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Cole to Colleagues: GOP Can Win in ’08

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) on Wednesday left many of his Republican colleagues feeling upbeat about their chances of regaining the majority in 2008.

Cole’s report to the House Republican Conference came one day before this morning’s scheduled briefing to reporters, in what will be the Oklahoman’s first full-blown news conference since he assumed the chairmanship of the NRCC in January.

The discussion Wednesday focused on Congress’ overall job approval ratings, candidate recruiting and Cole’s strategy for leading his conference back to the majority. Republicans need to pick up 16 seats in November 2008 to shed their minority status.

“Chairman Cole made a very compelling case that we have a very good chance of earning back our majority,” Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) said Wednesday, following Cole’s presentation during the Conference’s weekly breakfast meeting. “The net result of our conversation was, we truly do believe that we can earn our way back to a majority — and we will.”

Although the NRCC has yet to reveal its second-quarter fundraising numbers, it almost assuredly will trail the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in money raised for the year as well as cash on hand — just as it did at the end of the first quarter. Buoyed by being in the majority for the first time in a dozen years, the DCCC raised approximately $17 million during the second quarter, to close the period with $19 million in the bank.

Republicans also continue to be dogged by President Bush’s low approval ratings and the increasing unpopularity of the Iraq War.

“Republicans are in disarray and grasping at straws,” said DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider. “Americans do not want to turn back the clock to the vastly unpopular Republican Congress of no accountability, no new ideas and no plan to end the president’s failed war in Iraq.”

But House Republicans are optimistic.

Despite being significantly outmuscled by the DCCC on the fundraising front — even as the NRCC continues to use a significant portion of the money it does raise to pay down the previous cycle’s campaign debt — Republicans believe they stand to gain ground on the Democrats next year, thanks largely to Congress’ cratering job approval numbers.

The average of all major polls taken show Congress with an abysmal 24.8 percent approval rating, with 64.8 percent disapproving.

Crider argued that Congress’ overall ratings are deceptive because Democratic incumbents lead Republicans 45 percent to 43 percent in 18 of the most competitive GOP districts.

According to GOP aides familiar with Wednesday’s briefing, Cole told his colleagues that voters are in an anti-incumbent mood, which presents Republicans with a legitimate political opportunity to oust incumbent House Democrats.

“The fact that Congress has the approval rating it does is not helpful to the party in power,” said Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.).