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Van Hollen: 2010 Will Be Tough, But Not Fatal

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said Thursday that House Democrats should brace for challenging races in 2010, but he dismissed the idea that next year’s mid-term elections would be an all-out sweep for Republicans.

“People who think this is a redux of 1994 are totally misreading the current situation,— said Van Hollen, a speaker at Bloomberg’s Washington Summit.

Democrats are in a situation for a historically “very tough cycle— given the party’s major victories in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, said Van Hollen, who is also assistant to the Speaker. “I set these expectations back in January.—

But recent polling shows that just 20 percent of Americans identify themselves as Republicans, a drop of 8 percentage points from the 2008 elections, according to Van Hollen. “To suggest that the Republicans are going to run to the rescue of the American people who think they’re the answer, at least as we sit here a year out, is very wrong,— he said.

A major factor playing into the 2010 elections will be how Members vote on the final Democratic health care plan, which Van Hollen said he expects will pass this year.

“The political fortunes of the entire Caucus are tied together in getting this passed,— said Van Hollen. Failure to pass the health care overhaul would “damage Democrats’ prospects in the next election— and “show a failure to deliver— on a promise made in many Members’ campaigns.

The Maryland Democrat said he thinks his party has done a good job of conveying to the public that the health care proposal would allow people to keep their current insurance plans. But overall, he said, Democrats need to do a better job explaining what the bill does.

“I think we have work to do in that area,— said Van Hollen, pointing to key cost-cutting provisions in the bill that have received little attention, such as changes to the incentive structure in Medicare and bundling of payments. “We’ve not done a good enough job of getting the word out on those issues.—

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