GOP Works to Channel Euphoria

Posted January 20, 2010 at 6:54pm

Boosted by Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s (R-Mass.) upset Tuesday night, Congressional Republicans on Wednesday looked to harness the party’s euphoria and capitalize on their first monumental political victory in two election cycles.

Within hours of Brown’s win, House and Senate GOP leaders had seized the momentum and started reaching out to donors and potential candidates.

At 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, National Republican Congressional Committee Recruitment Chairman Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) said he started making calls to potential 2010 candidates — including New York businessman Richard Hanna.

“We have been recruiting for a long time but there’s some people that when you are [recruiting them] you think, they will be great for the job, great to run, the community wants them, but this might not be the best time in their life,— McCarthy said. “I called a lot of them today and said if there ever was a time, it was now.—

By Wednesday afternoon, Hanna had announced he was running for a second time against Rep. Michael Arcuri (D), to whom he lost by 5 points in 2008.

In addition to recruitment calls from McCarthy and other Members, the committee was reaching out to donors, an NRCC aide confirmed, including a tele-town hall convened Wednesday with 100,000 people. Some of the NRCC’s major donors participated in a conference call Wednesday night with Brown’s pollster, Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies, whose firm surveys for scores of GOP House candidates.

Brown’s victory should also be a much-needed financial boost to the cash-strapped NRCC, which reported having $4.35 million in the bank at the end of November ­— almost one-third of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s $15.35 million.

Brown reportedly had almost as much as the NRCC in his campaign account — about $4 million — this week. DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer pointed out that is often the cost of a single, very expensive Congressional race in a competitive district.

Rudominer quipped that GOP candidates are “going to be in a for a very cruel awakening when they see the NRCC can only afford one expensive House race, let alone the 80 or 100 that they’re talking about.—

But Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), NRCC vice chairman, said he’s already received positive, albeit anecdotal, feedback from donors.

“Personally, I had a call and a text message from two significant donors of mine, who I never hear from other than when I’m calling them for money, say: ‘Wow, this is huge. Keep up the good work. Let me know how we can help,’— Walden said.

Also within hours of the GOP victory, word leaked that Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) will meet today with the National Republican Senatorial Committee to discuss challenging Sen. Evan Bayh (D), who so far does not have a competitive race for re-election.

“We think the Massachusetts victory will be helpful twofold,— NRSC Executive Director Rob Jesmer said. “First, we can go back to prospective candidates and credibly tell them our message is working and if they ever want to be a Senator, this is the year. Second, it energizes our donors to not only give directly but work on our behalf to raise money within their sphere of influence.—

Senate Republicans, however, appear to have a full slate of candidates already in most of their competitive states — and in some cases, probably too many candidates in primaries. But in addition to Indiana, Republicans are likely making second-round calls to potential top recruits they would like to challenge Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.) and, to a lesser degree, Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.). One former NRSC aide also noted that the committee could make calls to potential top candidates in states where they have crowded primaries such as Nevada, where a slew of Republicans are running to take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), in hopes that they can lure a top recruit to clear the field.

“You’re looking at states where you still might be able to find some more competitive candidates to stand up, and you’re telling them that if we can win in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in the nation, then we can win in your state, too,— said Brian Nick, a GOP consultant and former NRSC communications director.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, attempted to put their best face forward in the wake of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s (D) embarrassing loss, and their campaign arm is using the race as a catalyst to wake up other campaigns and galvanize support to win back a 60th Senate seat. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) said in an e-mail to supporters that he had “no interest in sugar-coating— the election results.

“I think the bottom line is that we will see our supporters clearly understand and our donors clearly understand what’s at stake,— Menendez said in a Wednesday phone interview. “I think they will have a more vivid example of what’s at stake given last night’s example.—

Menendez also said that none of the 2010 Democratic candidates had called him expressing second thoughts about running for Senate.

“I think that the places that we have left for recruitment will have solid candidates to run,— Menendez said. “I don’t think last night’s election will make a decision for these candidates.—

More specifically, the DSCC has begun working with campaigns to ensure they understand the volatility of the electorate and the importance of winning over independent voters by talking about economic issues. The committee is also ensuring that candidates do not make Coakley’s mistake and instead aggressively define their opponents early in the race.

Jackie Kucinich contributed to this report.