Brand Name Republican is becoming the Mark of the Beast, as the GOP just can’t seem to recruit anyone to run against Democratic incumbents.
Missed opportunities, stumbles and bad breaks in a half-dozen states or more in 2005 have tilted the map toward the Democrats in ways that are still unfolding.
“In every single state where they were challenging one of our incumbents they did not get their first choice and in many cases they did not get their second,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, head of the Democratic campaign committee.
As a result, he said, “we can spend our time and money challenging their incumbents.”
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Apart from Florida, Republicans failed to get their preferred recruits in North Dakota, a heavily Republican state, as well as Washington, Nebraska, Michigan, West Virginia and Vermont. Several GOP officials concede the party’s prospects are hampered as a result. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid open criticism of North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who chairs their campaign committee.
Brian Nick, a committee spokesman, conceded failures in North Dakota and especially in Florida, where Dole tried repeatedly to persuade others to join the race. “We felt that was a state we could put in play and obviously that race hasn’t become competitive and we’ve moved on to other endeavors,” he said.
On the eve of the traditional Labor Day kickoff to the fall campaign, Democrats appear poised to gain seats, although picking up the six they need for a majority remains a significant challenge.
Recruiting is influenced by the “larger political environment,” said Jim Jordan, former executive director of the Democratic senatorial committee. “Attractive Republican candidates likely chose not to run this cycle because the political winds were against them.”
Polls show President Bush’s popularity down, the war in Iraq is unpopular and the Republican-controlled Congress is viewed with dissatisfaction.
The Democrats, with $37.7 million in the bank as of June 30, to $19.8 million for the Republicans, hope to use their financial advantage to exploit Republican recruiting shortcomings.
As an example, they plan to take money they might have needed to help Sen. Bill Nelson in Florida can now go to elsewhere. Obvious possibilities are competitive races for Republican-held seats in states like Ohio, Missouri or Tennessee _ or perhaps more challenging races in Virginia and Arizona.
Republican problems are widespread. Rep. Candice Miller declined to run in Michigan. Likewise Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia.
In heavily Republican North Dakota, Gov. John Hoeven spurned an appeal from White House political strategist Karl Rove to challenge Sen. Kent Conrad. Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas declined to run in Vermont after Sen. Jim Jeffords announced his retirement.
In Nebraska, which customarily favors the GOP, former Gov. Mike Johanns became agriculture secretary rather than challenge Sen. Ben Nelson. Dino Rossi declined to run in Washington after losing a gubernatorial race in a 2004 recount.