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House Democrats Overplay Their Hand

1:16 PM, Sep 16, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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It looks like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has succumbed to the pressure of expectations. After months and months of speculation over whether Democrats would gain 15 seats this year or 30, recent polls now suggest their gains may not even be that high. And according to veteran campaign watcher Stu Rothenberg, the DCCC has just made a huge blunder that could further undercut their effort:

In a curious coincidence of timing, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has added a number of Congressional districts to its various lists of competitive contests at exactly the same time that Republicans are seeing an uptick in their poll and fundraising numbers and an improved political landscape...

Given that, it certainly appears that the DCCC is running a risk by promoting some candidates who have little or no chance to win in the fall, and by lumping together very strong contenders with second-tier campaigns...

Rothenberg points out that the DCCC is now highlighting literally dozens of races where their candidate has little or no shot to win. Their priority races now include the opponents to Charlie Dent, Frank Wolf, Shelley Moore Capito, Steve Scalise, Chris Smith, and Steve King. Election analyst Charlie Cook currently rates two of these seats as 'Likely Republican,' one as 'Lean Republican,' and the rest are not even included on his list of competitive races.

The goal seems to be to prove that the playing field isn't shifting, and that Democrats are still on a roll. Presumably the media and the donors are supposed to be intimidated by the Democrats' "expanded playing field" and think that Democratic gains will be even greater than previously expected, thus squelching funds for GOP candidates.

But if people realize what's going on, this move is more likely to cost seats than gain them. Formerly, the DCCC designated relatively few 'Red to Blue' candidates. The designation was very valuable to challengers, since it signaled to donors should focus their efforts on these races. Now the brand is being devalued, and donors will also be more likely to dissipate their funds over dozens of races -- only a few of which are likely to be competitive. That's another bit of good news for the GOP.