NRCC chief says GOP ‘far ahead’ of '94

Republican campaign efforts are “far ahead” of where they were the year before the party took back the House in 1994, the leader of the GOP’s midterm campaign efforts said Monday.

Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas) said that in such areas as fundraising and candidate recruitment, the House GOP’s 2010 election campaign is ahead of where the party was at the same point in the 1994 cycle. That was the year former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) led the Republican Revolution during the midterm election following former President Bill Clinton’s first two years in office.

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“In terms of candidate recruitment, fundraising and issue development, we are far ahead of where we were at this point in 1993 — and you remember what happened in ’94,” Sessions, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), told the conservative website Human Events in an interview posted Monday.

Republican confidence in 2010 has grown over the summer as concerns about Democratic plans to reform healthcare have dominated the political landscape.

Still, taking over the House will be difficult. Republicans would have to win about 40 seats to gain a majority, depending on the results of a special election to replace Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.), who left his seat to become Army secretary.

The NRCC also lags behind the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in fundraising this cycle, and is collecting funds at a slower pace than in the previous cycle.

The House GOP campaign arm raised $24 million through the end of August, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports, $11 million less than the nearly $35 million it brought in between January and August of 2007.

The NRCC has also spent less, however, and has more cash on hand today — $4.2 million — than it held at the same point of the 2008 cycle. It has $2 million in debt.

The DCCC has raised $37 million in this cycle, according to the FEC filings. It has spent $27 million and has almost $11 million in the bank. It has $4.6 million in debt.

Independent political analysts in recent weeks have put momentum behind the GOP.

Political forecaster Nate Silver of the website fivethirtyeight.com in August predicted that Democrats could lose as many as 50 House seats. Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report in August said Democrats could lose more than 20 seats.

Sessions’s comments are among the most confident issued by a Republican leader, though others have also indicated they’re hopeful of a sea change next year.

“I really believe we’ve got a shot at taking back this House, because you see what’s gone on here with the unfettered ability of this administration and Nancy Pelosi to run this Congress,” House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told ABC News in an interview.

That optimism grew after an end-of-August poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee (RNC) showed a tied generic congressional race, at 36 percent for Republicans and 36 percent for Democrats. That represented a five-point shift in internal Republican polling between June and August alone.

“It has been a number of years since we’ve seen the generic ballot at parity for us,” Republican pollster Wes Anderson, who conducted the survey, said at the time.

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That poll saw Republicans riding high on a wave of opinion against the healthcare reform package in Congress, with Anderson predicting a “good year” in 2010 if any of the current health proposals pass.

Democrats are unmoved by the Republican confidence. They argue a negative Republican brand, combined with a political map featuring fewer Democratic retirements than in 1994, sets them up for a better year in 2010.

While the DCCC acknowledges history is behind the GOP — the president’s party generally loses congressional seats in midterm elections — it stresses that it has been preparing its members for a tougher-than-usual battle in 2010.

“Democrats are taking nothing for granted in 2010,” said DCCC national press secretary Ryan Rudominer. “Way back in January, we made it clear to our members on the Democratic side — get ready, fasten your seatbelts, because this is going to be a tough cycle.”

“The good news for us is they’ve been preparing from day one,” he added. “When you go district by district, Democrats are doing well.”

For its part, the NRCC is hoping its adoption of the “Young Guns” program to promote candidates for open or Democratic-held seats, along with its bolstered “Patriot Program” to protect its own incumbents, will help its candidates make inroads in 2010, if not take back the House.

“Candidates are flocking to us, wanting to run in districts against Democratic congressmen that most folks wrote off as unbeatable years ago,” Sessions told Human Events.

“If you are not interested in winning and making [Minority Leader] John Boehner [R-Ohio] Speaker of the House, then I don’t have time for you.”