WASHINGTON » Desperate Democrats are rushing to save suddenly vulnerable House incumbents, even in states where President Barack Obama cruised to double-digit victories, amid fresh signs of Republican momentum less than a week before the midterm elections.
The once friendly terrain of New York, California, Obama’s native state of Hawaii and adopted state of Illinois all now pose stiff challenges to Democrats who are determined to limit their losses on Tuesday. Both parties agree the GOP will hold its House majority; the question is whether Republicans can gain enough seats to rival their post-World War II high water mark of 246.
The current breakdown is 233-199 in favor of the Republicans with three vacancies.
"We’re in trench warfare. I’m not going to sugarcoat it," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In one sign of Democratic concern, Vice President Joe Biden was heading to Massachusetts on Wednesday for a rally with Seth Moulton, who is trying to hold onto a Democratic seat against Republican Richard Tisei. Then Biden was traveling to California on Saturday to campaign in an open-seat contest east of Los Angeles that surprisingly looks closer than a sure-fire Democratic gain.
"Heck, it’s been so long since a Republican was elected to the Congress in Massachusetts, most Republicans don’t know how to spell Massachusetts," joked Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He said the GOP is spending 78 percent of its independent money in districts that Obama won.
National Democrats are coordinating with local campaigns in Nevada, Hawaii and California in hopes of holding seats.
In Hawaii, the Democrats are spending $200,000 on television ads and voter outreach for Mark Takai, who is locked in a tight race with former Republican Rep. Charles Djou in an open Honolulu-based district that Obama won with 70 percent of the vote.
The Democratic committee has bought $99,000 in radio ads for eight-term Rep. Lois Capps in her Santa Barbara-area race against Chris Mitchum, son of the late actor Robert Mitchum. The GOP candidate has relatively little money still on hand for his campaign — $96,108 — but the contest is considered close.
In the closing days, the Democratic committee has invested $1.1 million in an effort to protect six incumbents in Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, West Virginia and California.
With Obama persona non grata for many Democrats, former President Bill Clinton was campaigning in California on Wednesday.
"It’s a tough climate; it’s getting tougher," Israel said. "It’s the worst climate for Democrats since 2010, but it won’t be 2010. We knew that this was coming and we prepared for it."
The Democrats lost 63 House seats that year.