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Van Hollen, Cole Hit Road

The chairmen of the House campaign committees both plan to be on the road on committee business this Memorial Day recess.

But in their five months on the job, the two have displayed starkly different approaches when it comes to tackling the key political tasks of recruiting and fundraising.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) has put much of the responsibility for recruiting and fundraising on his own shoulders and those of his political staff at the DCCC — and has been significantly more active than his Republican counterpart in traveling the country in search of cash and candidates.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.), though not on the road as much as Van Hollen, has not necessarily been any less personally involved in those endeavors. But he does appear to have made a tactical decision to share the burden for recruiting and raising money with a variety of his GOP colleagues, depending on the district in question.

“Chairman Cole has implemented a strategy that utilizes those Members of the Republican Conference who are interested and willing to help out the team,” said NRCC spokesman Ken Spain. “Whether they are working to successfully recruit candidates to run in their neighboring districts or hosting regional fundraisers on behalf of the NRCC, their contributions have proven to be invaluable.”

Since the beginning of the year, Van Hollen has seven trips under his belt and nine more scheduled, including three set for Memorial Day recess. He has held 44 meetings with potential recruits in Washington, D.C. DCCC staffers, meanwhile, have visited 36 Republican-held districts to gauge the political atmosphere and search for viable challengers.

Next week, Van Hollen is scheduled to be in Kansas City, New York City and Ohio. In Kansas City he is set to raise money for Kay Barnes (D), the city’s former mayor who is challenging Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) next year in the 6th district.

In New York, Van Hollen is scheduled to meet with Dan Maffei (D), who took 49 percent against Rep. Jim Walsh (R) last year and has announced his intention to run again in 2008. In Ohio, Van Hollen is set to attend a fundraiser for state House Minority Whip Steve Driehaus (D), who is running against Rep. Steve Chabot (R) in the 1st district.

“Chairman Van Hollen is working aggressively to keep the DCCC on the offense, and that is reflected in his ambitious candidate recruitment and fundraising activities,” DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell said.

Van Hollen’s search for money and candidates to expand the Democrats’ House majority already has taken him to New York City twice, as well as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle and Northern Virginia. In addition to his Memorial Day recess itinerary, Van Hollen is scheduled in the near future to make a fourth trip to New York City and visit Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and suburban Maryland.

DCCC staff has traveled even more than Van Hollen, visiting 36 districts in search of viable challengers, including to a few undisclosed California seats as well as to those held by GOP Reps. Rick Renzi (Ariz.), Bill Young (Fla.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Ralph Regula (Ohio), Graves and Chabot.

One Democratic operative familiar with the DCCC said Van Hollen has maintained the model that was so successful for the committee in the previous cycle under then-Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who is now chairman of the Democratic Caucus.

On the recruiting front, that means Van Hollen is traveling to targeted districts and finding out from the local Democrats which potential candidates would cause Republicans the most problems, and then bringing the recruits to Capitol Hill to show them what awaits them if they get elected.

“Van Hollen is handling things much like Emanuel did,” this Democratic operative said.

Cole is scheduled next week to join Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in St. Louis for an NRCC fundraiser, with another four trips scheduled in the next couple of weeks and an additional 10 in the works beyond that, including visits to Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and Lewisville, Texas. He already has traveled to Cleveland, Arizona and Michigan.

But Cole’s overall travel schedule thus far has been noticeably lighter than Van Hollen’s, as he has chosen to spend more time meeting with potential recruits in Washington while simultaneously relying on Members who neighbor targeted districts when an on-the-ground presence is required.

The NRCC attributes this strategy for the success the committee experienced recently in recruiting former California Assemblyman Dean Andal (R) to challenge Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) in the 11th district and convincing retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard (R) to take on Rep. Jim Marshall (D) in Georgia’s 8th district. Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) are credited with playing a “sizable role” in coaxing Andal and Goddard into their respective races, according to a Republican operative.

Cole’s fundraising strategy of collaborating with fellow GOP Members to hold regional NRCC events — such as the one he is scheduled to attend with Blunt next week in St. Louis — was developed by Rep. Tom Reynolds (N.Y.), who manned the NRCC during the 2004 and 2006 cycles.

One Republican operative familiar with how the NRCC operates said travel is productive when it comes to fundraising. This individual said that the regional fundraisers utilized by Reynolds were successful, suggesting that Cole is on the right track in continuing them.

This Republican also indicated that Cole’s strategy of relying less on travel for recruiting, in favor of bringing potential recruits to Capitol Hill for meetings with the NRCC, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and sometimes the entire Conference, is equally effective.

“There’s much more pageantry in bringing potential recruits to D.C.,” this Republican said.

Despite Van Hollen’s busy travel itinerary, he — like Cole — uses direct contact with Members and the allure of Capitol Hill to secure recruits.

Much like college football and basketball coaches walk recruits into campus arenas and stadiums and tell them to imagine fans screaming their names, sources say Van Hollen and Cole parade recruits before high-ranking Members and through the halls of the Capitol.

This tactic was widely employed in the previous cycle by both Reynolds and Emanuel.

In the case of the Democrats, Van Hollen has the option of taking prospective recruits to the Speaker’s office, while Republicans still hold as a trump card a White House visit.

“I think candidates are more enticed when they see what it’s like to be a Congressman,” the Democratic operative said.

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