One hundred days from Nov. 4, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden said he expects House Republicans will ride a political wave in November.
In an exclusive sit-down interview with CQ Roll Call, the Oregon Republican was bullish about his party’s prospects, predicting they would pick up 11 House seats in November. That number would bring their majority to 245 members — the biggest Republican majority since 1945 .
“I know what it felt like in ’06 to be us,” Walden said in the interview, referring to the year Democrats picked up 31 seats and took control of the House for the first time in 12 years. “When you get that gale force wind in your face, you get blown away.”
Party operatives don’t use that four-letter word, “wave,” lightly — especially this cycle. Picking up a large number of seats is tough for either party because there aren’t as many competitive races on the map following the decennial redistricting process in 2012.
Out of 435 House contests, only seven are rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call . Four more races are rated Tilts Democratic, and another seven are rated Tilts Republican. That’s not a large playing field.
After traveling 78,508 miles across 24 states for 59 of his party’s members and candidates, Walden said the GOP is in good position as members prepare to head home for the August recess.
“We believe a lot that the drive for 245 is more than just a rhyming number,” Walden said. “We know there’s going to be some puts-and-takes there, but I think you can get to 245 [seats] this cycle.”
Some of the “puts” Walden referred to specifically include retiring GOP Rep. Gary G. Miller’s seat in California’s 31st District, which President Barack Obama carried with 57 percent in 2012. Democrats secured one of the top two slots for their nominee there, and the race is one of four on the map currently projected to flip party control.
Walden specifically mentioned Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., as one of his party’s most endangered incumbents. Coffman is running against a top Democratic recruit in a seat Obama carried in 2012 by a 5-point margin.
Though Walden did not mention him by name, Republican Rep. Michael G. Grimm’s legal trouble also presents the GOP with an uphill climb in New York’s 11th District, where Obama won by a 4-point margin last cycle. That race is rated Leans Democratic .
Still, Walden said his party has a number of things going in its favor.
With primary season nearing its end, Walden said his party came through with its “strongest nominees possible.” National Republicans saw their preferred candidates win competitive nominations in Iowa’s 3rd District, New Jersey’s 3rd District, New York’s 1st District and California’s 7th District. But they still have primaries where problematic candidates could emerge in Arizona and New Hampshire in the next two months.
And, he added, Obama’s poll numbers coupled with the historical trend of the six-year presidential itch puts the wind at the GOP’s back.
“I think atmospherics are really bad for the Democrats,” Walden said. “This is shaping up far more to be a referendum election and not a good one for Democrats.”
There’s also one thing House Republicans don’t have on their side: a cash advantage.
At the end of June, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $8.4 million more
in the bank than the NRCC. The DCCC is beating the NRCC in the digital fundraising game, and has Obama raking in the cash at high-dollar fundraisers across the country.
“What keeps me up at night? It probably is the cash discrepancy,” Walden said.
However Walden said that with Democrats defending more seats, his party will have the cash to play offense.
“They’ve got the president to go haul in the cash, but they’ve got the president around their neck when it comes to voters,” Walden said. “They’re going to need more money.”
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