Just got back from a short briefing with Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, who heads up the National Republican Congressional Committee. A couple of things jumped out at me:
* The NRCC believes it has 65 top-tier challengers in Democrat-held or open seats. A few of those are in the same district, so it’s not quite 65 separate races. They note that at this point in the 2006 cycle, then-DCCC head Rahm Emanuel was boasting about having 45 good recruits.
* The NRCC has top-tier challengers against 36 of the 41 Democrats deemed most vulnerable by the DCCC.
* Of the 435 House districts, 276 have a Republican running in them so far this year (64 percent). Of course, Republicans currently hold 177 House seats.
* 51 GOP challengers have more than $100,000 in cash on hand.
* Of the challengers so far, 26 are women, 21 are members of minority groups, 18 are doctors, nurses, or in the health-care profession, 40 are veterans, 51 are business owners, and 162 are described as “citizen-candidates.” Sessions and NRCC staff said that these 162 are described as having never been elected to public office before, but I don’t know where they drew the line – school board?
Sessions noted that 12 of the 13 House Democrats who voted for the cap-and-trade bill, but against the health-care bill, have top-tier challengers. “Public opinion is driving some of that, but if you have a bad candidate running against you, you don’t worry as much about public opinion,” he said.
There are a couple of candidates who would be considered “top tier” who are still thinking about it. The best example of this would be Hazelton, Pa., mayor Lou Barletta, who ran against Kanjorski in 2008, led in several polls, and lost by only four percentage points, while Obama was winning the district by 15 percentage points.