2010 Political Tsunami Warning: Will GOP's Wave Be Big Enough?

Is the GOP riding a big enough wave to change control of the House?

October 28, 2010, 5:18 PM

Oct. 29, 2010 -- Just four days from the congressional midterm elections, it's not a question of whether a wave will hit Washington on Election Day, but rather a question of how much damage the wave will leave in its wake.

House Democrats will measure success if they lose less than the 39 seats Republicans need in order to seize control of the House of Representatives.

But the forecast isn't looking good. ABC News currently rates 45 House races as "Toss-Ups" and considers 125 House seats competitive. Of the "Toss-Ups," 43 out of 45 seats are currently held by Democratic members or retiring Democratic incumbents.

GOP strategists say that based on internal polling, they've already banked at least two-dozen seats out of the 39 seats Republicans need to win back the House.

"We're starting to see races break open here," a Republican aide told ABC News. "These toss-up races are looking very good now. These are [challenging] Democrats who thought they were immune to the coming wave."

Nevertheless, Democrats are maintaining an air of confidence in the final days leading up to the election.

In an interview with ABC News' Jake Tapper this week on the "Political Punch" webcast, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said he was "confident that the Democrats are going to retain the majority in the House."

"I've said from the start this is going to be a very challenging election. In fact, you go back to the January after the last election, we made it very clear to our members if you look at the historical pattern and you look at the fact that we had won so many swing seats, we better get prepared and ready," Van Hollen, (D-MD) said. "The good news is our candidates did prepare. I mean, they've done everything possible."

To make their case, Democratic strategists say there is a "lack of enthusiasm among Republicans" and that while Republicans talked a big game about ousting Democrats this fall, Democratic members are actually "holding their own in a dead heat."

Democratic aides say that internal polling shows Rep. Paul Kanjorski (PA-11) leading, while other Democratic incumbents are still competing in swing districts that Republicans have consistently talked about picking up, including Reps. Michael Arcuri (NY-24), Walt Minnick (ID-1), Larry Kissell (NC-8), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-At Large) and John Boccieri (OH-16).

"Obviously a lot of races are going to be very competitive and go down to the wire, but lots of our guys are arguing better than anyone thought they'd be doing," said a Democratic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Voters are taking pause. That's why Democrats are winning in a lot of these races, but it's a very tough environment."

Republicans are making the flip-side of that argument.

"As Republicans continue to push the borders of the playing field, the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and its allies are forced to spend money in races they expected would be locked up weeks ago. Even more troubling for Democrats is the fact that many of these races are even competitive in the first place," said Ken Spain, the National Republican Congressional Committee Communications Director. "We are closing the deal, moving toward accomplishing our ultimate goal of retiring Nancy Pelosi and capturing a new Republican majority."

As proof, Republican aides point to examples of competitive contests in districts that have historically elected Democrats, like the districts of 17-term Rep. Ike Skelton (MO-4), nine-term Rep. Earl Pomeroy (ND-At Large), and four-term Rep. Jim Marshall (GA-8).

Whether they're surfing an electoral wave or the airwaves, each party is doing its best to fight for control, and they are spending a fortune to do it.

Under the leadership of Chairman Pete Sessions, (R-TX), the National Republican Congressional Committee has raised more than $107 million for its House candidates while Sessions has personally campaigned and raised funds in more than 150 districts. The GOP has 358 paid field staffers, including at least one staffer in each of the 120 congressional districts Republicans are targeting. As the final push for votes intensifies, Republican sources say the NRCC is currently spending $54 million on television advertising in 90 different districts across the country.

The DCCC has raised a total of $129.2 million this election cycle. Since Oct. 11, the Democratic Party has or will spend about $40 million on television advertising in the final push leading up to the election. Democratic strategists say the party is putting its cash behind its Get Out The Vote campaign, spending another $20 million on field operations, including 700 paid staff in 75 congressional districts.

"All of us understand right now that this is going to be a turnout game and remaining persuasion of independents," Van Hollen told Tapper. "In a lot of those places where we pulled out, you still have the campaigns that have a lot of resources to compete. And in those races, a lot of the Republican-leaning groups have pulled out, so you've got a fair fight going out on the air."

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