Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

October 6, 2010

THE GOP CAN COME UP SHORT, BUT STILL GET A MAJORITY.... It's still hard to say with confidence how many seats House Republicans will pick up in the midterms. The GOP will need a net gain of 39 to win a majority for the next Congress, and while I still think the smart money says they'll clear that hurdle, a lot can still happen in 27 days.

But let's say Republicans come up short and win, say, 35 seats. Under normal circumstances, that would be a pretty good cycle for a discredited party that most the country neither likes nor trusts, but given GOP expectations about massive gains this year, failing to win a House majority would be a pretty devastating setback.

As it turns out, though, even if Republicans fell short of a +39 cycle, they wouldn't necessarily wait until 2012 before trying to get that majority. Indeed, if the GOP came up a few seats shy of 218, they'd just try to flip some Blue Dogs.

House Republicans are already examining which Democrats might want to switch parties after Nov. 2 and are mapping out a strategy for how to persuade them to make the leap.

Republican aides and lobbyists said there are a handful of Democratic Members whom GOP leaders plan to target, with Member-to-Member conversations beginning immediately after the midterm elections. Incentives for switching sides could include a leadership-level position or seat on a powerful committee such as Appropriations or Ways and Means.

"You are looking for someone who has been there three, four or five terms who has a shot at going up the ladder," said John Feehery, a GOP strategist who served as communications director to former Speaker Dennis Hastert. "One who is enticed by a committee chairmanship or one who their districts are so terribly bad that voting for Pelosi would be the end of them."

Democratic Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Walt Minnick (Idaho) and Heath Shuler (N.C.) are all on the Republicans' target list. Reps. Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Gene Taylor (Miss.) are also considered potential gets.

I have no idea whether any of these conservative Dems would be amenable to this sort of outreach, though it's worth keeping in mind that the context wouldn't exactly play in the GOP's favor. After the dust settles on the midterm cycle, if the expected Republican "wave" fails to materialize, those Blue Dogs -- all of whom would just have won re-election as Democrats in center-right districts in an ostensible GOP year -- wouldn't exactly feel excessive pressure to betray their team and join up with a party that couldn't deliver when the wind was at their backs.

Still, Dems seem to be well aware of the situation, and have begun taking steps to prevent party switches.

House Democrats, meanwhile, are working on a counterstrategy to try to thwart any GOP poaching, and they are even eyeing a few Republicans they think might be willing to join their ranks. "There are certainly contingency plans being put in place if in fact the ratio is two or three [lawmakers] in different directions," a former Democratic leadership aide said.

Democratic leaders have been trying to make sure their vulnerable Members know how valuable they are to the Caucus by campaigning for them and contributing to their re-election efforts. After Nov. 2, Democrats also plan to stay close to potential party switchers to try to prevent any defections, the former aide said.

Also note, GOP leaders who reach out to conservative Democrats would no doubt say, "You'll enjoy the party's full backing in 2012." But that shouldn't resonate -- when Rep. Parker Griffith (Ala.) switched to the Republican caucus, the party couldn't prevent his primary defeat. Indeed, party backing seemed largely irrelevant in this year's primaries, with plenty of establishment picks losing to challengers with Tea Party backing. One assumes Blue Dogs noticed, and would expect a similar fate if they crossed the aisle.

Still, it's something to keep an eye on. Depending on the margin, the fight for the majority won't necessarily end the first week in November.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (14)

Bookmark and Share

Should this story be expanded to cover the Senate as well? Would Lieberman caucus with the repubs if the split is 48D-50R-2I?

Posted by: Tim H on October 6, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

With the Tea Party around, there is no way in heck anybody is switching. If they did, they know they would lose in a landslide in the next primary.

Posted by: DR on October 6, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Methinks that losing control of the House in 2010 would be one of the best things that could happen to the Dems.

Once the GOP has some power the country will see how crazy some of them truly are, and the Dems will regain control of Congress in a landslide in 2012.

Posted by: mfw13 on October 6, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

I say, cut the fucking Blue Dogs loose. They are Republicans in drag. They should change their party affiliation to reflect their beliefs and the Democratic Party should stop squandering money on these asshats who vote with Republicans more often than not.

Posted by: karen marie on October 6, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Won't the Repubs need more than a net gain of 39, since it's certainly not out of the question the Dems pick up a couple of seats (Louisiana, and Delaware)? I would think they'll probably need around 41 or 42.

Posted by: EM on October 6, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Never underestimate the perfidy and self-importance of the Blue Dog. Choice committee assignments and mountains of Wall Street and Big Oil cash will be more than enough for at least a couple of them.

Posted by: TT on October 6, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

I thought they already had one, considering the Blue dork Democrats and the general spinelessness of the progressives? That place needs a highly victim specific, natural disaster...

Posted by: Trollop on October 6, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

why would any blue dog want to switch. Most already have senority and choice assignments. They will have just survived tough tea party challenges.

Why switch when you can set the agenda as Democrats?

Posted by: Ron Byers on October 6, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

12 Senators and 75 Congressmen

That will be the swing before blue dogs consider switching.

Posted by: neil wilson on October 6, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Also remember that redistricting is coming up, and with the GOP expecting to gain in governors and legislative seats, some Blue Dog districts could be in danger of going away if the Blue Dogs Representatives don't come out as Republicans.

Posted by: scott_m on October 6, 2010 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

The question Blue Dogs have to ask themselves is whether they would prefer to run against a Tea Bag candidate in the general election or on the Republican primary. They have no where to go.

Posted by: david1234 on October 6, 2010 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Getting a blue dog to roll over is easy. All you have to do is reward them with a biscuit. They already come pre-trained.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 6, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

"Blue Dogs . . . wouldn't exactly feel excessive pressure to betray their team."

Steve makes the mistake of assuming that you have to pressure a Blue Dog to get him to betray his team. Betraying the team is what they live for. No pressure (let alone "excessive" pressure") required!

Posted by: treetop on October 6, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

In 2012, with Obama on the ballot, the resulting electorate will give Democrats a wave (or counter-wave). Switching your party for a seat on Ways and Means for two whole years is not a smart way to the top.

Posted by: nv on October 8, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly