Campaign 2010

Jun 14, 2004

Matsui in the House

U.S. News:

Robert Matsui is batting a thousand, and now he’s got people thinking he can take the whole enchilada. A veteran California congressman, Matsui took over as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee after the 2002 elections, when Republicans defied history and picked up House seats even though their party held the White House. Facing the uphill task of returning a disorganized and demoralized group of Democrats back to power in the House of Representatives, Matsui was given virtually no chance of succeeding. “It was very hard to get anyone to say anything good about us,” recalls Kori Bernards, the DCCC’s communications director. But in a Los Angeles Times poll last week, Democrats led Republicans 54 percent to 35 percent when people were asked which party they wanted to represent them in Congress next year. “It’s really the war that is galvanizing these voters,” says Democratic media consultant Rich Davis. Wishful thinking, GOP ers say. “They have to try to manufacture some type of momentum, because it’s not here,” says Carl Forti of the National Republican Campaign Committee. “For them to continue to raise money, they have to give their people some hope.”


Change. Nonsense, says Matsui. ” I think people are ready for change,” he says, citing two special elections in which Democrats picked up GOP-held seats. In Kentucky, former Attorney General Ben Chandler won the seat held by former GOP Rep. Ernie Fletcher. And this month, Stephanie Herseth won a South Dakota contest to replace GOP Rep. Bill Janklow, who resigned after being convicted of manslaughter in the traffic death of a motorcyclist. “The irony of these two seats is that Bush got 55 percent in Kentucky,” says Matsui, “and 60 percent in South Dakota.” Those triumphs have Democrats stoked. “There is some psychologial warfare going on here,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told Herseth volunteers the day after the South Dakota election. “Victory for us, demoralization for them.”
-Terence Samuel

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