Commentary Magazine


Topic: John Spratt

RE: Debt Commission Surprises

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

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A Dwindling Band

I share the general joy on the right regarding the outcome of this election, but I am sorry to see go some of the Democrats who wound up losing — in particular, Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

All were longtime members of the House Armed Services Committee (Skelton is the outgoing chairman, Spratt the second-ranking Democrat, Taylor a subcommittee chairman). They are part of a dwindling band of centrist, strong-on-defense Democrats — a tradition stretching back to the days of Stuart Symington and Scoop Jackson. These days, alas, the Democrats are led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The fact that so many Blue Dog Democrats have been knocked off is good news for the short term, but it will have parlous consequences at some point in the future when Democrats succeed in taking back the House. The Democratic leaders on defense and foreign policy issues in the future are likely to be considerably to the left of today’s crop.

I share the general joy on the right regarding the outcome of this election, but I am sorry to see go some of the Democrats who wound up losing — in particular, Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, and Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

All were longtime members of the House Armed Services Committee (Skelton is the outgoing chairman, Spratt the second-ranking Democrat, Taylor a subcommittee chairman). They are part of a dwindling band of centrist, strong-on-defense Democrats — a tradition stretching back to the days of Stuart Symington and Scoop Jackson. These days, alas, the Democrats are led by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. The fact that so many Blue Dog Democrats have been knocked off is good news for the short term, but it will have parlous consequences at some point in the future when Democrats succeed in taking back the House. The Democratic leaders on defense and foreign policy issues in the future are likely to be considerably to the left of today’s crop.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So Abbas is threatening to quit – again? It’s unclear, however, whether he will keep his promise if the talks fail because of his own walkout.

So the courts can mind their own business (and leave it to the democratic process)? “Forty-two percent of respondents said they favor same-sex marriage, up 5 percentage points from 2009 and the highest number registered since Pew began asking the question in 1996. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed opposed same-sex marriage, 6 percentage points lower than in 2009 and the lowest total measure by Pew.”

So the national parties are irrelevant? “When comparing the RNC to the Democratic National Committee, the 93 GOP Insiders who responded to the poll this week were withering in their assessment and 73% said that the DNC was out-performing the RNC. Only 15% said that the RNC was besting the DNC and 12% said neither committee had stood out.” Maybe, but Michael Steele is still going to get fired after the midterms.

So another Democrat with a shaky record on Israel is in danger? Rep. Jim Himes is in a statistical tie with his GOP challenger in the CT-4.

So the swamp is still full? “Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts. … The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office.”

So now liberals are reduced to hunting for silver linings in expectation of a drubbing? “It would raise the profile of the party’s legislative leadership, particularly would-be Speaker John Boehner and would-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I don’t have specific polling information on either man’s popularity. [So why is he writing on this?] But I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that neither man is a great party spokesman.” OK, it’s a rationalization in progress. I feel comfortable suggesting they’ll come up with better ones than that.

So maybe he shouldn’t have voted with them on ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus bill? “The combination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama is casting a colossal shadow over Democrat John Spratt’s reelection campaign, and the 28-year House veteran all but acknowledges that, as a result, he is facing the toughest election test of his career.”

So a 38 percent approval in a poll of random adults (not even registered voters) is like 20 percent among likely voters? “The public is divided on the overall job he is doing now: 44 percent say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove in a new CBS News poll — virtually unchanged from last month. The president’s rating on the economy, however, has taken a further plunge in the poll. Now, only 38 percent say they approve of the job he is doing handling the issue – which has been the problem weighing most heavily on the nation’s collective mind for months. Half of those questioned (50 percent) say they disapprove of his work on the economy.”

So Abbas is threatening to quit – again? It’s unclear, however, whether he will keep his promise if the talks fail because of his own walkout.

So the courts can mind their own business (and leave it to the democratic process)? “Forty-two percent of respondents said they favor same-sex marriage, up 5 percentage points from 2009 and the highest number registered since Pew began asking the question in 1996. Forty-eight percent of those surveyed opposed same-sex marriage, 6 percentage points lower than in 2009 and the lowest total measure by Pew.”

So the national parties are irrelevant? “When comparing the RNC to the Democratic National Committee, the 93 GOP Insiders who responded to the poll this week were withering in their assessment and 73% said that the DNC was out-performing the RNC. Only 15% said that the RNC was besting the DNC and 12% said neither committee had stood out.” Maybe, but Michael Steele is still going to get fired after the midterms.

So another Democrat with a shaky record on Israel is in danger? Rep. Jim Himes is in a statistical tie with his GOP challenger in the CT-4.

So the swamp is still full? “Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts. … The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office.”

So now liberals are reduced to hunting for silver linings in expectation of a drubbing? “It would raise the profile of the party’s legislative leadership, particularly would-be Speaker John Boehner and would-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. I don’t have specific polling information on either man’s popularity. [So why is he writing on this?] But I feel pretty comfortable suggesting that neither man is a great party spokesman.” OK, it’s a rationalization in progress. I feel comfortable suggesting they’ll come up with better ones than that.

So maybe he shouldn’t have voted with them on ObamaCare, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus bill? “The combination of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama is casting a colossal shadow over Democrat John Spratt’s reelection campaign, and the 28-year House veteran all but acknowledges that, as a result, he is facing the toughest election test of his career.”

So a 38 percent approval in a poll of random adults (not even registered voters) is like 20 percent among likely voters? “The public is divided on the overall job he is doing now: 44 percent say they approve, while 45 percent disapprove in a new CBS News poll — virtually unchanged from last month. The president’s rating on the economy, however, has taken a further plunge in the poll. Now, only 38 percent say they approve of the job he is doing handling the issue – which has been the problem weighing most heavily on the nation’s collective mind for months. Half of those questioned (50 percent) say they disapprove of his work on the economy.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

Senate candidate Dan Coats thinks Obama is getting ready for a containment strategy for Iran, and he doesn’t like it: “Coats said the ‘only option’ left to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is the threat of military action. Coats said most Americans agree that Iran must not be allowed to have such weapons, even though Iranian leaders continue to press forward with their nuclear program. … ‘If it’s unacceptable, what are we going to do? … And now it seems we’re being asked to accept the unacceptable.’”

Democrats tried going after the CIA again, determined to criminalize interrogation techniques: “If this Act becomes law (it may have already been killed in Congress at the time of this writing), it will surely cause confusion for interrogators who want to know where the line is, precisely, lest they be thrown in jail. This creates risk aversion among interrogators where none is warranted.”

Liz Cheney objected: “American intelligence officers do not deserve this kind of treatment from the government they honorably serve. Day in and day out, they protect our country and make difficult decisions–at times in matters of life and death. In return for their service the government rewards them with little pay and no acknowledgement of their heroic actions. Democrats in Congress now want to threaten them with criminal prosecutions and deprive them of valuable tactics that protect America.”

And Democrats pulled the bill.

Larry Sabato (h/t Jim Geraghty): “The Crystal Ball moves five Democratic seats from a “safe” rating onto our list of competitive races: KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MA-10 (Bill Delahunt), OH-13 (Betty Sutton), SC-5 (John Spratt), and VA-9 (Rick Boucher). In addition, two already competitive races for Democrats look even worse than before—IA-3 (Leonard Boswell) and IN-8 (OPEN, Brad Ellsworth)—and two Republican incumbents have improved their reelection prospects—AL-3 (Mike Rogers) and CA-44 (Ken Calvert).”

The Orthodox Union is upset with the Obama administration for criticizing the Heritage Plan, under which Israel will invest $100 million in rehabilitating historic and religious sites throughout Israel. Netanyahu included among the sites the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Palestinians objected, and then the State Department chimed in and called the inclusion of such sites “provocative.” The OU responded: “It is not ‘provocative’ to invest in and rehabilitate holy/historic sites — that are open to both Jews and Muslims. Nothing PM Netanyahu has proposed precludes a peace agreement. It is provocative for the Palestinians to assert that there is no Jewish connection to these sites and for them to use this as yet another false basis for refusal to engage in peace negotiations.”

Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: “In equating high-risk pools to racial segregation, Senator Harkin not only betrays his ignorance of history and his tone-deafness, but a disconcerting obliviousness to the contents of the Democrats’ own health-care plan. In fact, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has sent two letters to Congress and the president detailing the various discriminatory provisions in the Democrats’ health-care plan. It’s often said that the party who first invokes Hitler has lost the argument. In this case, the party who first invoked racial discrimination has lost perspective, if not his senses.”

Part of Obama’s problem: “At the very same hour as Obama is talking about his beloved healthcare plan, out come surprising new federal numbers showing that last week new J-O-B-L-E-S-S claims unexpectedly went up — as in more of them — to nearly a half-million, 22,000 more than the previous week. And nearly 8% higher than the expected 460,000 new claims.”

Politico on Tom Campbell’s Sami Al-Arian problem: “A bespectacled former college professor who has pleaded guilty to aiding the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad helped tip the balance in a 2004 Senate contest in Florida. Now, six years later, Sami Al-Arian could be on the verge of doing it again, this time in California. Republican Senate hopeful Tom Campbell, a former congressman, has come under sustained attack on conservative websites and from his rivals in recent days for taking a campaign donation from Al-Arian in 2000, for backing legislation Al-Arian was lobbying for at the time and for allegedly being a less-than-steadfast supporter of Israel.”

JTA is into it too, noting how inappropriate it is for Campbell to use a selective quote from a letter of the late and very great friend of Israel Tom Lantos: “Using Lantos’ letter to bolster Campbell’s case is really icky.”

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Taxes Are Taxes

Democrats wary of pushing for a “surtax” for the war in Afghanistan are tiptoeing into an argument that they may want to avoid. Steny Hoyer was the most recent example:

Hoyer said he is generally in favor of legislation that would institute a surtax to pay for congressionally mandated war efforts. But he pointed to the sagging economy as a primary reason not to levy new taxes on Americans.

Sen. Evan Bayh made the same argument over the weekend.

Well, it’s nice to see that Democrats appreciate the link between tax hikes and the recession. But wait: they’re considering hundreds of billions of new taxes as part of health-care reform. There’s no difference from an economic standpoint whether you’re “paying” for health-care subsidies for your neighbor or salaries for troops in Afghanistan. Taxes are taxes. If it’s a dumb idea to pass a surtax to pay for a war, then it’s equally dumb to pass taxes as part of ObamaCare. And come to think of it, until we’re out of the economic woods, it would be equally dumb to let the Bush tax cuts expire.

I’m not sure why Democrats have wandered into this minefield. But those opposed to hundreds of billions in new taxes — for whatever purpose — might want to collect these quotes. They may come in handy — if not in a debate, then in the 2010 elections.

UPDATE: Another Democrat joins the “Don’t raise taxes in a recession!” chorus: “House Budget Committee chairman John Spratt on Tuesday (D-S.C.) said he could not support a proposed ‘war surtax’ to fund troop increases in Afghanistan. Spratt said that the measure introduced by Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) would raise taxes during a recession, an uptick he believes the country cannot afford.”

Democrats wary of pushing for a “surtax” for the war in Afghanistan are tiptoeing into an argument that they may want to avoid. Steny Hoyer was the most recent example:

Hoyer said he is generally in favor of legislation that would institute a surtax to pay for congressionally mandated war efforts. But he pointed to the sagging economy as a primary reason not to levy new taxes on Americans.

Sen. Evan Bayh made the same argument over the weekend.

Well, it’s nice to see that Democrats appreciate the link between tax hikes and the recession. But wait: they’re considering hundreds of billions of new taxes as part of health-care reform. There’s no difference from an economic standpoint whether you’re “paying” for health-care subsidies for your neighbor or salaries for troops in Afghanistan. Taxes are taxes. If it’s a dumb idea to pass a surtax to pay for a war, then it’s equally dumb to pass taxes as part of ObamaCare. And come to think of it, until we’re out of the economic woods, it would be equally dumb to let the Bush tax cuts expire.

I’m not sure why Democrats have wandered into this minefield. But those opposed to hundreds of billions in new taxes — for whatever purpose — might want to collect these quotes. They may come in handy — if not in a debate, then in the 2010 elections.

UPDATE: Another Democrat joins the “Don’t raise taxes in a recession!” chorus: “House Budget Committee chairman John Spratt on Tuesday (D-S.C.) said he could not support a proposed ‘war surtax’ to fund troop increases in Afghanistan. Spratt said that the measure introduced by Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) would raise taxes during a recession, an uptick he believes the country cannot afford.”

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Recruitment Is a Leading Indicator

The weekend before the Virginia gubernatorial election, I spoke with former Rep. Tom Davis. Sensing a victory in the offing, he told me that an immediate effect of a big GOP win would be recruiting for 2010. In 1994, a majority of the GOP’s successful recruiting, which enabled the Republicans to regain the House, took place after gubernatorial wins that year in New Jersey and Virginia.

It seems that Davis is right. The GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey are accelerating a trend that was already well under way. As this report notes:

Several Democratic candidates have decided to drop out of tough races, while Democratic members of Congress who rarely face serious challenges are finding themselves with their toughest re-elections in years. … But in 2010, defense is the name of the game for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is defending several dozens vulnerable freshmen and second-term members, while also protecting veteran members who could find themselves in newfound trouble. It will be a lot more challenging for a first-time candidate running in a tough district to get financial support from the DCCC when the party is worried about defending its own.

Meanwhile, Republican recruiting is turning up challengers to Democrats who haven’t had significant challenges in the past. David Wasserman at Cook Report explains:

This is not to say that highly influential and venerated fixtures such as Reps. Ike Skelton (MO-04), John Spratt (SC-05), Bart Gordon (TN-06), John Tanner (TN-08) and Rick Boucher (VA-09) are goners next year. Their eventual vulnerability is highly dependent on the quality of GOP nominees and the discipline of their “time for change” messages. But if these party elders decide to seek reelection rather than retire, the underlying dynamics of their districts suggest at least several will need to fight to survive.

All this suggests that 2010 is shaping up to be a potential “wave” year in which there are more opportunities for pickups than in a run-of-the-mill year. If we learned anything in the past year, it’s that political prognostication is a dicey business. The GOP is now challenging in places it was considered dead (e.g. New England) and has recaptured momentum on key issues. But much can change, and the Democrats — if they can figure out what to do with it — have the power of incumbency.

The weekend before the Virginia gubernatorial election, I spoke with former Rep. Tom Davis. Sensing a victory in the offing, he told me that an immediate effect of a big GOP win would be recruiting for 2010. In 1994, a majority of the GOP’s successful recruiting, which enabled the Republicans to regain the House, took place after gubernatorial wins that year in New Jersey and Virginia.

It seems that Davis is right. The GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey are accelerating a trend that was already well under way. As this report notes:

Several Democratic candidates have decided to drop out of tough races, while Democratic members of Congress who rarely face serious challenges are finding themselves with their toughest re-elections in years. … But in 2010, defense is the name of the game for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is defending several dozens vulnerable freshmen and second-term members, while also protecting veteran members who could find themselves in newfound trouble. It will be a lot more challenging for a first-time candidate running in a tough district to get financial support from the DCCC when the party is worried about defending its own.

Meanwhile, Republican recruiting is turning up challengers to Democrats who haven’t had significant challenges in the past. David Wasserman at Cook Report explains:

This is not to say that highly influential and venerated fixtures such as Reps. Ike Skelton (MO-04), John Spratt (SC-05), Bart Gordon (TN-06), John Tanner (TN-08) and Rick Boucher (VA-09) are goners next year. Their eventual vulnerability is highly dependent on the quality of GOP nominees and the discipline of their “time for change” messages. But if these party elders decide to seek reelection rather than retire, the underlying dynamics of their districts suggest at least several will need to fight to survive.

All this suggests that 2010 is shaping up to be a potential “wave” year in which there are more opportunities for pickups than in a run-of-the-mill year. If we learned anything in the past year, it’s that political prognostication is a dicey business. The GOP is now challenging in places it was considered dead (e.g. New England) and has recaptured momentum on key issues. But much can change, and the Democrats — if they can figure out what to do with it — have the power of incumbency.

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