GOP retirements force party to spend on once-safe seats
Republicans will be forced to spend campaign money for 2008 House seats once considered safe for the party — drawing resources away from other contested races — owing to several high-profile retirements.
The challenge for Republicans trying to recapture the House next year is compounded by the Democrats’ significant fundraising advantage, which means Democrats likely will have the ability to campaign in more areas than Republicans.
“We have, over this recess, tried to spend our resources wisely and responsibly and keep Republicans on the defense by running an aggressive media,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Doug Thornell said.
Democrats hold a 10-to-1 fundraising advantage over Republicans for their 2008 House races.
Five Republican House members have announced they won’t seek reelection next year, including former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who was considered a lock in the district he has won 11 times.
The retirements are occurring at a bad time for House Republicans, who are trying to take advantage of their recent successful efforts to block large parts of the Democratic legislative agenda.
A new Gallup Poll released Aug. 21 places congressional approval ratings at 18 percent, with 76 percent disapproving — the lowest since Gallup began tracking such numbers more than 30 years ago.
Both parties are expected to fight hard for Mr. Hastert’s seat. Bill Foster, the likely Democratic nominee, has an impressive background as a businessman and a scientist that has resonated with voters in recently surveys.
“The president’s disastrous management of the war and out-of-control government spending has created a drag on Republicans across the country,” said Thomas C. Bowen, Mr. Foster’s campaign manager.
“Coupled with the electoral strength of Democrats in Illinois and changing demographics, the 14th Congressional District is at best a tossup race for the GOP.”
Republicans say they are confident about retaining the seat, where President Bush won 55 percent of the vote in 2004. But if they are forced to spend millions holding an otherwise safe seat for the party, it will limit their ability to target campaign cash elsewhere.
A Global Strategy Group poll for the Foster campaign in April found on a generic ballot Democrats receiving 40 percent support, compared to 30 percent for the Republicans.
Mr. Foster and potential Republican candidate Jim Oberweis have personal fortunes that can be invested in their campaigns.
Other Republicans who have announced they will retire at the end of the 110th Congress include former Republican House Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio, Rep. Charles W. “Chip” Pickering Jr. of Mississippi, Ray LaHood of Illinois and Duncan Hunter of California.
Two House Democrats have said they are stepping down after this term. A third, Rep. Luis V. Guiterrez of Illinois, recently announced he’ll seek re-election after reversing an earlier retirement announcement.