territory that had been represented by Republicans for years, and that George W. Bush carried easily in 2000 and 2004,” Thornell says. “Republicans have had a hard time finding candidates in a number of districts, primarily because of the strength of our front-liners. The strength of our front-line members has dissuaded a number of Republican recruits from actually entering the race.”
Both parties hope the presidential election will help increase their chances down ballot. House majority whip, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, said one of the factors in his decision to endorse Sen. Barack Obama was his ability to energize voters and make some states much more competitive than they have been in the past, which would benefit House Democrats. Citing an Ohio district where African Americans make up approximately 25% of the electorate but produced low turnout numbers at the polls, he says, “I cannot imagine that with Obama on the ticket that we won’t get a bump in turnout in that district, and there are others like it.” Clyburn also expects many Southern states, that once seemed forever red, could very well turn blue because of their significant numbers of black voters coming out to support Obama at the top of the ticket.
David Bositis, senior research analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, echoes that belief. He says, “Obama is going to greatly increase the turnout of black voters and young voters, and that’s going to seriously hurt the Republicans in many districts.” Bositis says that President Bush’s ratings in the polls have also hurt the GOP.
Donatelli admits that Bush’s popularity has diminished since he was elected, but says, “You have to play the hand you’re dealt, and it’s up to our candidates to make sure the races are focused on them and their issues and priorities. It should not be about the president. It ought to be about our candidate versus their candidate.”