GOP hopes for 2012 victories in Northeast

Republicans argue they’re due for a comeback in the Northeast after years of seeing their House numbers from that area fall.

There are only two GOP House members from the densely populated region — both are from New York — but that could change after November.

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“I think it’s going to be a great year for Northeast Republicans,” said Chris Cox, a businessman who’s running for the Republican nomination to face Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.).

Observers agree. Their argument: Republicans candidates running in the Northeast can no longer be tied closely to former President George W. Bush, who has receded from public view. They also argue this new generation of “Rockefeller Republicans” can tout their business-friendly policy positions, which could be more appealing during an economic downturn.

“Absolutely, I think there’s a chance for a comeback,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

“The association with the Bush administration was toxic for a lot of Northeast Republicans. Now that he’s not in the picture anymore, I think that they can come out of their burrows and bask in the sunshine a little bit,” he said. “A moderate Republican does pose a very attractive alternative to President [Barack] Obama.”

Other observers say that after years on the decline, the party can only improve its position.

“Considering the region currently has just two Republican members, there’s really nowhere to go but up for the GOP,” said Tim Sahd, editor of House Race Hotline, an analytical Beltway newsletter. “But with 13 targeted seats, this is the most the GOP has been on offense in the region in over a decade.”

Still, Republicans aren’t taking anything for granted.

“The Northeast has been a stronghold for Democrats in recent elections, so Republicans are well-aware that we have our work cut out for us,” Paul Lindsay, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), said in an e-mail.

But in places like New York and New Jersey, which have become virtual one-party states, Republicans with business résumés could be strong challengers to Democratic incumbents like Bishop and Reps. Rush Holt (N.J.) and Bill Owens (N.Y.).

Other GOP targets include Reps. John Adler (D-N.J.), Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.), Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.) and Carol Shea Porter (D-N.H.).

“The Northeast is a good example because you have Democrats whose liberal, partisan voting records do not match the independent and fiscally responsible values of their districts,” Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for the NRCC, said in a statement.

 Owens faces a potential three-way contest between businessman Matt Doheny (R) and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman. The first-term lawmaker defeated Hoffman in a November 2009 special election.

In New Jersey, Princeton businessman Scott Sipprelle (R) is touting his “American Dream” experience in his race against Holt. Sipprelle founded his own investment firm after working on Wall Street.

During an economic downturn, voters “want someone who’s lived the American Dream. … The private businessman beats the career politician every day of the week,” said Sipprelle adviser Chris Russell.

There are downsides to running as a businessman and outsider candidate. These untested candidates have lawsuits, tax liens and other problems lurking in their backgrounds, observers note.

During the May special election to fill the late Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) seat, Democrats attacked Republican Tim Burns, an entrepreneur who founded a healthcare information company, for supporting outsourcing of American jobs.

Burns briefly served as an executive for NDCHealth Corp. after the company bought his startup businesses. Records showed NDCHealth Corp. deferred taxes on income earned overseas, and Burns indicated that he wouldn’t vote to restrict that practice if elected. He lost to Democrat Mark Critz.

“All of these Republican candidates have significantly flawed records,” Shripal Shah, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in an e-mail. “We’re going to hold them accountable for spending their careers only looking out for their own bank accounts at the expense of the families they’re now hoping to represent in Congress.”

Not all Republicans running are taking uniform policy positions.

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“I don’t think that corporations should be allowed to shelter their revenues or income overseas,” said Cox, who’s the grandson of President Richard Nixon. He runs a consulting business that helps companies expand into overseas markets. “People should pay their fair share of taxes.”

Cox, who’s vying against wealthy businessman Randy Altschuler and former SEC attorney George Demos in the Sept. 14 primary, said he would vote for a bill that would change the law to prevent corporations from deferring taxes on their foreign income.

“That mantle of job creation is the most important message,” Cox said.

-- George Demos is also running for the GOP nomination to face Rep. Bishiop. This article was updated at 11:20 a.m. Wednesday to reflect that.