Republicans ‘bullish’ on 2012 House races in Utah, Washington, Arizona and Georgia

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Although they lack a clear presidential front-runner, Republican Party leaders are confident on their 2012 prospects when it comes to House races. National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) political director Mike Shields rattled off a list of Democrats nationwide they’re targeting in the upcoming cycle, including Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah, Adam Smith and Rick Larsen of Washington state, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Ben Chandler of Kentucky and John Barrow of Georgia.

“You can tell we’re bullish. We’re very, very positive,” Shields said on a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. “Obviously, we know there’s going to be some challenges around the country, but, you know, our members are already doing a great job raising money and the fact of the matter is, the Democratic message is going to be: ‘Make Nancy Pelosi Speaker again.’ That’s who they’ve nominated, that’s who their campaign is about.”

Lots of the campaigns and political moves are waiting on re-districting plans from the states’ capitols, but Shields said North Carolina is a sure target for the NRCC, regardless of how the map comes out. “I think North Carolina is going to be a very new map, we’re going to have a lot of recruiting opportunities there,” he said, adding that Republicans are looking to go after Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre, Heath Shuler, Brad Miller, David Price and Larry Kissell.

A possible impediment to Shields’s optimism, though, is the threat of Tea Partiers challenging sitting Republicans from the right. Shields downplays the possibility as “rumors” that “come up all the time,” but longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie told The Daily Caller to expect about 50 incumbents to face primaries, an estimate he may increase or decrease depending on how the GOP members vote over the next six months.

Viguerie said it’s “too early” to start plotting about which Republicans to primary, but that, “if some of these people continue to cast disappointing votes, and are not providing leadership to turn things around in the country, then a lot more are going to get challenged than you would have thought, maybe, in January of this year.”

“By January of next year, we’ll know a lot more, by the fall even,” he said.

Shields defends the Tea Party movement, too, adding that he thinks it is the reason Republicans took the majority in the November midterm elections. But, he warns that people should be wary of candidates who may try to attach themselves to the Tea Party label to get elected. Shields said that, in New York’s 26th District, Jack Davis is doing just that to try to beat Jane Corwin, who has received NRCC support.

“He was an Obama supporter and a Pelosi supporter,” Shields said of Davis, adding that local Tea Partiers have called him on it. “He’s a liberal Democrat who has decided he’s just dying to be in Congress.”

Shields said freshman Tea Party superstar Allen West of Florida is, “doing exactly what he should be doing,” to get re-elected. “He is such an effective communicator that he’s really going to put himself in a very, very strong position in both to raise money and to defend his seat,” Shields said. Though Democrat Ron Klein said he won’t challenge West to get his seat back, Democrats Lois Frankel, West Palm Beach’s mayor, and Patrick Murphy, a businessman, have both announced their candidacy.

Shields said West shouldn’t be too worried about his Democratic challengers, though, as his firm stances on issues is attractive to voters.

“Yeah, of course you’re going to have Democrats recruited to run against him. But, I wouldn’t want to have anyone else down there besides Allen West because he gets exactly what you have to do to win that seat,” Shields said. “I think if he was not putting up tent poles and saying, ‘This is what I stand for,’ and having his base understand who he is, if he was trying to be some kind of wishy-washy guy in the middle, he would be doing a huge disservice when it comes to keeping that district.”