Salena Zito

The new normal for Democrats is losing 30 to 40 U.S. House seats in November.

What’s driving these potential losses is simple: The message from the Obama administration and the party’s congressional leadership is not in sync with the American electorate.

“Everyone is happy going to the sacrifice, except the lambs,” says a highly regarded Democratic strategist working on several House races.

Congressional Democrats are in the unenviable position of defending a lot more House seats than Republicans, which means they have to reach across the political spectrum. Facing all of these challenges will cost them a lot of money.

When the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and National Republican Campaign Committee recruit for a House race, they first look for so-called first-tier candidates.

Michelle Malkin

These are elected officials (state legislators, mayors, even statewide officeholders) as well as prominent, wealthy businessmen and women, University of Virginia political scientist Isaac Wood explains.

Second-tier candidates have money or name recognition, but not both.

Third-tier candidates have never run for elected office, have no personal wealth and no established political or fund-raising network.

Usually, Wood says, “a third-tier candidate loses big.”

Yet in a sour political year such as this, what Democrats may lose bigger on is money spent to defend against third-tier opposition.

“Third-tier candidates are tricky for both sides,” Wood says. “Sometimes they hurt their party by sucking up resources, especially money, that could be better used on other candidates with a better shot at winning.”

Sometimes they do succeed in damaging the other party, by forcing the incumbent to concentrate on the coming election and to raise money from donors who otherwise would bolster other party incumbents.

With more cash in their congressional campaign committee coffer than Republicans have, Democrats seem to be okay heading into the summer. The real fear is about supply and demand.

“The supply of money could easily dry up as more members worry about their own re-elections and turn their fundraising attention back to their own race,” says Wood.

If 75 to 100 Democrats are on the electoral chopping block, as some analysts predict, the resulting money squeeze would hugely impact the overall effectiveness of the party’s efforts in November.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.