House GOP Is Recruiting Heavily for '08
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole is upbeat about his party's chances to pick up House seats in the 2008 election. Republicans lost 30 seats in 2006, the worst defeat for the GOP since the Watergate era.
But "honestly, we feel pretty good," Cole said at a briefing with reporters. He's upbeat about competing for the 61 House seats that Democrats hold but that Bush carried in the 2004 presidential election, saying that Republicans have "a lot more opportunities for offense than Democrats."
Key to their strategy is pounding Democrats on their record in Congress.
"For the first time in 12 years, they have had to cast tough votes," Cole says of Democrats. He believes Republicans will be buoyed by low approval ratings for Congress and a strong anti-Washington sentiment nationwide. So far the NRCC has been focused intensely on paying down the roughly $16 million debt accrued from the last cycle. Democrats have outraised Republicans and have more cash on hand, but Cole says he's focused first and foremost on paying down the debt and running a lean operation.
He has paid off three quarters of the debt. Still, though, he says he'd rather have debt problems than have fewer seats, which might have been the case if the committee hadn't taken out loans at the tail end of the '06 race.
As for recruiting, of the 30 seats that Democrats won in the fall, Cole says he has "strong candidates" in more than half of those districts. He's dubbing the GOP candidates as "pragmatic professional decision makers."
Cole said at this point the class is most similar to the 1992 election, when Republicans gained 10 seats; two years later, they wrested control from the Democrats.
Although Bush faces historically low public approval ratings, Cole says, "he won't be the decisive figure in the '08 election. There will be a new face on the Republican Party." Asked which issues he thought would work to Republicans' advantage across the country, Cole listed the Democratic budget ("classic Democratic raise your taxes, spend money") and appropriations bills (which are slated to include more money than the president's request and have drawn veto threats from Bush).