National Press Club

GOP Congressional committee chair Walden optimistic about House races

March 11, 2014 | By Joe Sparks |

U.S. Representative Greg Walden discusses his party's plans for the 2014 congressional elections at a NPC Newsmaker, March 11, 2014.

U.S. Representative Greg Walden discusses his party's plans for the 2014 congressional elections at a NPC Newsmaker, March 11, 2014.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee, said the GOP has a good chance of gaining seats in the House of Representatives. Speaking at a National Press Club Newsmaker on March 11, Walden predicted Republicans will pick up six to eight seats in the House, though he acknowledged “it is pretty early to have a number.”

Even with his optimism, Walden said he expects tough campaigns. “Given redistricting and the way the battlefield is locked in and smaller, it will be more intense, but there are really fewer seats in play,” he said.

Walden estimated that 30 to 40 seats will be in play. He also cited political analyst Charlie Cook’s assessment, according to which there are 15 seats in play, with 11 on the Democratic side and four on the Republican side. Given these different evaluations, Walden admitted he does not know how the election will turn out. “In 2010, who saw 63 net [Republican] seats coming our way,” he said at the Newsmaker event.

Walden went on to explain why he thinks that Republicans will have good election results this year. “First of all, when I look at campaign cycles, and I've been at this a little while, I always kind of look at it from the perspective, would I rather be me and my party, or them and their party,” he said. 2006 was a bad year for Republicans, and in 2008, “when the president’s numbers were bad, and it was a referendum-style election, we got whacked.”

“I think we are on the cusp of a referendum election year much like '06, except this time the Democrats are the ones in which the referral will take place,” he added. President Barack Obama’s favorability numbers are in the “tank” nationwide and “especially in the targeted seats that will be in play in the House,” Walden said.

He mentioned the results of a GOP poll in West Virginia’s District 3, which showed Republican Evan Jenkins leads the incumbent Democrat Nick Rahall by 14 percentage points, 54 to 40. Rahall was first elected to Congress in 1976. District 3 is considered to be the second most conservative district represented by a Democrat. The district favored Mitt Romney 66-32 percent in the 2010 presidential election, and Walden indicated he is optimistic about Jenkins' chances.

The most conservative district held by a Democrat is Utah’s 4th, represented by retiring congressman Jim Matheson, who has served since 2001. Walden said both Rahall and Matheson are in “red zone” districts, seven districts that have voted for Republicans in the last few presidential elections but have Democratic representatives.

As for issues, Walden repeated the political proverb that “all politics is local.” He said that the Rahall-Jenkins race is in coal country, and one tactic in these areas is to say that Obama is waging a “war on coal,” he said.

At the national level, Walden said he thinks that the economy, jobs, and Obamacare will be important in many congressional races.