WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, predicted a historic victory for House Democrats in the 2008 election during a talk at the National Press Club Friday.
Democrats are expected to pick up seats in the double digits in November, Van Hollen, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, said.
During the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats gained 30 House seats. They still hold the majority with 235 of the House’s 435 seats. Historically, the party that picks up several seats in an election tends to lose seats in the following election, Van Hollen said, but he expects the Democrats to buck that trend this year.
“I believe that Barack Obama is poised to make history this election, and congressional Democrats are poised to beat history this election,” Van Hollen said.
Van Hollen attributed the expected gains to a philosophy of change within the Democratic Party, failed Republican economic policies and an early offensive strategy of targeting vulnerable districts and fielding candidates.
“I’m a firm believer in grassroots field operations,” Van Hollen said. “We need to make sure that when voters go into the booth they don’t only vote for Barack Obama, but they go down that ballot and support that Democratic congressional candidate. To do that you need to start early and cut through the clutter.”
Former Republican National Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., joined Van Hollen in analyzing potential House gains and losses for both parties in November.
Davis agreed with Van Hollen that Democrats will make gains.
“The Democrats come into this — due to Chris’s hard work — with a playing field tilted in their favor,” he said. “The Democrats have a huge cash advantage at all levels.”
Republicans don’t have access to the same monetary resources available to Democrats, Davis said. Thus, many Republicans cannot make their voices heard and answer attacks from their Democratic rivals, he said.
However, the Republicans have money in reserve, Davis said. And with less than four weeks left before the election, he expects the NRCC to start directing that money to limit the successes of Democratic challengers.
Davis’ seat is one of the many districts the Democrats are hoping to gain this year. Davis is retiring, and Gerry Connolly, Democratic chairman of the Fairfax County Council, is expected to defeat Republican Keith Fimian, a Fairfax accountant.
Both Van Hollen and Davis expect high voter turnout during the election, especially in urban areas where Barack Obama’s candidacy has prompted a tide of voter registrations. And both consider this to be a boon to Democrats, saying many Obama voters will likely vote for every Democrat on the ticket.
Although Van Hollen and Davis agree Democrats will make gains in the House, neither would put a precise number on it.
“We see a lot of toss-up races,” Van Hollen said. “And the question is which of these toss-ups will we win and what toss-ups will they win? Right now it’s just too turbulent to make any clear prediction.”