A new round of DCCC targets
This week, the DCCC launched radio ads against six Republican incumbents, attacking them for opposing the stimulus. As I explained in May when the NRCC ran ads against entrenched Blue Dogs, it makes more sense for a national committee to spend its money this early trying to soften incumbents who are not obvious targets - which is what Democrats are now doing.
3 of the 6 are representatives no one doubts would be endangered if they faced a strong recruit - but Democrats are having trouble landing a candidate. In AK-AL, Alaska Democrats don’t have enough of a bench to guarantee another challenger to Rep. Don Young. MI-11 is a blue-trending district but Democrats are having clear difficulties finding someone willing to challenge Rep. Thad McCotter. The same goes in Charlie Dent’s PA-15. Why run ads in these districts if there are no candidates yet? The DCCC might be wanting to reassure potential challengers that they can count on the backing of the national party.
A fourth target is Rep. Brian Bilbray, against whom Democrats already have two candidates, but CA-50 remains a difficult district for them so it makes sense for them to try and go after Bilbray early. The fifth target is Rep. Peter King in NY-03, which belongs to yet another category: It is relatively doubtful that the district will be that contested if King runs for re-election, but the DCCC might be showing their determination to challenge him in order to get him to vacate his seat. (Of course, that would please House Democrats but it would be bad news for the DSCC, as it would probably mean that King is running for Senate.)
The sixth district targeted in this wave of ads is FL-16, which means that the DCCC looks more serious about the possibility of challenging Rep. Tom Rooney than I expected. Not only is FL-16 a red-leaning district John McCain won by 5%, but Rooney was considered a top-tier GOP recruit last year even before Rep. Tim Mahoney’s campaign exploded under the weight of harassment scandals. Yet, under the laudable belief that testing a freshman can always yields surprises, the DCCC looks set to make a push for the seat.
On the other hand, the DCCC just lost one of the candidates it was courting for this race. Via Swing State Project, state Senator Dave Aronberg just announced that he would run for Attorney General - a seat that is open because of Bill McCollum’s gubernatorial run. This might be good news for those looking to bolster Democratic control in Tallahassee but not those who are hoping to get Rooney ousted. Another potential challenger could be St. Lucie County Commissioner Chris Craft.
Elsewhere in Florida, there is some southern Florida buzz in FL-25, held by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. In 2008, Democrats ultimately proved unsuccessful in dislodging any of Miami’s Republican incumbents. Might a solution be recruiting the Miami Mayor himself, Manny Diaz? In office since 2001, Mayor Diaz is term-limited out of a job this fall and The City Debate reports that he is considering a congressional run. One problem: Diaz is currently an independent. Though he is a former Democrat who attended this year’s Jefferson, that could cause some problems if he faces a primary. 2008 nominee and Dade County Democratic Chairman Joe Garcia is said to be mulling a rematch.
LA-03: A challenger to Melancon?
Earlier in this post, I noted that the DCCC’s attempt to scare Rep. King out of a re-election race could end up damaging the DSCC. The same situation is occurring in Louisiana - on the Republican side. Ever since he was elected in 2004, Democrat Charlie Melancon has not faced a competitive race and the NRCC is looking to change that by recruiting state Rep. Nickie Monica. She He would be a strong contender by the very fact that this is a staunchly conservative district (McCain received 62%).
But this news could have repercussions on the Senate race as well: The DSCC is trying to convince Melancon to challenge Senator David Vitter. If Melancon’s re-election prospects look strong, it makes him less likely to run for Senate since he would be giving up a safe position for a difficult statewide run; if a credible challenger suddenly emerges, however, Melancon would have to choose between two competitive races - making him more likely to go after Vitter.
No open seat in MD-06
Back in February, the DCCC ran a radio ad against Rep. Roscoe Bartlett. That was viewed as a surprise since Bartlett, who has served in the House since 1992, is too entrenched to envision Democrats mounting any sort of challenge against him. The most likely explanation was that the DCCC wanted to scare Bartlett, who just turned 83, into retirement but even that wasn’t convincing: An open race here isn’t anything for the DCCC to pine after as MD-06 is staunchly conservative (Bush won by 25% and 31%, McCain by 18%). In any case, it looks like we won’t get to find out whether the DCCC had any trump card prepared if the seat opened up as Bartlett just announced that he would run for re-election.
Note that MD-06 is the state’s only seat (out of 8) held by a Republican. One reason for that is that, in the last round of redistricting, state Democrats packed as many Republican precincts as possible in the 1st and 6th districts - the only ones in which McCain cracked 40%, let alone won. If anything, the upcoming redistricting will make MD-06 even more conservative: Democrats somehow managed to pick-up MD-01 last fall so they might try to shore up their strength in that district - which could mean even more packing in the first district (if that’s possible)!