Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NRCC’s Spending Points to Potential Hot Spots

By Nathan L. Gonzales

Strapped for cash, the National Republican Congressional Committee will have to be more efficient than its counterpart when it comes to spending on House races. Recent independent expenditure spending on polling shows that the NRCC is searching for the best use of the money and proves that the playing field is still stacked against them.

From Sept. 3-9, the GOP committee spent a total of $73,046 on polling in a handful of Congressional districts. President Bush carried all five districts four years ago, and all are currently held by Republicans.

The two most Democratic districts of the lot are likely to be the toughest holds. In Nevada’s 3rd district, 2006 gubernatorial nominee Dina Titus (D) was a late entry into the race but is a serious threat to Rep. Jon Porter (R). The rapid population growth and Democratic trend of the district makes Porter’s task extremely difficult. And in New Jersey’s 3rd district, former Lockheed Martin vice president Chris Myers (R) is trying to hold the seat of retiring GOP Rep. Jim Saxton against state Sen. John Adler (D).

The NRCC also polled in Alabama’s 2nd district. Even though President Bush carried it handily in 2004 with 66 percent, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright (D) looks like a strong candidate and Democrats believe they will win this open seat just like they won special elections in Mississippi and Louisiana earlier this spring. State Rep. Jay Love is trying to hold the seat for Republicans.

The last two seats are heavily Republican and shouldn’t be competitive, except they feature weak incumbents. President Bush carried Idaho’s 1st district with 68 percent and Ohio’s 2nd district with 64 percent, but the NRCC’s IE is rightly testing the vulnerability of GOP Reps. Bill Sali and Jean Schmidt. In the end, the presidential year and the recently energized GOP base could save both incumbents since the Democratic challengers —1996 Idaho Senate nominee Walt Minnick and Victoria Wulsin, the 2006 nominee against Schmidt — would need a sizable crossover vote from the presidential race.

The polls are being conducted by multiple firms including Tarrance Group (Nev.), Public Opinion Strategies (Ala.), National Research (N.J. and Idaho) and McLaughlin and Associates (Ohio).

The poll results are not likely to see the light of day, but observers shouldn’t assume the worst since neither party committee’s IE arm makes a habit of releasing the valuable data. But the spending does indicate where the committee is currently focused.

This item first appeared on on September 12, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.