Incessant news media reports about Republicans retaking Capitol Hill by routing Democrats in the November general election are inaccurate according to the third highest ranking Democrat in Congress, himself a former newspaper publisher.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn concedes Democrats will lose some seats on Capitol Hill but predicts Democrats will both retain and gain enough seats to maintain their majorities in the House and the Senate.
“When you go district by district instead of using a broad Inside-the-Beltway analysis you see Democrats faring well,” said Rep Clyburn during a Monday September 20th meeting with the Editorial Board of The Philadelphia Tribune newspaper.
Three days later, Clyburn, upon emerging from an election campaign strategy meeting at the White House, said Democrats could lose as many as twenty seats in the House but will maintain control with a 234-211 seat margin over Republicans.
For months, predictions from press pundits and pollsters have painted a picture of Republicans snatching control of Capitol Hill by trouncing Democrats in November.
Where many analysts see a political tsunami washing away Democrats, the political tea leaves read by Clyburn and others point to a different outcome.
“There are a number of districts around the country where Republicans represent districts with Democratic majorities and this will change,” predicted Clyburn, who represents South Carolina’s 6th District that includes the state’s capital of Columbia.
“For example, Joe Garcia is ahead in Florida and Cedric Richmond is leading in New Orleans,” Clyburn said during a wide-ranging interview at the Tribune. Clyburn co-founded the now defunct Coastal Times weekly newspaper in Charleston, SC.
Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah, who joined Clyburn for the Tribune E-Board interview, also declared that Democrats “will not lose the House or the Senate” using a similar calculus to Clyburn’s.
While partisan self-interest definitely drives this electoral perspective of Clyburn, Fattah and others, emerging evidence seems to support their point of view.
A recent article in the London-based Economist examining the race in Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district pitting incumbent Republican David Cao (the first Vietnamese-American to serve in that body) against state legislator Cedric Richmond stated, “Mr. Cao will have a tough time retaining the seat.”
Recent polls show Democrat Joe Garcia leading GOP candidate David Riveria in Florida’s 25th Congressional District, which is a seat now held by a Republican.
Results from a recent non-partisan Battleground Poll conducted by Politico and George Washington University found a virtual tie among respondents when asked which party they planned to vote for in November.
Clyburn cited Pennsylvania’s hotly contested 6th Congressional District. In this district that stretches from the Philadelphia border west into Reading Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach faces a surging challenge from Iraq War veteran Manan Trivedi who has tightened the race that pundits once called a walk-away for Gerlach.
Early last month the Gerlach campaign created a stink by sniping at Trivedi, a medical doctor, for relying on the Indian-American community for his campaign funds. Reviews of campaign finance records showed Trivedi receiving less than one-third of his funding from that ethnic community with Gerlach getting an embarrassing 90% of his PAC money from out-of-state sources.
However, in another hotly contested Pennsylvania race, Democrat incumbent and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy is battling an offensive from Republican Mike Fitzpatrick who formerly held that 8th Congressional District seat in suburban Philadelphia. Polls place Fitzpatrick over a dozen points ahead.
In Southern New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, an often conservative voting Democratic incumbent, first-term Congressman John Adler, enjoys a nine-point poll lead over Republican challenger Jon Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles professional football player.
And in Delaware, the small state about twenty miles south of Philadelphia, a Tea Party insurgency may have sunk GOP chances of winning the US Senate seat once held by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden when Tea Partier’s elected loopy, scandal-mired Christine O’Donnell in Delaware’s Republican primary.
Experts see O’Donnell’s candidacy also harming the chances of GOP congressional candidate Gary Urquhart succeeding nine-term Delaware Republican Congressman Mike Castle who lost his bid for Biden’s Senate seat to O’Donnell.
O’Donnell’s double-digit trailing of Democratic candidate Chris Coons in that U.S. Senate race relates in large part to exposure of her public life built on lies and cheating – exposures that Tea Party conservatives dismiss as ‘biased’ news reporting.
Evidence documents O’Donnell has lied for years about graduating from Oxford University and Claremont Graduate University. This conservative ‘values’ candidate endorsed by GOP star Sarah Palin has bragged about cheating the IRS which she currently owes $11,700.
O’Donnell’s currently the subject of a federal election law violation complaint charging improper use of campaign funds for personal expenses like paying rent on her apartment. She defends paying rent from campaign funds recently telling a Philadelphia TV reporter that her apartment is her campaign headquarters and her staffers “live there” with her.
O’Donnell’s recent rise on the political scene is an example of polls not always being accurate predictors. On the eve of O’Donnell’s upset victory over Congressman Castle polls had her trailing by over a dozen points. She beat Castle by a six point margin in that Republican primary in Democratic majority Delaware.
Rep Clyburn, with candor uncharacteristic of many Democratic leaders, acknowledges that the dire environment for congressional Democrats is the result of Democrats “not going far enough” to address critical issues like creating jobs and the kind of health care reform sought by a majority of Americans – namely public option or Medicare for all.
“We didn’t put in enough for jobs and that was a mistake,” Clyburn said while noting that conservative Senate Democrats cut jobs from the Stimulus Bill approved by the House to win bi-partisan support for the measure that Senate Republicans ultimately opposed.
“We in the House wanted more jobs but Senators said our trillion dollar bill would look bad. Senator [Arlen] Specter [of Pennsylvania] said even having a $900-billion bill would hurt his chances for reelection. Specter favored the $787-billion bill that cut funding for roads, small business and jobs.” (Specter lost his primary race to Democrat Congressman Joe Sestak who is now in a tight race with GOP candidate Pat Toomey.)
President Obama, Clyburn emphasized “has to be more engaged…Obama should have done more on jobs from the beginning…”
Clyburn says positive changes are occurring under President Obama from education and health care reforms to stopping the collapse of the “world’s economy” but Clyburn says the problem is “things are not changing fast enough.”
If the Republicans do gain control of Capitol Hill in November, Rep Clyburn predicts a concerted GOP effort to repeal health care reform, expanded tax cuts for the wealthy and give a free reign to Wall Street where abuses triggered the economic meltdown. Clyburn also foresees expensive, gird-lock-ensuring investigations by Republican controlled committees into the Obama Administration.
“The Republicans have been trying to implode everything President Obama is trying to do. More power for them means less progress for the country.”