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Pete Sessions Confident GOP Will Expand House Majority in November

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) took a bullish stance on House GOP prospects this morning, insisting Republicans would add to their huge gains of last cycle this November and that Democratic House candidates would be dragged down by an unpopular president.

“The landscape in 2012 is exactly the same as it was in 2010,” he said. “The dominating issues are Obamacare, big government and spending, and the economy and jobs.”

“What is out there” for November, Sessions said at the Christian Science Monitor’s breakfast, “is a Republican pickup, not a Republican loss of 10 to 15 seats,” as many House prognosticators predict.

“The president oversold and underdelivered,” Sessions said, explaining that Barack Obama would be a drag to Democratic candidates.

“I know of not one Republican candidate that would not appear publicly with Mitt Romney,” Sessions said, referring to the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. “I know many Democrats that don’t even want to be in the same city — forget the same stage — with President Obama.”

Sitting at a table with about 20 reporters this morning at the St. Regis hotel, Sessions, sporting a gray suit and silver elephant lapel pin, was joined by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), his deputy at the NRCC.

Walden said that, through redistricting, Republicans had “hardened” a number of GOP-held seats, making Democrats’ drive to net the 25 seats needed to take back the House a much steeper challenge and allowing the NRCC to go on offense.

He noted Democrats are having trouble recruiting good conservative candidates to run in districts where Blue Dog Members are retiring. These are areas where the party won in 2006, helping make Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Speaker.

“They’ve all but walked about from the Blue Dogs. If you look at the [retiring Rep. Dan] Boren seat and some of the others, they’re not even fielding candidates,” Walden said. Democrats do have two candidates in Oklahoma’s 2nd district, but it’s a seat that leans Republican.

Andrew Whalen, a political consultant for the Blue Dog Coalition, said that is “flat out preposterous.”

“There is strong commitment to a diverse Democratic caucus that includes — and relies upon  — the moderate and conservative members of the Blue Dog Coalition,” he said in an email.

While harping on how the Democrats’ map had shrunk, Sessions and Walden flagged pickup opportunities in turf traditionally unfriendly to the GOP. “We’ve got a real race in Boston, Mass.,” Sessions said, referring to former state Sen. Richard Tisei’s bid against Rep. John Tierney (D) in the Bay State’s 6th district. “We have a real race in Rhode Island,” he said, referring to Republican Brendan Doherty’s bid against Rep. David Cicilline (D), who is deeply vulnerable.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, unsurprisingly, took issue with Sessions’ view of the House playing field.

“Congressman Sessions only wishes that voters hadn’t watched the last two years of this Tea Party Republican Congress consistently put millionaires and Big Oil ahead of the middle class and seniors,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in a statement. “Unfortunately for Congressman Sessions, voters have deep buyer’s remorse … and they’re already rejecting House Republicans wrong priorities.”

When asked how his very optimistic view of the House landscape squares with Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) recent assertion that the GOP has a 33 percent chance of losing the House, Sessions said he took nothing for granted. He noted Boehner’s comments helped him make the case to supporters not to be complacent.

“Look, John and I looked right at each other and giggled about it,” Sessions said. “Good for him! Good for him to help make my job even better. He is trying to help me go sell this fight.”

On one specific race, that for NRCC chairman for the 2014 cycle, Sessions all but endorsed Walden.

“Greg Walden has been by my side and seen the inner workings of the committee for four years and one could not have had a more competent, professional person by their side,” he said. “I have great confidence in Greg if I decide not to run of re-election [for head] of the NRCC.”

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