23 April, 2006

More Signs The House May Be In Play; Five NY Seats - Including The 19th District- Among Those Listed As Takeover Targets

According to a a Congressional Quarterly report the GOP has everything going for them in this year's House elections, except popularity with voters.

CQ Weekly published the first of three special reports on the 2006 elections. The report suggests that if the Republicans maintain control of the House it will be due primarily to built-in political benefits.

"The Republicans, at this still relatively early juncture in the 2006 campaign, remain favored to retain control of both the House and Senate if only because the party enjoys a set of structural advantages that clearly place Democratic challengers on an uphill slope. Redistricting has locked in scores of safe seats, most of them belonging to the GOP, and the party continues to enjoy a fundraising prowess that will enable its leaders and backbenchers alike to put the best possible face on their legislative records."

The report points out that Conress' popularity, according to recent polls, is at levels not unlike those seen in 1994 - when the entrenched Democrats were tossed out of office.

In addition, the report says it is unlikely the GOP can do much to change those poll numbers without a major legislative success, and soon.

"They essentially have between now and the start of the summer recess on July 28 to make progress on a legislative program that convinces the electorate that the GOP should remain in control of the national agenda for another two years. By the time they return after Labor Day, the intensity of the campaign season will be turned up so high that the moment for productive lawmaking will have passed.

"The majority party's rather uncharacteristic disarray so far this year suggests that it will have a hard time reversing the downward trend. Before leaving the Capitol for the congressional spring break, which ends this week, both House and Senate leaders were forced to jettison high-priority initiatives more because of Republican divisions than Democratic opposition.

"Absent a big (and successful) legislative push, Republicans will go into the fall elections in a defensive crouch - hoping against hope that the bad news from Iraq, the Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay legal proceedings, and last year's devastating hurricane season will not be followed by any more such politically debilitating experiences."

The CQ Weekly report also lists seats that seem to be, at least to some degree, flippable. Among them are five from New York. The 24th, an open seat, is listed as "no clear favorite." Listed as "Republican favored" are the 19th, 20th, 25th and 29th districts.

Here's what the reports had to say on the two Hudson Valley districts on the list:

New York 19 - Sue W. Kelly (R)
- 2004 vote for winner: 67%
- Summary: Though Kelly dodged a potentially competitive primary challenge in the Republican-leaning Hudson Valley district, Democrats have the six-term congresswoman in their cross hairs. Six Democrats are vying to be the challenger, aided by a grass-roots group called Take19, which argues that Kelly, who pursues a centrist profile, allies herself too often with the right wing of the Republican Party. Lawyer Judy Aydelott, an ex-Republican, has a solid fundraising lead in the Democratic field, with $466,000 in receipts at the end of March. The primary is Sept. 12.

New York 20 - John E. Sweeney (R)
- 2004 vote for winner: 66%
- Summary: Sweeney hasn't faced a serious challenge in four elections in a district that runs along the state's eastern border from Lake Placid to Poughkeepsie. But Democrats are hammering Sweeney on ethics issues - including a ski trip to Utah in January that they are branding as a junket- and have rallied behind lawyer Kirsten Gillibrand, a political novice who raised $716,000 through March 31 to compete with the well-funded incumbent.

Meanwhile, a National Journal "insiders" poll indicates that activists from both parties seem to think a reversal of House control is becoming more possible. On a 1-to-10 scale (10 being the highest probability), the average score of GOP members polled was 4.8 while that of Democrats was 5.6. The last time party insiders were asked, back in February, Republicans put the liklihood of a Democratic takeover of the House at 3.5 (on 1-10 scale), while the Democrats put it at 5.0.

Stuart Rothernberg, in the latest post on his Rothenberg Political Report blog, concluded the House is definitely "in play." Rothenberg boosted his estimate of Democrat gains to 7-10 seats from the 5-8 seats he previously expected them to gain. To win control of the House, the Democrats need to gain 15 seats.

TIME magazine will have a story tomorrow on what the White House hopes to do to change the fortunes of the GOP at the polls in November and President Bush for the remainder of his term.

In a story by Josh Allen, TIME reports new White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten has a five-point plan to recover the Bush presidency (comments in brackets are strictly the opinion of NYPOLS) : 1.) Deploy Guns and Bandages (get tough on illegal aliens); 2. Make Wall Street Happy (self-explanatory); 3. Brag More (is this possible?);4. Reclaim Security Credibility (Donald Rumsfeld still heads the Defense Department); 5. Court The Press (If you love me, you have a funny way of showing it.)


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