National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) sought to fire up his colleagues at Wednesday morning’s House Republican Conference meeting by playing a video of White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’ appearance on “Meet the Press” in which Gibbs acknowledged that Democrats could lose control of the House this fall.
Gibbs said, “There is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control,” and acknowledged in a later news conference that he was simply stating the obvious.
Democrats have tried to walk back those statements in recent days, a point that Sessions was happy to highlight.
“We now know what Nancy Pelosi had for breakfast,” Sessions told his fellow Members.
To which one Member in the audience replied “Robert Gibbs.”
“Yep, Robert Gibbs,” Sessions said. “Rare.”
Also on hand for Wednesday’s meeting was former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove, who was there at Sessions’ invitation. Rove also referenced Gibbs’ remarks, reminded Members that there’s still work to be done before November and stressed the importance of raising money in order for candidates to remain competitive.
The meeting took place about one month after the NRCC kicked off its biennial “Battleground” fundraising program, which has a goal of getting Members to pony up a total of $20 million by mid-September.
The program, which mostly funds TV advertising in competitive races, allots individualized assessments to Members ranging from $100,000 to $150,000 for rank-and-file lawmakers to $200,000 to $400,000 for committee ranking members and senior party leaders. In what is surely a sign of how confident Republicans are this cycle, this year’s Battleground goal is $8 million more than the program’s 2008 goal.
Following Sessions’ presentation, NRCC Vice Chairman Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.) and Reps. Mike Rogers (Mich.), Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Ed Royce (Calif.) — who are co-chairing the Battleground effort — made pleas to the gathered Members to get on board with the program. While committee financial disclosure reports aren’t due out until next week, an NRCC source said the Battleground program had exceeded its June goal.
Those Members who cut checks or made pledges were also acknowledged Wednesday morning.
Tops in that group was Rep. Charles Boustany (La.), who delivered a $240,000 check to the NRCC on Wednesday, less than a week after the filing deadline passed in Louisiana and Boustany found out he would not face a re-election challenge.
“The fall elections present an opportunity for Republicans to regain the House, but it requires hard work by each Member and candidate and the necessary resources to get our message to the American people,” Boustany said. “Even Robert Gibbs agrees the House is in play, so Members need to step up to ensure we capitalize.”
Other large checks that came in Wednesday for the Battleground effort were $150,000 from Rep. Geoff Davis (Ky.), $145,000 from Rep. Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), $125,000 from Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) and $65,000 from Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.). Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.) pledged $185,000 to the effort Wednesday while Reps. John Shimkus (Ill.) and John Mica (Fla.) each pledged $100,000.
A $25,000 pledge also came in Wednesday from Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, who is running in the Hoosier State’s safely Republican 4th district. Rokita was named earlier this month to a new “Vanguard” program for recruits who appear all but certain to win their general elections.