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House Republicans Bullish on 2012 Opportunities

House Republicans are optimistic about their ability to stay on offense in 2012, on the heels of a historic wave that netted them 63 seats last cycle.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is targeting 20 districts that are either currently held by a Democrat or were added through reapportionment in states like Florida and Texas. At the same time, the committee has relaunched its incumbent assistance program in an effort to keep its independent expenditures focused on offense.

On Thursday, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) and Vice Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.) announced 12 new additions to the first tier of its three-step Young Guns program.

“Back in January we effectively announced what our vision statement would be, and that is to have standing room only and to have to have the Sergeant-at-Arms place folding chairs up and down the aisle,” Sessions told a handful of reporters at an off-camera briefing.

While Democrats look to pick up the 24 seats needed to take back the majority, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that just 32 percent of registered voters nationwide want to re-elect their current Representative. But Walden said current metrics don’t support the presumption that 2012 will be a fourth straight wave election. He said the focus next year will be on President Barack Obama and his re-election bid.

“If you’re trying to get into the majority, you want it to be about the majority in the House,” Walden said. “This is going to be about the president and the White House, and it’s also going to be on the economy and jobs.”

The NRCC’s offense strategy will continue to focus on the Blue Dog Coalition, which saw its ranks cut in half last cycle. Among the Blue Dogs whom Sessions named or the NRCC is targeting are Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa) and Jim Costa (Calif.).

Other Democratic districts listed as top targets include those of Reps. Larry Kissell (N.C.), Brad Miller (N.C.) and Tim Bishop (N.Y.) as well as the open seats being vacated by Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

Two Utah districts — Matheson’s and the new 4th district — are on the list of 20 districts the NRCC is targeting.

Along with the Beehive State’s new district, the seven other new districts the NRCC expects to target include Arizona’s 9th, Florida’s 26th or 27th, Georgia’s 14th, South Carolina’s 7th, and Texas’ 25th, 33rd and 36th districts.

The following candidates were added to “On the Radar” status Thursday: Abel Maldonado in California’s 23rd district; Justin Bernier, Mike Clark, Mark Greenberg and Lisa Wilson-Foley in Connecticut’s 5th district; Luke Messer in Indiana’s 6th district; Rob Frost in Ohio’s 10th district; Ed Martin and Ann Wagner in Missouri’s 2nd district; Michael Williams and Roger Williams in Texas’ 33rd district; and Greg Anders in Washington’s 2nd district.

Sessions said the NRCC also has a “watch list” of 25 more districts that could become competitive under the right circumstances.

A spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee dismissed the NRCC’s claim that it will be able to stay on offense next year. The DCCC on Thursday rolled out a list of recent candidate recruits it is touting in top races.

“From polling to town hall meetings, voters are rejecting the Republican agenda,” spokesman Jesse Ferguson said. “That’s not being on offense, that’s being offensive.”

Meanwhile, Sessions and Walden highlighted the committee’s fundraising last month, which was its best off-year June since 2005. The NRCC raised $6.7 million, topping the DCCC last month by $500,000. It had about $3.6 million more in the bank than the DCCC had and $1.2 million less in debt at the end of June.

Walden singled out Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), who returned to Congress this year after two terms out of office, as the epitome of the early success of the NRCC’s Patriot program.

Bass raised more than $300,000 last quarter, thanks in part to a “Patriot Day” fundraising event last month, during which each of the 10 Members in the program raised $130,000 to $150,000.

“Charlie Bass, for example, that’s probably the most he’s ever raised this early in the cycle,” Walden said. “So he’s taking it seriously, and so are we.”

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