Reports of the impending demise of the Democratic majority in the House are “greatly exaggerated,” the head of the party’s House campaign committee said Friday.
Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, predicted in an address at the National Press Club that it was “very clear that Democrats will retain their majority in the House” in November’s midterm elections, despite mounting GOP optimism and independent polls showing Republicans well within reach of the net 39-seat gain needed to recapture the House.
Mr. Van Hollen said House Republicans are already “popping the champagne bottles,” but said they were guilty of a “premature celebration.”
While acknowledging that “no one was satisfied” with the state of the economy, the Maryland Democrat argued that polls showed voters were not ready to return power to Republicans and return to policies that, he said, helped create the present crisis.
“Our country doesn’t need to more partisan spin, it needs grown-up leaders willing to stop the spending spree and tax hikes to create jobs,” said Michael Steele, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican.
He also pointed to a number of individual districts where Republican primaries have produced conservative, “tea party”-backed candidates over more mainline party choices. With the battle for control of the House likely to focus on a smaller handful of moderate swing districts, many of the Republican nominees “are not a good fit” for their districts, Mr. Van Hollen said.
He cited in particular this week’s primary in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, where Iraq war veteran and tea party candidate Jesse Kelly stunned state Sen. Jonathan Paton in the Republican primary to take on vulnerable Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“You’re seeing that very same thing playing out in other districts around the country,” Mr. Van Hollen said.
He also rejected a parallel to the 1994 midterm elections, in which Republicans swept to power in the House after nearly 40 years in the minority, in a “wave election” that blindsided many Democrats. This time, Mr. Van Hollen said, congressional Democrats are very well aware of the difficult political environment they face.
“No one will be surprised this time,” he said. Vulnerable Democrats “have been preparing.”