Buoyed by a big Senate win in Massachusetts and gains in Governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, Republicans beat the bushes for new candidates to run for the ever-growing list of competitive seats in the upcoming mid-term elections.
Polls show increasing voter dissatisfaction with the policies of President Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership of Congress and Republicans hope to capitalize on that anger.
GOP strategists see growing opportunities for major gains in both the House and Senate, aided by missteps by Obama and Democratic congressional leaders.
“If the people Massachusetts are upset, you can imagine how the people of Arkansas feel,” Rep. John Boorman (R-Ark) told The New York Times Sunday. Boorman says the results in Massachusetts pushed him to challenge Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln.
According the Times, Republicans are finding it easier to recruit good candidates after recent wins.
“I think it was inspiring and gave voice to a lot of people,” former GOP Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick told the newspaper. Fitzpatrick will try to win his old seat back from Demcoratic Rep. Patrick J. Murphy.
Republicans still face many obstacles, not least a number of potentially divisive primaries in coming months that will highlight the deep ideological rifts within the party. But in the days since Republicans claimed the Senate seat that Edward M. Kennedy had held for decades, upending assumptions in both parties about the political landscape for 2010, they have seen not just a jolt of energy and optimism but also more concrete opportunities to take on Democrats.
Just since Tuesday, half a dozen Republicans have expressed interest in challenging Democrats in House races in New York, Pennsylvania and potentially Massachusetts, party officials said.
Republicans said they were soliciting high-profile candidates for Senate races in Indiana and Wisconsin, states they had been prepared to write off just weeks ago. Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, is considering challenging Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, aides said. Even in longer-shot states like New York, Republicans said they think the political climate gives them a chance to find a strong Senate candidate.
“If you live in a district with no Republican candidate, run for office,” Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, wrote in a posting on RedState, a conservative blog.
Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst who follows Congressional races, said a report he will release Monday will count 58 Democratic House seats in play, up from 47 in December. The number of Republican seats in play has held at 14 in that period, he said. And Democrats expect more of their incumbents to retire, which could put additional seats at risk.