WASHINGTON -- The perception in Washington this election season is that the House and Senate races are tighter than ever.
Credit union pundits say that the Democrats are unlikely to take either chamber of the Congress.
"We're seeing a lot of these races go back and forth," CUNA Senior Vice President of Political Affairs Richard Gose said. "The Republicans, if you had taken a snap shot six weeks ago, they'd have lost. Now they're coming back...A lot of people had the Republicans for dead over the summer." He added that Americans are a "very reactive electorate", but as early voting and absentee voting become more popular that could change as these votes, once cast, cannot be changed.
"I think the Democrats pick up seats but I don't see them taking over the House or Senate," newly appointed NAFCU Director of Political Affairs Dillon Shea agreed.
Gose said he saw 21 truly tight races in the House, and probably five Republican seats going to the Democrats. That still leaves the Dems 10 seats to pick up for the majority without losing any of their own seats, some of which are also vulnerable. Playing into the mix, he added, is that "of those toss ups, about eight are open seats."
"It's always an uphill climb to try to take back a House," Gose said. He said if he were a betting man he would give Republicans a 60-40 chance of holding onto control. "The reason I said that...is they still have to take better than half the vulnerable Republicans out if they are to gain the majority," he said. "That's a tall order."
Despite most headlines, the problems are not solely among Republicans. "There's a potential for an anti-incumbent mood out there," according to Gose. "There are some Democrats in trouble because of perceived problems." However, generally speaking, Congress has a 98% retention rate.
Looking at specific races, Shea said Darlene Hooley (D-Ore.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Dennis Moore (D-Kan.) are all in tight races. "They're in districts that lean Republican so they're in races that are always tight but they always pull it out by four to seven points," he said. Additionally, Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), and Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) are also in battles for their seats.
Shea pointed out that all of these candidates are co-sponsors to the House Financial Services Committee legislation concerning data security, which provides the Gramm-Leach-Bliley carve out the financial services industry was looking for. NAFCU/PAC has contributed to each of their races ranging from $1,000 to $3,500.
While CUNA and its Credit Union Legislative Action Council consider what legislators have done for credit unions within their primary committees, the $3 million-plus PAC can afford to spread the wealth around a bit more than NAFCU/PAC.
Gose noted that Senator George Allen (R-Va.) was in a tight race, but is fighting back to the top and, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, CULAC had contributed $6,000 to his campaign. Senate Banking Committee Member and Republican Conference Chair Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is facing "one of the tightest races in the country"; CULAC contributed the maximum $10,000 there.
"We need advocates in Congress. It's nice to have them on your committee but if you look at bankruptcy reform, there's [the] Judiciary [Committee]," Gose said, adding that eventually, your issues are voted on by everyone. --firstname.lastname@example.org