the Left in that capacity, corrected Gingrich personally, informing him that his agency began live satellite television broadcasts to Iran in 2003 for 12 daily TV hours in all. The BBG’s Radio Farda is broadcasting more than eight hours of news in Iran each day. Tomlinson said that VOA and Radio Free Asia are on the air three and one-half hours a day, not 90 minutes a week as claimed by Gingrich.

  3. But even after getting the correction, Gingrich persisted in the misrepresentation. On Fox News Sunday August 6, Gingrich complained about “how many things we could be doing” to undermine the Iranian regime “if we were broadcasting more than three hours a week” — disregarding Tomlinson’s letter. Gingrich and his staff did not provide a satisfactory account of the discrepancy.

  4. Newt Gingrich is a rare charismatic Republican, making his remarkable political comeback. But unfounded accusations about U.S. international broadcasts point to a longtime carelessness with facts. The broader problem is his implication that oppressed millions in Iran and North Korea, even the sympathetic ones, can be programmed by the Voice of America into overthrowing their rogue governments.

House 2006

If The Election Were Held Today: To date, we have discussed this election in terms of what the final outcome will look like in November. We have also mentioned Republican fears that, as one House committee chairman has said privately, Republicans will lose 25 seats — or as we were told that national internal polls suggested, they could lose as many as 26 seats.

From here in, now that primary season has approached its end, we will resist such broad prognostication, particularly since we have not yet seen evidence that such huge losses are imminent when looking at the races as we always have in past cycles — on a district-by-district basis. As we noted last week, “it is still at least challenging to construct a scenario of a 15-seat Democratic gain without positing some improbable upsets.”

Today we begin a new, seat-by-seat look at this year’s competitive House races, based solely on how each would turn out if the election were held today. As promised, we take a look this week at Democrat-held seats in the U.S. House and Democrats’ chances of a takeover, and compare them to the Republican-held seats they will be targeting.

Democrat-Held House Seats In Play

Likely Democratic Retention

Tossup

Likely Republican Takeover

Leans Dem

Leans GOP

IL-17 (Open)

GA-8 (Marshall)

IL-8 (Bean)

 

LA-3 (Melancon)

GA-12 (Barrow)

 

 

OH-13 (Open)

IA-3 (Open)

 

 

TX-25 (Doggett)

OH-6 (Open)

 

 

 

PA-12 (Murtha)

 

 

 

SC-5 (Spratt)

 

 

 

TX-17 (Edwards)

 

 

 

VT-AL (Open)

 

 

 

WV-1 (Mollohan)

 

 

 

 

 

 


The first word that comes to mind with this chart is “pitiful.” Most striking is the small space it takes up on the page and the emptiness of the category to the right — “Likely Republican Takeover” — and the near emptiness of “Leans GOP.” There is not one easy takeover target for the Republicans this year. Republicans have failed to expand the playing field on the Democrats’ side.

There are several reasons for this, including failure to recruit good candidates.
Only one seat appears to be truly vulnerable for takeover, the Republican-heavy seat taken in 2004 by Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.). We continue to believe that former Rep. Phil Crane (R) lost this 56 percent Bush seat, and not that Bean really won it. Voters will probably make a correction this year, but not without a heroic Republican effort. Despite a financial advantage, Bean suffers from a massive defection of organized labor and the presence of a pro-labor third-party candidate in her race against businessman David McSweeney (R).

Republicans have touted their chances in Georgia, but there is no overwhelming reason for optimism at this point. Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) could be defeated in a political comeback story for former Rep. Max Burns (R), especially since the district has been redrawn since Burns lost to Barrow in 2004. Former Rep. Mac Collins (R-Ga.), although a strong and able candidate (who is running a much better race than his 2004 Senate candidacy), faces an even tougher prospect in challenging Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.).

We have added the district of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.) to the chart only because his new district boundaries make him potentially vulnerable to a wealthy, self-funding Republican challenger who hails from the rural parts of Travis County. He will be forced to run a special election race due to court-ordered redistricting.

Some of the Republicans’ best hopes have also been dampened by events. State Sen. Craig Romero (R-La.) in Louisiana is not viewed now as likely to unseat Rep. Charles Melancon (D). State Senate President Jeff Lamberti (R-Iowa) still has a shot against Rep. Leonard Boswell (D), but Boswell has clearly recovered from his earlier sluggishness and health problems, and Democrats now feel confident that he can win without help from the DCCC, which has pulled its planned ads.

Also striking about the Democratic chart is its asymmetry with the chart of Republican-held seats. Below, we present a chart slightly different from last week’s, based on what we believe would happen if the election were held today. This makes the situation appear bleaker for the GOP.

Republican-Held House Seats In Play

Likely Republican Retention

Tossup

Likely Democratic Takeover

Leans GOP

Leans Dem

AZ-1 (Renzi)

AZ-5 (Hayworth)

CO-7 (Open)

AZ-8 (Open)

CA-11 (Pombo)

CT-2 (Simmons)

CT-4 (Shays)

IN-9 (Sodrel)

CO-4 (Musgrave)

CT-5 (Johnson)

IA-1 (Open)

KY-4 (Davis)

FL-13 (Open)

FL-22 (Shaw)

IL-6 (Open)

TX-22 (Open)

FL-8 (Keller)

MN-6 (Open)

IN-2 (Chocola)

 

IL-11 (Weller)

NM-1 (Wilson)

IN-8 (Hostettler)

 

KY-3 (Northup)

NY-24 (Open)

NC-11 (Taylor)

 

NH-2 (Bass)

OH-15 (Pryce)

OH-1 (Chabot)

 

NV-3 (Porter)

OH-18 (Open)

PA-6 (Gerlach)

 

NY-20 (Sweeney)

PA-7 (Weldon)

VA-2 (Drake)

 

TX-23 (Bonilla)

PA-8 (Fitzpatrick)

WI-8 (Open)

 

WA-8 (Reichert)

PA-10 (Sherwood)

 

 

WY-AL (Cubin)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Republican-held chart, we see a very rich environment of Democratic takeover targets. Admittedly, some are less realistic than others, but the fact that there are so many, compared to so few on the Democratic chart, illustrates the problem Republicans face this year. Any way one looks at it, the odds are clearly stacked against the GOP and in favor of Democrats. Republicans are certain to lose House seats this year, even under the best scenario they can envision.

If Democrats prove that they can hold their leads against the vulnerable GOP districts in the third and fourth columns, then they will press their advantage effectively and probe for more weaknesses until they start winning in seats in the second column of the chart (leans GOP) and even the first (likely Republican Retention). If this happens, it will be like a dike bursting for the GOP. Too many holes will appear to be plugged up, and Democrats will almost certainly take the House. Then we will have concrete reasons to expect a 25 or 26 seat GOP loss.

Key to Democrats’ victory, again, will be the removal of their own marginal incumbents from their endangered condition. The less spent by Democrats on their own seats, the more they can spend unseating the many marginal Republicans. No matter how they play it, Republican strategists cannot effectively play defense everywhere.

From the perspective of contested races, Democrats are clearly at the controls. They have two main obstacles to overcome, from a big-picture perspective: The first is their decisive technological and methodological disadvantage when it comes to voter turnout, demonstrated in the 2004 election. The second is the irrelevance of the Democratic National Committee, whose cash-on-hand total is currently less than that of some Senate campaigns.

Still, the money they do have is in the competent hands of DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), not those of Howard Dean.

Party Committees’ Campaign Cash, August 2006

Cash on Hand, 7/31/06

Democratic National Committee (DNC)

$11,312,588

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)

$33,046,326

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)

$35,091,284

Democrats Total

$79,450,198

Republican National Committee (RNC)

$43,622,105

National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)

$34,147,575

National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC)

$20,570,361

Republicans Total

$98,340,041


As we noted last week, we still believe that the GOP can recover enough by Election Day to avoid this disaster, but can they recover enough to keep the House? Most candidates are just now beginning to spend serious money, and the races will start to move soon.

Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to win control of the House. At this point, our seat-by-seat analysis suggests that they are very close. To repeat: They will attain their goal if they can keep their own members safe and spend the money to attack a greater number of Republican incumbents, to create more holes in the dike as Election Day approaches. Democrats +14, Republicans -14.

Florida-13: Auto dealer Vern Buchanan (R) remains the favorite to succeed Rep. Katherine Harris (R). The likely second-place finisher is Tramm Hudson (R). Leaning Buchanan.

Pennsylvania-8: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) scored a coup with the endorsement of the League of Conservation Voters. This is not the kind of thing that will send voters to him in droves, but it will at least make moderate Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs feel more comfortable voting for him.

Fitzpatrick is significantly more conservative than his predecessor, Jim Greenwood (R), and neither his opposition to Bush’s Iraq policy nor his embrace of carbon dioxide caps is unlikely to sour conservatives on his candidacy. Fitzpatrick’s opponent, Iraq War veteran and Democrat activist Patrick Murphy (D), trails in finances. Leaning Republican Retention.

Senate 2006

Florida: In spite of her odd behavior and controversial statements, Rep. Katherine Harris (R) is still the favorite to win the GOP Senate nomination. Her victory would effectively take this race off the table for November, but it is probably off the table anyway.

The Republican most likely to upset Harris next Tuesday is attorney Will McBride, who has an excellent ad running right now portraying himself as the Republican “who can win,” and urging Republicans not to “throw in the towel.” Leaning Harris.

Maryland: Events have conspired somewhat against Rep. Ben Cardin (D) on his way to the nomination. After long-shot self-funder Josh Rales (D) began his enormous expenditures on television advertising — more than $4.4 million already — Cardin was forced to respond in kind. Rales will likely draw from the same white suburban liberals as Cardin is counting on to give him the nomination. Still, all of Rales’s money has only brought him a mere six percent in the latest poll, released today.

This means that the Democratic nominee, whether it is Cardin or former Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D), will be short of cash by the time of the September 12 primary. It also means an advantage for Mfume, who is counting for victory on strong black turnout rather than on having the big money.

But despite Mfume’s extremely late endorsements from Reps. Al Wynn (D) and Elijah Cummings, and former Gov. Parris Glendening (D), he trails by 13 points in today’s poll. Mfume cannot win solely on the basis of a ground game — he must also put together a serious air game in the final two weeks. His opponents, including Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), unopposed for the GOP nomination, are on the air right now. Leaning Cardin.

Rhode Island: Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey (R) now has an excellent chance of ending the career of Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) in two weeks. The Sept. 12 primary is extremely unpredictable because of the large number of independents who can vote in Republican primaries, but it is clear that Republican voters will support Laffey overwhelmingly. Laffey has effectively made his name known throughout the small state, and the expected high turnout will work to his advantage. He has bested Chafee in debate, and has kept close enough in cash-on-hand.

Unlike the Lieberman-Lamont race in neighboring Connecticut, this primary is genuinely an ideological battle, and it will bring many committed conservatives out to vote. Laffey, however, likes to downplay his conservatism and campaign on issues such as government waste and high gas prices. Leaning Laffey.

Sincerely,
Robert D. Novak

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Written By

Mr. Novak was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report, a political newsletter he founded in 1967 with Rowland Evans. He passed away August 19, 2009. Read tributes to Robert Novak and his legendary work, as well as memories from Novak alumni and the Human Events family.

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