Tuesday, July 01, 2008

NRCC Chair in District Today

From RealClearPolitics:
National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Cole has had a rough few months, his party having lost three straight special elections and lagging seriously behind in fundraising. But the Oklahoman is back on his proverbial horse, using the Fourth of July recess to hit the campaign trail on behalf of endangered Republican incumbents and promising challengers in the upper Midwest.


Today, Cole is in Michigan to stump with endangered Rep. Tim Walberg in a district that encompasses Battle Creek and the Ann Arbor suburbs. Walberg's Seventh District is a top target for national Democrats, who have high hopes for State Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer (For more on the race, see Greg Bobrinskoy's write-up from last week).
It's not a lot, but it caught my attention. I hadn't heard anything about this visit, and it's not listed on Walberg's campaign website. My best guess is that means Congressman Cole is here to raise money. He's a low-profile party leader, who can lean on local contributors but isn't a high enough profile to justify a public event.

How helpful is someone like Tom Cole to Tim Walberg? Well, actually, not very helpful at all. He might accomplish something on this trip, but Cole has fundraising problems of his own-- namely, that he's bad at it.

As of May, the National Republican Congressional Committee had $6.7 million on-hand. That sounds impressive, except that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $47.2 million cash-on-hand. This is a significant difference.

Unfortunately for Tim Walberg, Tom Cole just isn't that good at his job. His attempts to recruit top-tier challengers against Democrats in Congress have been called a "disaster" by fellow Republicans, he has had a public feud with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R), and Republican members of Congress aren't willing to raise money for the NRCC.

But Congressman Cole's problems don't end there. Under his watch, the NRCC was hit by a massive scandal, involving the committee's treasurer stealing $725,000 from the committee. That's not good, and, while it started prior to Cole's tenure as NRCC chair, it all came out under him. This is not the sort of thing that impresses potential contributors.

In fact, it's so bad for Tom Cole that the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is actively looking for a way to get rid of him. From The Hill, via Swing State Project:
House GOP leaders spent Thursday trying to put the best spin on the disappointing defeat by publicly relaunching a legislative agenda they unveiled a day earlier complete with a new slogan: the “change America deserves.” Privately, however, GOP leaders were considering their options, as well as reaching out to possible replacements for National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.).

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not shut down speculation about Cole, opting against saying Cole will complete the cycle as NRCC chairman.


Finding an appropriate way to get rid of Cole, though, remains the primary obstacle, the source said.

“Leadership can’t fire Tom Cole,” the former staffer said. “If they could, yes, they would. It doesn't appear that the conference wants to self-initiate, but people at the leadership table think he needs to step down and he needs to step down soon.”

(Emphasis added.)

That's right. Tim Walberg is getting help from the guy that no one likes. If Walberg is hoping to impress the top Republican donors, especially former Schwarz supporters who might not be fans of Walberg, Tom Cole might not be the most effective strategy.

Of course, the very fact that Congressman Walberg needs Cole's help sends a worrying message for Walberg. It reminds local Republicans once again that he's in trouble this year, and that they made a horrible mistake by getting rid of Joe Schwarz.

Schwarz won an open seat election by a margin of 59 percent to 36 percent. Had he not been defeated by Walberg in the 2006 primary, he would have won reelection easily. Can we say the same about Tim Walberg? No.

A peculiar obstacle for Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg's reelection hopes is that he will likely face a Democratic opponent who can claim similar, if not more incumbent-like, advantages in fundraising, name recognition, and political experience within the district.

A top target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Republican Walberg will face one of two experienced Democrats competing in the primary held August 3. Although Democrat Sharon Renier has reasonably high name recognition from running in the last two races, having barely lost to Walberg in 2006 despite being outspent $1.2 million to $56,000, State Senator and Democratic Minority Leader Mark Schauer is expected to win the primary and is a favorite of national Democrats.

With leadership experience, the support of party leaders, and a state senate district that covers about 40% of the Seventh Congressional District, which takes in Battle Creek and the western suburbs of Ann Arbor, along the Indiana border, Schauer has high name recognition and will make for a formidable opponent in November. Too, in the last three fundraising quarters, Schauer has not only dwarfed Renier in fundraising, but he has beaten out Walberg as well.

(Emphasis added.)

Ouch. RealClearPolitics paints a pretty hopeless picture for Walberg. Do you really think Tom Cole will be able to help?

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Only 5% of the people in district 7 even know who Mark Schauer is.

Good luck.
Only 5% of the people in district 7 even know who Mark Schauer is.

I'm eager to find out where you get that number! Mark Schauer represents 40 percent of the 7th District already as a state Senator (Calhoun and Jackson counties), so presumably those voters know who he is.

It's true, in the last public poll I saw (here, and more information here), Senator Schauer did have relatively low name recognition... only 47 percent of voters knew who he was, versus 93 percent for Congressman Walberg. So, yes, Schauer was at a disadvantage, but that was March.

Even assuming that the name identification numbers are the same today as they were then, we've still got four long months to go before November. Schauer has been outraising Walberg every quarter so far. Do you really think he can't close the gap?

Besides, if only 5 percent knew who Schauer was and he was still doing as well against Walberg as he is in polling, then I'd say that's a bad sign for Walberg!
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