- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Congressional Republicans are creating a political operation designed specifically to register and turn out Republican voters to protect their majority in the House in November's elections.

In the past such efforts have been led by the Republican National Committee, but this year House Republican leaders are implementing their own push, which they call STOMP the Strategic Taskforce for the Organization and Mobilization of People to work with the RNC and state parties to turn out voters.

"Republicans need to rediscover our lost skills of grass-roots campaigning. We need to shake off the complacency and roll up our sleeves and go to work," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who is heading the effort along with Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"We need to fight every inch within competitive districts by fully executing our literature drop, our volunteer phone banks, and most importantly, door-to-door precinct canvassing," Mr. DeLay said. "And STOMP is an idea that we've developed, and we think it is the program to really regain that edge."

Speaking to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) convention in Washington yesterday, Mr. DeLay told the members that the idea is to put volunteers in key congressional districts. In particular, it will send volunteers from safe districts to work in nearby competitive districts.

But Kim Rubey, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NRCC's opposition, said the operation is "nothing more than a little hype."

"They have the same song and dance every cycle, yet they've lost seats for the past three elections cycles and they lost control of the Senate," she said. "They're way behind the curve. Republicans admit themselves that they can't match Democratic grass-roots outreach activities."

Mr. DeLay, who appears to be a shoo-in as majority leader next year if Republicans keep control of the House, said Democrats have outperformed Republicans in turning out voters in the past few elections.

Democrats were able to gain House seats in 1998, bucking the historical trend of the president's party losing seats in mid-term elections. Strong Democratic turnout, Mr. DeLay said, also explains why so many pre-election polls showed President Bush leading the 2000 race for president, although Al Gore actually topped Mr. Bush in the popular vote.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti would not discuss specific target districts, but he and Mr. DeLay pointed to last year's special election in Virginia, in which Rep. J. Randy Forbes beat Democrat Louise Lucas for the House seat left open by the death of Norman Sisisky, a Democrat.

In that race Republicans sent 450 volunteers to the district in the three days before the election to knock on doors and try to turn out their voters. Mr. Forbes won the race with 52 percent of the vote.

One obvious target this year is the race in Nevada's new congressional district, which was drawn to be about even in registration numbers. Republicans are convinced that a good turnout can deliver this seat to them.

ABC members have already planned their own corollary November effort the organization's leadership is asking members to take time off in the days leading up to the election to volunteer on campaigns as a counterbalance to the unions, which put hundreds of thousands of volunteers on the streets every election.

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