August 1, 2006
In today's Wall Street Journal Political Diary:
Defending the GOP Majority
Rep. Tom Reynolds, chair of the National Republican Congressional
Campaign Committee, acknowledges that he faces challenges in
defending many GOP House incumbents this fall. This week he sat down
with reporters to go over which races he sees as most critical.
He said geography clearly plays a role in determining the most
vulnerable GOP incumbents. "The Pennsylvania suburbs are tough
turf," he admitted as he noted that both Reps. Michael Fitzpatrick
of Bucks County and Jim Gerlach of Chester County face hard-charging
Democrats. Similarly, Connecticut Reps. Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays
and Rob Simmons face a hostile anti-Bush environment in Connecticut.
Just ask moderate Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who faces a
serious primary challenge next week.
Ohio has been a disaster for Republicans with local scandals and tax
hikes and Governor Bob Taft having to plead guilty to a campaign-
finance misdemeanor, all of which have tarnished the GOP brand name.
As a result, Ohio Reps Steve Chabot and Deborah Pryce have both been
targeted by Democrats.
Mr. Reynolds says he is also paying close attention to three
incumbents who perennially run close races: Clay Shaw of Florida,
Heather Wilson of New Mexico and John Hostettler of Indiana. He also
noted that in Nevada, Rep. Jon Porter faces an onslaught of union
money: "Harry Reid handpicked his opponent and is coming at him."
Even with the downbeat political environment, Mr. Reynolds says he
sees several opportunities to pick off Democratic seats. Rep. Alan
Mollohan of West Virginia represents a district that was heavily pro-
Bush in 2004 and now faces serious ethics allegations. He also
pointed to Rep. John Spratt, a South Carolina Democrat, whose voting
record often appears out of step with his district.
All in all, Mr. Reynolds says he is satisfied with his fundraising
efforts so far and especially pleased with the sophistication of
the "get out the vote" effort being run by Republican National
Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman. Left unsaid was exactly how all
those Republican voters are going to be encouraged to turn out. Mr.
Reynolds gave evidence of recognizing this problem in an earlier
meeting with Journal editors when he mused about a campaign to
highlight all the damage a Democratic House might do under a Speaker
Nancy Pelosi, Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel and Judiciary
Committee Chairman John Conyers.
That kind of campaign has been effective in the past -- such as 1996
when GOP commercials urged voters not to give President Bill
Clinton "a blank check" by handing him control of Congress. But it
would also be nice if the GOP Congress passed some legislation in
the waning weeks of this session that enabled members to present a
positive case to voters.
-- John Fund