Rep. Joe Garcia Apologizes for Obamacare

Tim Sahd
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Tim Sahd
Feb. 12, 2014, 5:15 a.m.

Christine O’Don­nell, Delaware’s newly min­ted Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee for the Sen­ate, is the hot­test name in polit­ics this week — but cer­tainly not among some GOP Sen­ate op­er­at­ives who feel she’s too flawed to win in this heav­ily Demo­crat­ic state. In fact, Demo­crats on the Sen­ate level ap­pear to have be­nefited from a rash of tea party vic­tor­ies in the last sev­er­al months.

But don’t think for a minute that this phe­nomen­on is lim­ited to O’Don­nell or her fel­low Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates.

To be sure, House Re­pub­lic­ans have largely avoided the wave of tea party nom­in­ees that seems to have af­fected their Sen­ate coun­ter­parts’ care­fully laid plans. Sur­pris­ingly, only a hand­ful of ser­i­ous Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment types have gone down to de­feat in primar­ies at the hands of tea party chal­lengers.

But that doesn’t mean the huge crop of vi­able Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates this cycle is without flaws.

Quite the con­trary. Some of these re­cruits are ca­reer politi­cians, like state le­gis­lat­ors or law en­force­ment of­fi­cials. But most, though, are busi­ness­men or phys­i­cians who nev­er be­fore thought about run­ning for Con­gress. And as Demo­crats peel back the lay­ers, they’re find­ing dirt on sev­er­al of these new­bies.

Take South Dakota. A few weeks ago it was re­vealed that GOP state Rep. Kristi Noem, the party’s nom­in­ee to face Rep. Stephanie Her­seth Sand­lin, D-S.D., had col­lec­ted 20 speed­ing tick­ets in the span of 20 years. Demo­crats also reveled in the fact that she had a few war­rants is­sued for over­due fines.

Pri­or to that rev­el­a­tion, Noem was fly­ing high; but ever since, she ap­pears to have lost mo­mentum. Her­seth Sand­lin, mean­while, ap­pears to have caught a second wind and battled back in­to a con­test some began to write off for Demo­crats.

In New York’s 1st Dis­trict, which takes in far east­ern Long Is­land, Re­pub­lic­ans be­lieve they have a fairly good shot at knock­ing off Demo­crat­ic Rep. Tim Bish­op. Their nom­in­ee, busi­ness­man Randy Altschuler, has a $1.5 mil­lion war chest and Re­pub­lic­ans view this swing dis­trict as ripe for a change.

But Demo­crats are ex­cited about fa­cing Altschuler, as he foun­ded a busi­ness called Of­fice Ti­ger that out­sourced thou­sands of jobs. He was at­tacked mer­ci­lessly in the primary — yes, the GOP primary — on this by his rivals but still won with 45 per­cent in a three-way con­test.

If he thought Re­pub­lic­ans treated him badly, Demo­crats will be twice as harsh. Just minutes after he de­clared vic­tory in his primary earli­er this week, the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee tar­geted Altschuler for Of­fice Ti­ger’s work. “It’s pain­fully clear that Randy Altschuler only cares about his bank ac­count, not jobs on Long Is­land,” said DCCC spokes­man Shri­p­al Shah.

And don’t think the can­did­ates’ per­son­al lives are out-of-bounds.

In the race to chal­lenge Rep. Le­onard Boswell, D-Iowa, Demo­crats got a gift in the form of a 2001 po­lice re­port. The re­port showed that Re­pub­lic­an state Sen. Brad Za­un was told to stay away from his former girl­friend after she ac­cused him of har­ass­ing her.

And just as Re­pub­lic­ans think they had Rep. Lin­coln Dav­is, D-Tenn., on the ropes, news sur­faced of a dec­ade-old “bit­ter di­vorce” between GOP nom­in­ee Scott Des­Jar­lais and his ex-wife, who ac­cused him of har­ass­ment and phys­ic­al ab­use. Des­Jar­lais has denied any wrong­do­ing.

It doesn’t take a vivid ima­gin­a­tion to pic­ture what those Demo­crat­ic ads would look like.

Demo­crats ar­gue that these are in no way isol­ated in­cid­ents, and say they have the goods on oth­er can­did­ates to put those races out of reach for Re­pub­lic­ans. If Demo­crats can save a hand­ful of seats with these at­tacks, it might mean the dif­fer­ence between a minor­ity and a ma­jor­ity.

Re­pub­lic­ans ar­gue, though, that in a year where the eco­nomy dom­in­ates the land­scape, per­son­al is­sues will take a back­seat to jobs and the eco­nomy. Fur­ther­more, they be­lieve they have a big­ger weapon: House Speak­er Pelosi.

Yes, we’ve been down this road be­fore. In most of the re­cent spe­cial elec­tions, ads com­ing from na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans have fea­tured Pelosi as the boo­gey­wo­man, and some blame that strategy for cost­ing Re­pub­lic­ans those con­tests.

But strategists ar­gue that she’s so un­pop­u­lar in many com­pet­it­ive dis­tricts that it would be polit­ic­al mal­prac­tice not to use her, par­tic­u­larly in the South.

And that’s ex­actly what the Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee did in its first wave of TV ads. The com­mit­tee began air­ing ads over the week­end against eight Demo­crats, and five of them — all in the South — fea­tured Pelosi.

And why not, when many Demo­crats — like Alabama’s Bobby Bright, who felt the need to dis­tance him­self from Pelosi by jok­ing that she may die be­fore the next speak­er elec­tion — are them­selves scared to ad­mit she’s their lead­er.

Demo­crats have prided them­selves on run­ning loc­al­ized elec­tions, and point to their suc­cess in spe­cial elec­tions in 2008 and 2009 to demon­strate they can with­stand what’s go­ing to be a very good year for Re­pub­lic­ans.

But those races didn’t hap­pen in the cur­rent en­vir­on­ment, and the sheer num­ber of seats Re­pub­lic­ans have put in play this cycle will make it dif­fi­cult for Demo­crats to save the House, even if they have dam­aging in­form­a­tion on some can­did­ates.

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