Rep. McCarthy: Democratic Party in 'panic mode'

The 2010 playing field of competitive House races is rapidly expanding, Rep. Kevin McCarthy argued Thursday, saying there are increasing signs that Democrats are in "panic mode" about their party's prospects in November. 

On a conference call with reporters, the California Republican said recent polling favoring Republicans in districts that many Democrats didn't expect to be competitive this cycle has Democratic incumbents running scared.  

"Races that people never thought would be in play, will be in play now," McCarthy said. 

The result, he argued, is "panic mode inside the Democratic Party from the incumbents themselves."  

McCarthy, who heads up recruiting for the National Republican Congressional Committee, is fresh off a campaign swing through nine House districts last week. He predicted Republicans would be competitive in all of them this fall.

He talked up Republican challengers to Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) and candidates in open-seat races in Tennessee and Kansas. In recent days, Republicans have touted internal polling in districts that earlier this cycle were considered a stretch for the party. 

The campaigns of Francisco Canseco (R), who is challenging Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas), and Bobby Schilling, who is running against Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.), both claim internals that have their candidate leading.

Party strategists argue that if Republicans can pick off incumbents like that this November, it could mean a very large GOP wave.

Democrats are dismissing such claims as Republican hubris and expressing confidence that they will retain the majority in the House this November, at least publicly. 

DCCC press secretary Ryan Rudominer fired back Thursday, "The only one in panic mode is Kevin McCarthy who is worried about ginning up enough attention for his self serving book. The bottomline is that the NRCC now faces some tough decisions about which of their many candidates with anemic fundraising can’t cut it and have to be abandoned." 

Rudominer said voters will have clear choice in November and predicted voters will "reject Republicans’ agenda of unpaid tax cuts for the wealthy that add billions to the deficit, privatizing Social Security and Medicare, removing the new checks on Wall Street, and tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas." 

DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has repeated the mantra in recent days that the party will not lose its majority and has aggressively gone after Republicans on jobs and economic policy.

-Updated at 5:38 p.m