Quietly recruiting

As White House hopefuls attract national headlines on a daily basis, House and Senate congressional campaign chiefs are working quietly behind the scenes to recruit who they hope are the lawmakers of tomorrow.

The 2008 race to succeed President Bush is fascinating and historic, but how the 44th commander-in-chief will interact with the 111th Congress could be even more captivating.

In theory, control of Congress could flip back to the GOP. But with the Iraq war and ethics controversies still plaguing the Republican Party, it is unlikely that Republicans will win back either chamber next year.

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Having to defend 21 seats while Democrats have to defend only 12 this cycle, Senate Republicans realistically are working to maintain their position as a potent minority. Senate Democratic leaders, led by Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairman Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOn The Money: Trump, Congress reach two-year budget, debt limit deal | What we know | Deal gets pushback from conservatives | Equifax to pay up to 0M in data breach settlement | Warren warns another 'crash' is coming Overnight Defense: Iran's spy claim adds to tensions with US | Trump, lawmakers get two-year budget deal | Trump claims he could win Afghan war in a week Trump, Democrats clinch two-year budget deal MORE (D-N.Y.), can map out a plausible scenario of gaining a handful of seats.

Earlier this year, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said the House is up for grabs. But he has also deemed success as picking up a net of one seat.

GOP operatives are hoping that the political winds shift, because if they don’t, 2008 could end up being a rerun of the blue wave of 2006.

Recruiting has naturally been more difficult for Republicans this year, though Cole has pointed out that many Republicans in red districts are jumping at the opportunity to challenge Democrats during this presidential cycle. Cole has repeatedly mentioned Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) as a target, predicting that Boyda will be hurt by whoever is at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Recruiting candidates, of course, is not an exact science. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), persuaded many talented Democratic candidates to run for the House last year. And despite the committee’s backing, voters rejected several of them in the primary.

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Democratic freshman Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.), Zack Space (Ohio) and John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthHouse Problem Solvers are bringing real change to Congress McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch The House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort MORE (Ky.) had to overcome initial DCCC resistance before political operatives in Washington embraced them.

This cycle is no different. Most political observers believe that the DSCC wants former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator How to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (D) to challenge Sen. John Sununu (R) this cycle, but she has remained noncommittal. There are other Democrats in the race who want to nab Sununu’s seat, including Katrina Swett, who is the daughter of Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and the wife of former Rep. Dick Swett (D-N.H.).

Swett raised an impressive $462,000 in the first quarter (Lantos contributed $4,000 to his daughter’s war chest), but if Shaheen jumps in, she’ll likely be treated as the DSCC’s favorite.

The odds favor Shaheen to win the primary if she gets in, but Swett and other candidates know that congressional races do not always play to form.