Saturday, March 8, 2014
WASHINGTON - For Republicans in the House of Representatives, New England's political landscape looks about as fertile as the upper slopes of Mount Katahdin or Mount Washington.
The U.S. Capitol in Washington.
The Associated Press
But any alpine biologist will tell you there's still enough soil above the tree line to support plant life. And the head of the House Republicans' campaign machine insists his party isn't giving up on New England in 2014, even though the region's entire House delegation currently sits across the aisle.
"It is something we are very focused on because we have had it before. And the Democrats have had it," Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, said last week. "We win some of these seats one cycle, they win them back the next cycle, back and forth. And I think there's an opportunity to build on our past victories and win some of these seats."
And one they are keeping an eye on? Maine's 2nd District -- that is, if the current occupant, Rep. Mike Michaud, decides to seek a first term as governor instead of a seventh term as congressman.
"Any open seat we take a second and third look at, certainly," Walden said. "And Maine-2, that's one that we looked at last time and it didn't quite turn out quite like we thought it might. But ... certainly that's one that we would be very interested in."
As for the rest of New England, none of the districts is on the NRCC's current list of "red zone" races. But New Hampshire and Massachusetts each have two districts on the expanded list of 40 or 50 potential races.
In New Hampshire, Walden said he believes Democrats Carol Shea-Porter and Ann Kuster are vulnerable. That's because both unseated Republican incumbents last election but received higher "unfavorable" than "favorable" ratings in a recent WMUR Granite State Poll, albeit by just 1 percentage point in both cases.
"Again, it gets back to who runs, how you put together the race, and why recruitment matters," Walden said. "But I am very comfortable up in New England and I think we need to be, as a party, very active in recruiting candidates in those districts."
Two Republicans represent New England in the Senate: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
ABOLISH THE IRS?
One of Maine's representatives to the Republican National Committee sees opportunity in the current scandal over potential political bias at the Internal Revenue Service against tea party and conservative groups.
Mark Willis, Maine's Republican national committeeman, plans to submit a resolution at the RNC's August meeting in Boston to abolish the IRS. That's long been a goal of some conservatives and libertarians who also oppose the whole idea of an income tax.
Among those who have advocated for ending the IRS is former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, whom Willis and other members of Maine's GOP delegation supported -- or attempted to support -- at last year's Republican National Convention in Tampa.
"The goal will be to abolish the IRS. What, if anything, will replace it is up to legislators to figure out," Willis said in an interview last week. "The bottom line is the IRS has run its course."
Willis said the current IRS scandal -- in which some employees are accused of subjecting tea party and conservative groups to more scrutiny than other groups seeking tax-exempt status -- has only confirmed the suspicion among some that the IRS "wasn't an honest broker."
Willis' idea, while likely dead on arrival among many moderates and liberals, has some support in Congress. Earlier this year, a group of House Republicans reintroduced the Fair Tax Act of 2013, which would eliminate the IRS. Included among the 64 current sponsors are House Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
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