Touting Democrats' successes this cycle in special elections in New York and Pennsylvania, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen today sought to convey confidence in the party's efforts to retain its majority in the House.
"The more voters focus on the election and listen to what [House Minority Leader John] Boehner and the Republicans are saying, the more likely they will go for Democrats," Van Hollen said in a speech at the National Press Club.
Republicans, needless to say, disagree with this assessment. "Chris Van Hollen can try to spin it all he wants, but the fact remains that now even senior strategists within his own party are openly admitting that Nancy Pelosi's grip on the Speaker's gavel is loosening by the day," said National Republican Campaign Committee communications director Ken Spain in a statement.
Van Hollen's optimism stems largely from what he argues is Americans' desire not to return to the economic policies of the George W. Bush administration, particularly when Republicans controlled Congress.
If Republicans regain control of the House this year, according to Van Hollen, their economic policies would be the same as those that were in place when Republicans last controlled the House, which, he said, helped precipitate the 2008 economic crisis. Those policies would include making the Bush tax cuts permanent, dismantling the financial reform legislation passed earlier this summer and reversing elements of the Recovery Act, he said.
Voters don't want this to happen, Van Hollen argued, adding that while the electorate "saw Republicans as a viable alternative in 1994," when the GOP unexpectedly took over the House, "that isn't so today."
Republican congressional candidates this year are generally more conservative than in the past, reflecting the Tea Party movement's advocacy, Van Hollen said. In particular, he pointed to this week's Republican primary election in Arizona's 8th District, in which Tea Party movement candidate Jesse Kelly outpolled state Sen. Jonathan Paton, who many considered to be more moderate.
Also, he said, Democratic incumbents -- both those facing re-election for the first time and more senior members -- are far more prepared than they were in 1994. "They have been preparing [for this year's election] from Day 1," Van Hollen said, citing his candidates' fundraising, outreach campaigns and readiness to go on the offensive when needed.
"Republicans are asking for the keys to the car... [but] the Republican agenda is unsafe at any speed," Van Hollen said.