White House document lists Republican top targets for 2008
White House Political Document Targets Electoral
Pickup Opportunities, Vulnerabilities
By: David Mark and Josh Kraushaar
March 30, 2007 05:51 PM EST
A January White House political office presentation to
civil service employees offers some insight into how
key House races were won and lost in 2006 and lists
Republican top targets for 2008.
The White House Office of Political Affairs document
is at the center of a House Government Reform and
Oversight Committee investigation into whether the
Bush administration improperly used the General
Services Administration for partisan purposes. The
presentation was made to GSA staffers on Jan. 26. by
J. Scott Jennings, a deputy to White House political
adviser Karl Rove.
In a letter to Rove Wednesday, Committee Chairman
Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) asked whether the
presentation was a violation of the Hatch Act, which
prohibits political activity by federal employees on
The White House had no immediate comment Friday.
According to Jennings document, posted on the
committees Web site, the key to Republican campaigns
in 2006 was the partys 72-hour program its effort
to maximize GOP turnout on Election Day. Republican
strategists have cited the program as integral to
their success in past elections. But in 2006, its
impact was blunted by a barrage of bad news for
Republicans the war in Iraq, the Mark Foley page
scandal and other ethical controversies.
The Republicans who didnt have the full support of
the program performed much worse than the pre-election
polling data available to the National Republican
Congressional Committee and such support often meant
the difference between winning and losing. The
PowerPoint document listed five campaigns that
dramatically underperformed based on NRCC polls.
One Republican operative said those incumbents
performed poorly because they got a late start
campaigning and underestimated their opponents. And
the RNC wasnt able to deploy as many volunteers to
the races that became competitive late in the game.
It appears that those members who were most ready for
a tough election at the beginning stages of the 2006
cycle performed best in the end, the operative said.
Those who were not prepared paid the price because,
by the time they realized they had a race on their
hands, it was too late.
One such candidate was Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.).
Final NRCC pre-election polling showed her leading
Democratic challenger John Yarmuth by 13 percentage
points in her Louisville-based district, but she ended
up losing by 2 points.
Another member who ultimately lost, Rep. Jim Leach
(R-Iowa), was polling 5 points ahead of Democratic
opponent Dave Loebsack, a little-known,
lesser-financed college professor. But Leachs refusal
to allow the NRCC to pour funds in his district
allowed Loebsack to score one of the bigger upsets
Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) had led Democrat Larry
Kissell by 16 points but won only by 329 votes, the
second-closest race in the country.
At the same time, candidates who had prepared well for
tough challenges were able to take full advantage of
the 72-hour program. Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) was
running neck-and-neck against Democrat Ken Lucas, a
former congressman attempting a comeback, but won by 7
points. Rep. Peter J. Roskam (R-Ill.) trailed Iraq
war veteran Tammy Duckworth by 2 points, but ended up
winning by the same margin.
Looking ahead to 2008, the White House document lists
20 top Democratic targets. Most of the names were
freshmen who won in Republican-leaning districts, like
Reps. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) and Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.).
Left off the list were freshman Reps. Harry E.
Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords, both Arizona
Democrats who represent districts President Bush
carried in 2004.
Two freshman Democrats who ran contested races in
Iowa, Rep. Bruce Braley and Loebsack, were also
The most surprising inclusion was Rep. Stephanie
Herseth (D-S.D.), who coasted to victory in a solidly
Republican state and hasnt drawn any serious
challengers at this early stage.
Those GOP seats the White House saw in need of special
defense included two California congressmen enmeshed
in ethical controversy.
Rep. John Doolittle, whose district takes in the
northern Sacramento suburbs, won with only 49 percent
of the vote in 2006. Democrats have alleged improper
ties between Doolittle and convicted lobbyist Jack
Abramoff, among other complaints.
Rep. Gary G. Miller, who ran unopposed in his Southern
California district in 2006, was also cited by the
White House as vulnerable. The Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee has just launched a
Web ad raising questions about a local land deal.
Roves 08 playbook confirms Republican concerns and
fears about many of these incumbents we have been
mentioning for the last few months, said DCCC
spokesman Doug Thornell.
Former NRCC chairman Thomas Reynolds of New York was
not included on the list, though he barely edged out
Democratic businessman Jack Davis.
Also included in the White House presentation was a
list of vulnerable Republicans who the White House
thought may not seek reelection. And the names suggest
a disparity between the White House expectations and
the actual intentions of current members.
Some have been subject to recent retirement rumors,
including Republican Reps. C.W. Bill Young of
Florida, first elected in 1970, and Ralph Regula of
Ohio, who was elected in 1972.
Also on the retirement watch was Rep. Dennis Hastert
(R-Ill.), the former House speaker who surprised many
observers by choosing to stay in Congress as a
rank-and-file member of the minority party.
But others listed as potential retirements, such as
Rep. Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Don Young
(R-Alaska), have given every indication they plan on
Knollenberg, along with other vulnerable members, gave
a presentation to Republican lobbyists Thursday where
he outlined his campaign intentions and plans to raise
$3 million to $4 million dollars.