Three weeks to election day, and republicans who are challenging Democratic incumbent congressmen are finding themselves rowing alone. The national party is leaving them to their own devices and concentrating on saving seats that were once considered safely republican – including the Arizona Third, where John Shaddeg is fighting for his political life in spite of the fact that the republican presidential nominee is not just from the same state, but the same city.
It’s an omen and an echo. Just a few weeks before voters went to the polls in 2006, veteran Republicans Gil Gutknecht in Minnesota, Jim Leach in Iowa and Jim Ryun in Kansas suddenly found themselves in tough reelection fights. By the time the party saw what was happening, it was already too late. Unknown challengers booted the lawmakers from office in a landslide election that gave Democrats control of both the House and the Senate.
If 2008 looks like 2006, a new wave of veteran Republicans will be out on the streets, and the colleagues they leave behind could find themselves with the smallest minority since the post-Watergate era.
“If you’re a Republican in a less-than-outstanding district, you want to have taken a poll in the last two weeks no matter who you’re running against,” said David Wasserman, an analyst on House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
The Democrats have decided to play to win and made spending decisions that have forced the republican’s hands in districts throughout the country. Republicans are being forced to spend money defending seats once considered safe, and that leaves challengers to sink or swim on their own.
Fearing a fillibuster-proof 60-seat Democratic majority, the RNC is considering spending money they don’t have to preserve seats that they still hold, however tenuously by tapping into a $5 million line of credit.
With party strategists fearing a bloodbath at the polls, GOP officials are shifting to triage mode, determining who can be saved and where to best spend their money.
And with the House and Senate Republican campaign
In the Nebraska Second, incumbent republican Lee Terry is sending out mailers with a constituent testimonial where she calls herself an “Obama-Terry voter” and encourages voters to split the ticket. “Go ahead and vote for Obama, but please cross the ballot and vote for me, too,” seems to be the message.
In the South Carolina Third, republican incumbent Henry Brown, Jr. is in a tough reelection battle, facing the independently wealthy and self-financing Democrat Linda Ketner, heiress to the Food Lion fortune. The race is a toss-up in a coastal district where George Bu$h won 61% of the vote four years ago.
In the California Third, incumbent Dan Lungren won reelection handily two years ago, beating Democratic challenger Bill Durston by 21 points. In this years rematch, Durston is within the margin of error, Lungren only leads by three.
Allan Hoffenblum, a former GOP consultant, says Lungren isn’t the only California GOP incumbent at risk of defeat. He rattles off three more at-risk incumbents Representatives: Dana Rohrabacher, David Dreier and Brian Bilbray.
Over on the Senate side, the landscape is just as bleak.
Both the RNC and NRSC are being drastically outspent by their Democratic counterparts, and outside groups such as Freedom’s Watch offering far less help than was once anticipated, Republicans are turning to the national party committee as a lender of last resort.
A decision is imminent because television time must be reserved and paid for upfront, and available slots are dwindling.
The RNC will neither confirm nor deny the reports, of course, and the NRSC and RNC are prohibited from discussing an “independent expenditure” campaign by the RNC for Senate races, including ad content or where they might run.
Of the 33 Class II Senate Seats being contested this year, nineteen are projected to either be held by a Democratic incumbent or swing to a Democratic challenger. Liddy Dole is about to lose to Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Jeanne Shaheen is solidifying her lead over John Sununu in New Hampshire, Gordon Smith is set to lose to Jeff Merkley in Oregon, Al Franken is about to give Norm “Clotheshorse” Coleman a spankin’, Tom Udall is on track to take the seat being vacated by Pete Domenici in New Mexico, his cousin Mark Udall is leading in Colorado in the race to replace Wayne Allard who is not running for reelection and Mark Warner is set to step into the seat being vacated by the retiring John Warner (no relation).
That is a seven-seat pickup in the Senate, and picking up three more is not out of the question. Meanwhile, there is not a single Democratic incumbent Senator facing a challenger that threatens to unseat him or her.